The gorings stay with her. Six of them. The worst was in 1954, in a Mexican border town called Villa Acuna, where she fought a “ding-a-ling” of a bull with a nasty right-to-left hook when he charged. “He’d charge the muleta (the cape), then stop and go for you, almost as if he had fought before,” said McCormick, who was once described by a distinguished bullfighting critic as “the most courageous woman I have ever seen.”
“The horn went right up my stomach,” she said, still wincing in memory after 35 years. “The bull carried me around the ring for a minute, impaled on his horns. They gave me the last rites there. The doctor said, ‘Carry her across the border and let her die in her own country.’ “
Nowadays, McCormick leads a very private life in an apartment building on Orange Grove Avenue in South Pasadena, where the only immediate danger is the possibility that her 19-year-old cat, Hannibal, will knock something off a table. The apartment is cluttered with books, art supplies, memorabilia and McCormick’s sketches of horses in a myriad of poses.
Gray-haired now, a trifle stiff in the joints, McCormick pulls out her capes and swords and gives you a quick lesson in the art of bullfighting, which she learned under the great Mexican banderillero Alejandro del Hierro.
Holding the muleta, with a sword tucked into its scarlet folds, she waves the cape as if challenging a bull. “A lot of people worry about the horn that’s closest to the body,” she says. “But if you reach for the far horn, as if you’re going to shake hands, the closer horn will take care of itself.”
Edmund Newton, “The Lady Was a Bullfighter : Patricia McCormick: 10 Years in the Arena, 1,000 Kills, 6 Gorings,” Los Angeles Times, 26 March 1989