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Texas country artist Roger Creager (far left) runs from bulls and toward adventure.EXPAND
Texas country artist Roger Creager (far left) runs from bulls and toward adventure.
Roger Creager

Country Musician Roger Creager Runs with Bulls, Leading a Life Inspired by Hemingway

On just about any musician’s website there’s a biography page with a thick novel’s-worth of flowery, superlative-laden lingo describing the musician in question in terms that are rarely believable, let alone accurate. Every folk-ish singer is detailed as some sort of cross between Bob Dylan, Shakespeare, Nicola Tesla and Mother Teresa. Metal bands seem to always receive the “If Black Sabbath, Lemmy and Jimmy Page had a love child” genealogical fantasy treatment.

But every so often, an artist’s “About” page actually offers some sort of truth, even if it sounds too daring to believe upon initial glance. Texas country star Roger Creager’s website bio reads like a glossy men’s lifestyle magazine profile, and not only is it all true, it’s lacking what is perhaps the veteran musician’s wildest factual bullet point.

“Whether it’s climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa,” the post on Creager’s official site begins, “jumping off his boat to snorkel with wild dolphins, snow skiing in the Rockies, catching tuna 100 miles from shore, piloting his airplane to far-off concerts, spear-fishing around oil rigs, scuba diving coral reefs, surfing in Costa Rica, or playing music through the Italian countryside, he tries to get the most of what life has to offer.”

A rather fantastical paragraph, to be sure, but there’s no mention of his most death-defying pursuit. Last month, Creager participated in Pamplona, Spain’s legendary running of the bulls. It wasn’t a one-off sort of deal to check off an adventure-themed bucket list, mind you. This was the fourth time since 2015 that he and a group of willing buddies hit the crowded Spanish streets during the annual San Fermin festival.

As much of a daredevil as he seems to be, the 48-year-old, who has eight albums to his name, says those bulls have had their final chance at him.

“I’m not doing it again,” he says over the phone with a slight chuckle. “I’m hanging up my red bandana. I mean, it’s terrifying. If the third time’s a charm, then the fourth time, I’m just an idiot.”

It’s important to note that this summer excursion wasn’t something he first tried when he was a wild college-aged kid with nothing to lose. His fascination with the running of the bulls only began just over a decade ago when he finally dug deep into the word of iconic American novelist Ernest Hemingway. After reading 1926’s The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway’s lauded novel about Americans who travel to Pamplona for the famed event, Creager started making his own plans for the trip.

Each day of the nine-day festival features a bull run, where six bulls make their way down a cobbled course of over 800 yards. The running takes place in the mornings, after what Creager calls “an all-night bender” that he says is a party “bigger than Mardi Gras.” The run itself only takes up two or three minutes of the morning, but it's certainly believable that participants require many hours of drinking in order to gather the proper courage.

Of the thousands of participants, dozens are gored or otherwise injured each morning, but Creager says one of his biggest wake-up calls during his first experience was just how serious the danger is.

“As crazy as it sounds, the biggest surprise for me was how terrifying it really was,” he admits. “I guess I expected it to be more like a Disneyland attraction, and I can tell you, it is absolutely not a Disneyland attraction.”

The way event officials tally up so-called “injuries” was another shocker for Creager, given the kind of carnage he witnessed firsthand.

“That first year I ran, it seems like it was more dangerous than normal,” he says about the run in 2015, when the first day saw three men gored and 10 others taken to the hospital. “On the day I ran I heard there were 11 reported injuries, but I saw EMTs everywhere, and at one point when I was walking afterwards, an EMT was giving this guy with a massive gash on his forehead stitches right there on the road. I found out after, that wasn’t counted as an injury because he wasn’t taken to the hospital.”

Over the course of four bull runs in Pamplona, Creager says he and his friends developed a bit of a loose strategy. “We found out that hanging around ‘dead man’s turn’ was a terrible idea,” he says. “So the next year we started in a long straight-away where the bulls would stay together and not fall or get separated.”

Partying, strategy, adrenaline-fueled wanderlust are all great, and getting away with a few stitches sounds like an even trade-off. But what about when one or more 1,300-pound bulls, running at an estimated speed of 35 mph is at your heels?

“It’s really interesting,” Creager says. “For about 10 seconds while you’re actually in the middle of the mayhem, you don’t hear anything. It’s like the whole world goes completely silent and you’re in a movie for 10 seconds, but your heart is racing and you’re in a panic and in complete survival mode. People that get off on that will love it, but I’m really not one of those.”

It’s hard to believe him when he says he’s not an adrenaline junkie, given the repeated trips to Spain, and all the other events listed in his website bio. Creager’s not being evasive though, he just has a different definition of adventure. And with the bulls of Spain now conquered many times, he’s ready to plan his next quest.

“Adventure to me is about what’s interesting,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be scary or all about the adrenaline. If I go rent boat and cruise around the Greek islands, that’s something I think is adventurous, even if it’s not dangerous. In fact, I think I’m going to do that next year.”

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