RS: Yep. Excellent. So this is Rebecca Scofield with the Gay Rodeo Oral History Project, and I’m here today with Charles Hancock. And is it OK to record you today?
CH: Yes, it is.
RS: Wonderful. So today is July 1st, 2021. It's about 2:00 in the afternoon in northern Idaho. What time is it there?
RS: 5:10. Nice evening time interview. And yes. So we'll just get started. Could you tell me what year you were born in?
RS: And where were you born?
CH: Holden, Missouri.
RS: Is that where you grew up?
CH: Yes, I was. We had a new hospital. I was the first baby born in that hospital
RS: Was that a pretty rural place?
CH: At that time, there were seventeen hundred people. It was the - it was the largest school district as far as square miles in Missouri. It covers a lot of farm ground, a lot of bussing, you know, going on.
RS: And can you tell me a little bit about your family background, about your parents or siblings?
CH: There were seven, there are seven children and mom and dad came from they had gone through the Depression as they were growing up. And my father was in World War II, the Battle of the Bulge and the Normandy invasion. He had a brother named Emery and he, he got killed in that battle. And so Dad found out about it while he was over there overseas. And my grandfather was my father's dad. He was in World War I. So we kind of have a history of military with that. Mom, she she raised seven kids. She cooked. She made things from scratch. She also worked as a kinda like a CNA I guess back in the 60s it was, and she would work nights. And so we're kind of left alone with our older siblings. You know, they would take care of us. But she wound up being a nurse for 40 years with three different doctors in my hometown.
RS: Oh wow.
CH: So she's kind of famous in that town.
RS: And where were you in the in the seven?
CH: I was number five. And there were there were six boys and one girl.
RS: Wow, what were those dynamics like?
CH: Well, going up on the farm, we did not have indoor plumbing, so we got our water from the well, pump it. We had an outhouse. We had a laundry building where we'd use the old and the washing machine that had the thing you put the clothes through and squeeze out the water and. You know, it was cold, it an old two-story farmhouse that in the wintertime you go to bed and you hide under the covers so your breath would warm up underneath there. I was I think I was probably about 12 or 13 when we left the farm but my job out on the farm was to carry the milk from the barn to the house twice a day, and I had to take care of the chickens. We had banny chickens.
CH: Oh god, I hated that rooster. He didn't like me either [laughs]. He was mean, but so that's. And we had fun, we were barefoot, you know, in the summer, we, one of our brothers had an old go-cart that he put together and got it from somewhere that was fun to ride around. And we would do hayrides. We would take it. We make our own sleds out of wood scraps and the tractor would pull us down the county road. You know, that was our that is our fun. One year the mom and dad got us all ice skates because we had two or three ponds on the property. And that was that was nice for about a year. And then we got tired of that [laughs].
RS: Did you get along with your siblings pretty well?
CH: Yes, yes, I did at that time [laughs]. And I guess if I was also the fattest baby. They all like to mention that, especially my mother and I'm the skinniest one now, but I was the fattest and my sister was at the age that she would take care of me a lot when my mom was working nights and stuff. So she would she was she was in the mother mode, you know she was in high school or ya know or even junior high. Yeah, she was, would help take care of me, I guess. And I think that we kind of were close to each other.
RS: And did you go to school in town?
CH: Yes, oh well, actually, my dad was a when he got out of the service, he went to work for Kroger Grocery. He was a manager. So we actually lived in Poala, Kansas, when I was like five years old. He managed grocery stores over there. This is back when Kroger groceries were not big stores, they were mom and pop type of things. And he actually managed two different ones that. So I moved here. I was born in Holden, and we went to Kansas. Then we came back, and I think I was in second grade, I showed up like October of my second grade year into a new school, new people, you know. "Oooh, looky there, tee-hee," ya know [laughs]. They're just hard to get, you know, but I guess they did OK. And I really I liked school, but I couldn't wait to get out. I was very good in math. I never did the trigonometry stuff or anything, but I it's funny how my skills that I learned in high school has transposed over to real life. As a contract remodeling contractor, I needed to know how to figure your square footage, just angles, slopes, different things like that.
CH: So my math was very important. Writing a contract for the customer to sign or to look over, to go over it needed to be a proper wording and sentencing and not some Yahoo that I wanted. I wanted to be [inaudible] I was a professional, so I knew I wanted to be a good thing. When I was a kid, I mowed yards. I had a push mower, I pushed it all over town, carried a gas can. I used that money to go to Boy Scout camp and to pay for my swimming pool membership. You could go all year long for thirty-five dollars [laughs]. And I guess I was an entrepreneur growing up because I used to go door-to-door selling garden seeds and flower seeds. One time I was selling greeting cards where you got your name engraved inside, but you don't see that much, and they had to pay for it in advance, you know, and they would I'm sure some of them would say, oh, here comes that Hancock kid again, don't answer the door. I used to sell band candy bars, you know, door-to-door. I worked in my dad's grocery store as we left the farm and a hundred pounds of potatoes. I got paid a quarter for bagging them up into ten-pound bags. I just, I was always, wanted to make money and do things, and be able to pay for things myself.
