FastForward is a weekly column documenting the nighttime scene in Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach County. It's a weeknight stop at your neighborhood dive; it's a blurry, bass-filled Friday night in the club; it's that one moment in a conversation you hope you'll remember the next morning.
All I could see were his pointed chin and the slender, downward curve of his mouth illuminated under the bluish light of the bullpen. The rest of his face was shrouded in the shadow of his cowboy hat. With one hand raised to the controls and the other tucked under his arm, the cowboy lured curious passerby with his silent bait.
As I leaned over the fence of the pen, mesmerized by the mechanical beast bucking and twisting under the operator's spell, I let the teasing voice of my friend Danny dissolve my trance.
"Falyn wouldn't do it," he was telling Rene, my friend whose idea it was to hit up Wednesday's Ladies' Night at Cowboy's Saloon. The bar is sandwiched between a Bed Bath & Beyond and a Pet Supermarket in a Davie strip plaza. "She wouldn't last five seconds on that thing."
Danny is my best friend and roommate from college, in town for the week for his sister's bachelorette party. I knew this was his tactic for goading me into trying something new. Rene could tell it was working.
"I really wanna do it, but I'm scared," she said to me, sucking innocently on her vodka cranberry. "If you go first, I'll go."
I looked between the two of them, Danny in his flashy, studded denim button-down, Rene a towering force in her white crop top and skinny jeans, and reminded myself that this night was not about staying in my comfort zone.
The massive line-dance floor was scantily populated, but already somewhat of a startling sight to encounter as a first-timer walking into the suburban nightclub. It was about 11, and the country girls stamped their boots in unison, linking arms, hooking their thumbs in their belt loops, their long, straight manes swinging across the tops of their butts.
I downed the rest of the Bud Light in my mini plastic cup and handed Danny my purse. Walking up to the cowboy, I warned him I'd never done this before. He handed me a release form to sign and gestured for me to take off my platforms. The strong, silent type. I shrugged off my jacket, stepped my bare feet onto the mat, and prepared to mount.
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Cowboy's isn't the type of place you go to sit at the bar and bat your eyelashes so some guy with a popped collar can come buy you a drink. It's the type of place you get a little down and dirty. A place where the boxed blondes are proud of their fake tits, and invite you to give them a squeeze, or even pop one out over the band of their tube top. Cowboy's: Where the bartenders call you sweetie with a southern drawl and the bathroom attendant only sells one kind of cigarette, Newports.
Swinging one leg over and aligning my hips, I tried to think of my main reference points for mechanical bull-riding: that scene in The New Guy when Eliza Dushku nearly knocks out DJ Qualls while doing a sexy after-hours bull ride at the bar where she works (a really cool reference, I know), and the guy who just went before me a few minutes ago. He'd clenched his thighs and curled his toes to keep from getting bucked, but there's no way he was jerked around more than thirty seconds before the cowboy grew bored and sent him flying.
Danny and Rene stood in front of me on the opposite side of the fence, holding their phones up to record video. Unsure what else to do, I leaned into the bull, stretched one arm across the top for some leverage, and raised a hand in the air to indicate my readiness. As the bull began to rise and fall, my hips moving along with the slow, calculated gyrations, I couldn't help but steal a glance at the cowboy in the corner. His face was still mostly hidden under the darkness of his hat, but his hand was clearly visible on the small knob controlling the bull's motions. Suddenly hyper-aware of the blunt sexuality of it all -- his hand moving, my hips rolling, the machine beast vibrating between my legs -- I burst into laughter. Not long after, I was tumbling onto the mat, still unable to control by giggling.
My second try wasn't much better. Stepping down, I tried giving the cowboy a look like I knew exactly what he was up to. "You sure make it move a lot slower for the girls," I said, reaching for my shoes.
"Duh," was his response.
After Rene and Danny gave the bull their best shots, we spent the rest of the night drinking free beers, scoping out the latest in ripped denim fashions, and mingling with other folks getting their party on on this Wednesday night in the burbs. One guy strolled up next to me at the bar with two ladies at his sides, wearing a pair of white motocross gloves and a grizzled beard. When asked what's with the gloves, his response was a very serious, "Do you really want to know?"
Another guy stood behind us as we watched the line dancers, now a sizable mob all twisting and boot-stamping in time, and shared his awed confusion over the phenomenon, wondering out loud, "How do they all know what to do?"
Some people shot pool while others participated in the "beer chugging competition." The music rarely deviated from country hits and the occasional Top 40, but that was all fine. Just as we were preparing to head out, there was some commotion back over by the bullpen. We caught wind of a girl who was apparently riding the bull in a dress, and some shouts of "slut" began to ring out. We made it over in time to find a gorgeous brunette in a tight black mini dress riding the bull like she'd done it all her life, like she as born on it. When the bull whipped around, you could see her full ass hanging out of her dress as she leaned in, her neon orange panties flashing the crowd that had gathered around to gawk.
Out of the confusion, a group of similarly dressed girls gathered around the side of the bullpen to cheer her on. They all had long, flowing curls, heavy makeup, and a hint of neon orange booty shorts peaking out from underneath their outfits. They were the local Hooters girls, out after a long, hard shift for some late-night bull riding. Who could complain?
As we bade goodnight to the doormen and scarfed a quick hot dog down from the stand outside, I let the pleasantness of the warm night and welcoming vibes of the bar sink in. I determined you don't have to be a horse-ridin', gun-shooting', tobacco-spittin' wrangler to enjoy a night out at Cowboy's. Ain't no one gonna judge. You just have to be down to get a little down and dirty.
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