I don't know where George Wood gets his information but if there's any bull around, he tossed it.
During my misspent youth, I spent some years "caping the bulls," visiting the ranches of those who raised them and enjoying the friendship of the men who fought them. And let me say that the art of fighting bulls is so nearly sacred to these "aficionados" that it absorbs their lives--and sometimes takes them.
These powerful animals are raised on large haciendas (granaderias) , as they have been for centuries. They're cared for, worried over, pampered and carefully selected--for a manzo (a weak or cowardly bull) reflects on the pride and abilities of its breeder. Thus the very idea that a bull's "given strong laxatives to weaken him," that he "must have Vaseline rubbed in his eyes to blur his vision and cotton stuffed up his nostrils to inhibit his breathing" is absurd, as is Mr. Wood's nonsense about a "strong caustic solution . . . rubbed on (the bull's) legs to throw him off balance," and the absurdity that only after the bull has "a long needle stuck into his genitals," will the "brave toreador" have the guts to face the poor, crippled animal.
But even then (says Mr. Wood), the horrors continue inside the ring. Now the bull has "two heavy darts . . . implanted (in) his neck . . . to tear his flesh whenever he moves (and) firecrackers may be attached to these . . . "
Finally, a "picador" rides on a mutilated and blinded horse to "slice a . . . 4-inch-wide hole along the bull's backbone" into which he inserts a lance which is "rotated four times . . . "
Now, let's get it straight, Mr. Wood:
First, a bullfighter is a "torero," not a "toreador" (except in France).
Next, your "heavy darts" (banderillas) are made of paper-decorated pine wood. They weigh about 4 ounces, and are planted to correct a bull's tendency to favor the right or left horn (bulls, like people, favoring one side).
Third, a fighting bull wears his breeder's colors into the ring, and it's not bloody likely that the breeder wants to look like a fool, having his "brave" bull wobbling around, blind and crippled--particularly since the market price for his animals is contingent on their strength, agility and willingness to fight.
Fourth, firecrackers are frequently tossed at common bulls during fiestas, but it would be worth a matador's reputation (and probably his skin) if he ever let his banderillos pull such nonsense during a serious corrida (bullfight). The crowd boos a picador on sight. Fifth, if a picador ever slashed a bull's backbone, the fans would slash his. In fact, if he "overpicks" the bull, he can draw a stiff fine from the autoridad (the "judge" who oversees each corrida). As to rotating his lance "four times," he'd have to ask the bull's permission for that. Often the picador's lucky to get the lance in before the bull picks him and his horse up and dumps them.
Mr. Wood is undoubtedly a good, compassionate man, anxious to make a case for the bull, but he doesn't know frijoles. My advice is that before he tries to explain "the nature of the event" to other Americans, he should learn something about it himself. Next time, Mr. Wood, expose the brutality and horror of Ping-Pong. It's easier to explain.
WILLIAM D. LANDSFORD
Playa del Rey