The Story Behind the Song – “One Step”

“One Step” is on a list of ultimate folk songs. Its based in something that actually happened but is also largely apocryphal (which in the world of folk music is close enough to the truth) and yet is also pretty much made up. I wasn’t a bull rider but was a cameraman who filmed bull riders. I didn’t serve in the military or in Viet Nam and did hear the stories of friends and clients who did. Finally, I have the imagination required to be a writer and singer of narrative/ballads. So let me take you back to one of my first assignments filming rodeo. You will notice in the picture that I am wearing boots and not running shoes.

As I’m waiting just outside the chute the a fellow in a dressed in a clown suit (it turned out he was the the bull fighter) comes up and remarks that I must be new to filming rodeo and I ask how he could know that and his answer was: “You’re wearing boots. Tennis shoes are for running and you’ll need to be running.” He explained: “the bull is meaner than you and faster than you and he wants very much to hurt you but this is how it works. You film till the cowboy gets bucked off then you stop and begin to run because my job is to first get the cowboy away safely. At that point the bull will look around and the next thing he will see is you. Now he’s faster than you but this is what you do – you run as fast as you can comfortably run and put one hand out behind you. When you feel the breath of the bull you gently slap his nose. All you have to do is make contact and he’ll think he’s got you and will stop, plant his feet and hook his horns but you keep running and that will give you one step and ALL YOU NEED IS ONE STEP. At some point I’ll show up and engage the bull and that’s when the real show begins.” And he was right and for the next years of filming rodeo it worked. At some point I realized that his advice was good for all of my life. Oh, and by the way, the bull fighter turned out to be a young Quail Dobbs who went on to become one of the most famous and beloved of all rodeo clowns and bull fighters.

From the Gypsyfire CD “Voices of the Veil”