By now just about everybody has heard or read that Bill Hillmann, the co-author of Fiesta: How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona was gored in the thigh on July 9 as he participated in the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona during the Spanish city’s famous San Fermin festival.
And while every news article mentions Hillmann’s ties to Chicago — where he lives now and did as a child — what they don’t mention is that he’s also from Brookfield.
“We have six children, four of them boys, and they were all pretty risky,” said his mom, Linda Hillmann. “They were always doing something we didn’t think was a good idea.”
The family moved to Brookfield when Bill was 15, said Linda, after spending a few years in LaGrange. They moved to the suburbs from the Edgewater/Rogers Park area of Chicago when Bill was approaching his junior high years.
Linda, who still lives in the south Brookfield home she and her husband, Peter, built 17 years ago, said she got a call at 5 a.m. from a TV station to get her reaction to what had happened. At first she was confused, but minutes later Peter turned on the TV and saw the news.
Peter Hillmann was philosophical about the mishap involving his son, which has generated international coverage, due in part to the publication of Fiesta, which debuted in late June, just prior to the San Fermin festival.
“This is just normal business,” said Peter, a carpenter. “I’m glad he’s all right, though.”
Bill Hillmann, 32, who has run with the bulls in Pamplona for a decade, was just beginning a world tour to promote his first novel, The Old Neighborhood, which was published in April, as well as Fiesta.
He was also slated to appear in Australia, England, Scotland, Paris and other places in Spain. But his run-in last week with a lone bull — a suelto — on the streets of Pamplona has put something of a crimp in those plans.
Some of the smaller events that were to take place immediately following the San Fermin festival have been canceled, but Hillmann says he’s still planning on attending the book launch events in London in August.
While running with the bulls on the third day of the Pamplona festival on July 9, Hillmann got tangled with a less experienced runner and then pushed from behind. The bull gored him in the right thigh, throwing him in the air. It was a nasty wound but, luckily, not deadly.
Many news stories have pointed out the “irony” of a man who helped write a book about the topic getting gored. Hillmann, reached in his hospital room in Spain, said getting gored is always a risk when you run. The irony, he says, is that he helped write Fiesta to inform inexperienced runners.
“The funniest thing is that I would not have been gored if not for three first-time runners,” Hillmann said. “They are the target audience of my book. That’s the real irony.”
Hillmann, who graduated from St. Joseph High School before attending Elmhurst College and Columbia College, said he not only plans to run with the bulls again — he’s hoping to do so as soon as late August in Cuellar, Spain. He’s currently writing a memoir chronicling his experiences as a bull runner, titled Mozos.
He’s hoping the final chapter will be about his return at Cuellar, a small town outside of Madrid, which has hosted a festival and bull run for 800 years, the oldest in Spain.
“It depends on what happens later this summer,” said Hillmann. “If I can’t physically run it, I won’t. The book ends with me running in Cuellar or pondering my next run in Pamplona.”
Hillmann said he was inspired to run with the bulls as a 20-year-old after reading Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, which features the festival as part of the story.
“I read it in one sitting,” said Hillmann. “When I stopped, I decided to devote my life to literature and to run with the bulls.”
All of the attention has also exposed Hillmann to plenty of negative comments about his chosen passion. Many commenters online have, in effect, cheered the goring, saying Hillmann is participating in a cruel ritual.
Hillmann brushed off the comments, saying his critics simply are unaware of the tradition and its place in Spain.
“They’re just trolling me,” he said. “It’s sad; their arguments are so weak, there’s no point arguing with them. These are centuries-old traditions that are intertwined with their history.”
Hillmann said he’s slated to be in the hospital until Friday. After that he’s headed back home to rest before continuing with the book tour. He’s already started walking around his hospital room.
“I’ve kind of gone against their wishes,” said Hillmann. “But I wanted to use the bathroom … that was the motivating force.”