By Day a Hairstylist, by Weekend a Rodeo Star
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because no two queer cowboy stories are the same.
By Nick Fouriezos
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
I was a little bit anxious. I had a mare, the horse I was running, it was her second or third rodeo. I wanted to make sure she handled the noise and commotion well. I’m trying to keep her focused and keep myself relaxed so I don’t nerve her out.
We drove down to Denver a day before just to get settled before the International Gay Rodeo Association event. I’m 28 years old, the only contestant from Wyoming. Mornings are pretty normal: We feed horses, walk them, clean stalls. My mare gets her breathing treatment — like a nebulizer for horses, opens up their lungs — then she gets a current massage with electrodes, to get her muscles ready. Then we wait.
We competed in three events: barrel racing, pole bending and breakaway. Barrel racing, they call the clover-leaf pattern. You can either take the first barrel to your right, then two left-hand turns, or vice versa. Pole bending is six poles in a straight line, you run down, weave between the poles and back down, then run home straight. And breakaway is a roping event similar to calf roping, but you don’t actually tie the calf. You rope the calf and then the rope is tied onto your saddle horn; when that string breaks, time stops. The goal is to finish as quickly as possible.
Before each event, I try to go over what my idea of the perfect run would be. You’re in the back of the arena, what they call the warmup area. I have a bad habit of holding my breath the entire time, so usually I come out and I’m breathing harder than the horses are. To relax myself, I sing a little bit, just whatever pops into my head. I’m the worst singer in the world, but it just kind of comes out. Recently, I’ve been really hooked on that new Kesha song “Praying.”
When I go to the salon, I look like a totally different person. I’m not in boots and jeans and a cowboy hat.
We had close to 90 people [at Denver]. I took home a little over $1,000 for the weekend. For some events, I was in what they call the crying hole — first place, you win, second, we call the crying hole because you were that close to winning it.
I started rodeo when I was 3. My mom did it when she was in high school, and my grandma’s second husband was a PRCA [Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association] roper. And that’s all I’ve done since. Lander is a pretty big rodeo town; it’s one of the hubs for Wyoming winter rodeos because we have a nice indoor arena. We had huge three-day rodeos for the Fourth of July too.
Before I came out as gay, I was kind of terrified to. It’s never been very acceptable in the rodeo circle; it’s just not something you see or hear about every day. I was 15 years old, the first kid in my high school to come out while still enrolled, like, ever. There were some who came out after, quite a few: it kind of made it easier for them. And there wasn’t any backlash. I was a pretty social person; I knew a lot of people from rodeo, Future Farmers of America, 4-H Club. My family took it a lot better than I thought they would, even my grandpa, who is probably the most old-school person.
I was fortunate in that respect. I had a friend in a similar situation, from another small town in the same county, and he had a 180-degree different experience. Here in Lander, with just about 7,000 people, there are now a few prominent gay couples and we’ve had gay weddings and everything else here. It’s definitely not as conservative of a town as it used to be, even just five years ago.
Still, dating around here is horrible. It sucks. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been in a relationship for a year. Really the only way is online dating, Grindr. Even then, you see somebody online and they are probably 200 miles away — but for us, that’s close. There are a lot of long-distance relationships. I don’t think there’s a gay bar in the state. But I came home a few years ago, and I don’t see myself moving. I want to stay here.
I train horses for other people, and sell my own. I didn’t grow up with a lot of money. We bought cheap and trained them to do what we wanted them to do. The first one I personally bought, the mare, I spent $2,000 on her. A month ago, I got offered $60,000 for her. But I’m keeping her. At one point, I had seven horses. Eventually, I want to start my own breeding and training operation.
I’ve also been a hairstylist for three years. When I go to the salon, I look like a totally different person. I’m not in boots and jeans and a cowboy hat. And so when people ask me what else I do, and I tell them rodeo, they give me a weird look. I get people underestimating me a lot when I go somewhere new. I don’t look the part. But I just try to let my riding speak for itself. I’ll probably do rodeo till I can’t walk anymore.