Shane Holt, a good old cowboy from Enterprise, Utah, pitched a bale of hay in front of Smoky Joe, Grand Prize, Ol Blue, Little Tippy and a couple dozen of their bull friends he had recently unloaded off a semitrailer.

"They've all got names," said Holt, keeping a wary eye on his cattle, "and I know ever one of 'em."He also knows where they'll be Saturday morning.

Attempting to mow down a few hundred tourists.

Barring any last-minute restraining orders from Pamplona, Spain, which has the original copyright for this sort of thing, the running of the bulls, American West version, will take place when a band of rodeo bulls wearing the Slick Fork Ranch brand bear down on whoever pays his or her fifty dollars to get in the chute at the Oasis Gun Club Arena - and see if they can run a third of a mile faster than them bulls.

Unlike the original bull run in Pamplona, which began about 400 years ago and is run through city streets, Mesquite's event won't be run through its city streets because, when the Mesquite Resort Association ran the idea past the Nevada Highway Department, the scream was so loud you'd have thought it was Mike Tyson asking for his license back.

The event won't even be held in Mesquite, by point of fact, but just beyond city, and state, limits in an unincorporated section of Arizona, which means Arizona now has the distinction of importing from Europe both the London Bridge and the Pamplona Running of the Bulls.

Maybe it's not so strange that Evan Mecham was once elected governor there after all.

But geographical nuances aside, this is still very much a Nevada event and is in fact a turnabout on one of Nevada's proudest traditions: the prime rib buffet.

In this case, the entrees will be chasing the people in line.

When Ken Carter talks about the running of the bulls, he sees room tax.

Ken is the mayor of Mesquite - Nevada's fastest growing city, the mayor likes to point out, the last six years in a row.

When Ken graduated from Virgin Valley High in 1958, there weren't more than 750 people in the entire Virgin Valley. Now, there are 800 in the high school alone.

In the city of Mesquite, the population is 10,500 and growing by at least a couple of black jack dealers daily.

The reason for all the growth is what Nevadans call "gaming." Mesquite has five major gaming casinos, with 3,000 rooms, which, in the winter time, are more often than not filled.

But this isn't winter.

This is July, when Mesquite's high temperature hovers somewhere between 110 and complete asphalt meltdown.

"We needed something to fill the rooms in the summer," Ken said earlier this week as he drove his Chrysler close to the corral holding the bulls, air conditioner going full blast.

Swede Hansen, Shane Holt's partner, is justifiably proud of the rodeo stock the two have brought in for the big weekend.

Not only will the Slick Fork's bulls chase Mesquite's tourists on Saturday morning, but on Friday night they'll warm up by doing their usual gig at a bull-rider's competition at the rodeo grounds.

"There's a lot of 'em in here with an attitude," says Swede, who does little to contain either his pride or his amusement.

You can bet he'll have his boots draped over the corral rails Saturday, enjoying the show.

"We're putting some new stock in on Saturday," he says conspiratorially, looking at a pen adjacent to the one holding Ol Blue and his buddies - where the bulls are younger, scrawnier and maybe even meaner looking.

"Rookies," whispers Swede. "They haven't made their debut yet."

He laughs a cowboy's laugh. It isn't every day you get to see if the bulls can ride the people.