The San Ferminer Gentleman, Pamplona, 1973

"You wanna go to Pamplona?"
"I'm meeting up with some Australian friends there." It was 1973 and I was hoping to somehow make it to Pamplona to see the Running of the Bulls. The American boy stationed at the Naval Base in Rota was a friend of a friend, someone I really didn't know very well. He was going to be driving to Pamplona as part of some grand tour of Spain and France he had planned.
"I can give you a lift." That poor guy with the big grin probably never thought that he'd come to regret his generous offer.
"I'll stay with my friends. They're camping. And they'll bring me back to Cadiz."
"Great! After Pamplona, I'm going over the border to France."
Sounded like a plan!
When the American boy and I arrived in Pamplona people were sleeping on the streets, the bars were full and there was a general air of party time gone wild. We climbed over people and looked for the places that became so famous because Ernest Hemingway had hung out there. Obligatory touristy thing accomplished, we started looking for the Australians. Yes, where were they? I had been assured they'd be downtown at the bars, or on the outskirts of Pamplona where there Winnabago would be camped. How to find them? We drove everywhere looking for them. Guess what? They were nowhere to be seen! Where was I to stay? How would I get back down to Andalucia?
"Gee. What a bummer. But don't worry, you can come with me to France."
What a nice, pleasant and generous person he was. Slight problem was I didn't have much at all in the way of money. Nor, did I have my passport with me.
"I can't leave you stranded in Pamplona."
I must have looked awfully pathetic, for he added, "I don't have to go to France. It'll be there for along time, anyway. Why don't I just hang around Pamplona with you? We can always sleep in my car if need be."
Gosh, what a noble gesture!
"I'll still see the sights of Spain. We can go back a different route." He smiled broadly.
Okay. What the heck? Even although I hardly knew this American boy, he did seem polite and quite unassuming. One might even have described him as a gentleman.
Now, gentlemen do lie. And words are cheap. That's what I had always heard. But still.
That night, we were dancing on the streets with all the crazy people who were boozing it up and singing away as if this was their last day on earth. All the hotels were fully booked, so we just knew that we'd be sleeping in his car, or on the street. No rush, the night was still young. We kept dancing along one street and then another. People were hugging us, complete strangers were grabbing our arms and walked with us, laughing hysterically.
The American boy called out to me, "I'm gonna run with the bulls!"  He didn't seem the type who would run with bulls. In fact, he didn't seem the type who did any running at all, chubby as he was. "Did you hear me? I'm gonna run with the bulls!"
"Really? It's dangerous!  And, you don't have the red hat and scarf thing, do you?"
"I'll figure it out!." He cackled loudly like a dog about to throw up or someone who had accidently got beer up their nose. Come to think on it, he wasn't just a chubby fellow, he was also quite ungainly and very clumsy. Whilst calling out about how he'd run with the bulls he stepped off the narrow pavement, tripped over someone's feet and fell down with a thud. His lovely grin was no longer visible as he writhed in pain,
"Ouch! Oh! The pain! It's awful! It's like childbirth!"
Well, really. A slight exaggeration to say the least.
"Are you okay? For heaven's sake, what happened?" It's so obvious what happened, but I asked anyway. He looked like a such poor soul lying there on the street in Pamplona. And if it hadn't been for me he wouldn't have been dancing and falling.
"My ankle hurts! Ohhh!"  He managed to stand and then hopped over to the pavement where he plonked down. "Ohhh, my ankle!  My ankle. It really hurts! I don't think I can walk!"
Well, all those new-found friends we had just met disappeared down the road all the while skipping and dancing. They probably didn't even know that we were lagging behind, so intent were they on making merriment. I suddenly got a headache. All this Pamplona stuff was becoming one big nuisance. No Australians with their camper, no hotel rooms, and now this, the American boy damaging his ankle, unable to walk.
"I need a hospital." He whined, his head held between two hands. "I think my ankle is broken."
"I'll go get help." I ran into a bar and asked the barman where the nearest hospital was. Turned out it wasn't not too far.
"Can you make it to the hospital? It's close by."
"I'll try. I sure will." He really did seem in a great deal of pain.
He hopped along, hanging on to my shoulder, and somehow we made it down the road.
"One thing. Can you do me a favour?" He stopped hopping and stared at me as if what he was about to ask would change the course of human history, or be a dreadful imposition. We hardly knew one another, but there again he had done me the grand favour of driving me to Pamplona and then accompanying me when I had no place to go. So, it was only fair that he asked me a favour in return.
I froze. What could he possibly be about to ask? I hoped it wasn't that he had to do the toilet and that he wanted me to help him. Gosh, I hoped not!
"Promise that you won't tell anybody what happened here tonight."
"Okay."  What a relief. He didn't want me to help him do the toilet.
"I'm going to tell people that I hurt my ankle running with the bulls."  He grimaced, obviously in pain. "You keep quiet about it. Okay?"
"Yes, yes. I promise."
"Everyone sure will be impressed when I tell them I got injured in Pamplona, running with the bulls." His eyes glazed over as if he were imagining the praise and admiration of his friends.
Now, maybe it was just me, but I felt he'd be lying if he were to tell this story. And here was I thinking he was an unassuming gentleman. I wonder who else related tall stories about running with the bulls in Pamplona?