RS: So did your dad continue managing a grocery store once you moved back to Missouri?
CH: Say that again please?
RS: When you moved back from Kansas to Missouri, did he continue managing a grocery store?
CH: He started his own. That's right. We had been in Kansas and he, I guess, quit quit working for Kroger and opened his own little grocery store in Holden across the street from the big grocery store. I remember it had wooden floors and had a tin can lids covering the mouse holes in the floor. And once in a while, there'd be ones that would get into the sugar, the flour, or something. And, you know, we had to clean all that up and everything but he had, there was a butcher that you he sliced the baloney you wanted. He'd slice of cheese you wanted, you didn't have a big deli and all this you didn't have all that stuff. It was just a small thing. But then he opened up another grocery store or that one, ya know, he got a bigger one, bigger space.
CH: It was the first, first business in that town to have automatic doors open and close. And these were back when you, when you stepped on the pad and the door would open. You probably don't remember them, do you? Oh, you do? [laughs with RS] Yeah. It's not an electronic eye or anything getting your movement, you step on the pad and the door would open! And so then they would give it run by and step ya know, just for [inaudible]. I started running the cash register when I was ten years old. I got to run the cash register. That was the type of thing that if the electricity went out, you pulled the handle from underneath the counter and put it on there you crank it. [RS and CH laugh].
RS: That is so amazing.
CH: There are some people that didn't want me to ring up their groceries. They didn't think I was older, so. OK [laughs].
RS: Did you have very close friendships at school?
CH: Yes, yes, it's funny, you have best friends in school, and then later you don't or they change. But yeah, there's a, Doyne Warren, he's deceased now. He he was a country kid like me. We went to the same church. Same age in school. And. In high school, my best friend was Jerry Bohannon and. And. I wasn't, well, I guess I was popular, sort of, I was on student council, you had to be elected to that and. You know, my last two years of high school, I just kind of got out of that stuff, I just didn't, I don't know. I think I was becoming a hippie at that time. [laughs] Yes.
CH: Yes. [continues laughing]
RS: So before I follow up on the hippie transition, I just wanted to talk about. So you say you're chasing chickens and doing that sort of stuff. Were you interested? I mean, did you ride horses a lot? Did you guys have cattle on your farm at all other than dairy cattle?
CH: We had an old nag for a horse. OK? That probably should have, they probably rescued him before he went to the glue factory and uh, well yeah. And now we have pictures us kids on it ya know and things like that. We had we had two-hundred and forty acres and most of it was row crops. There was corn, beans, milo and some hayfields. We had milk cows. And it's a small operation. Milk cows, pigs, sheep, chickens. I think maybe that's about it. Yeah, but every year that somebody will come out and sheer the sheep and get the wool. The, the cows were milked twice, twice a day, and the local creamery would bring their truck out and they would transfer the milk from the milk barn into their truck.
CH: Now, that was way back before they did all this pasteurization and everything, you know, I mean, we didn't get sick when we drank out of a garden hose. Oh, boy. Did we always wash our hands before we ate? Probably not. Mom would tell us to, but. And yah, I had I had a great time on the farm. I did. It was fun, I'm glad - I wouldn't have traded it for anything. And I think it gave me some life lessons as far as working for what you want - working to pay your own way - that type of thing.
RS: And was rodeo very big in Missouri?
CH: Not that I was aware of, you know, because we didn't - seven kids. I never thought we were poor, because we, we helped other families that were worse off than we were. But we, [laughs] we didn't have a lot of money. So, you know, there was no riding lessons, there was no, you know... There were band lessons, music lessons and things. But no, it was. I bet I've always thought I was either I'm either a reincarnated cowboy or an Indian, the thing is - I can't decide which it is. I'm thinking more along the lines of cowboy. I just oh, we had cowboys and Indians when I was a kid. The little men, the little figures, the little miniature - a hundred of them for a buck or something like that.
CH: We set them up and so we'd play cowboys and Indians. I loved the Westerns on TV, you know, Bonanza, all them. And living in the rural area, there was a saddle club, we had a saddle club, which people would go on trail rides and things and they would put on demonstrations. And once in a while, a rodeo, a kind of traveling type rodeo, or regional would come and uh, set up there in our town at the uh, the one with the stockyards. But it was the horse arena. That's what it was. Yeah. Horse arena.
RS: So were you in for 4H or FFA?
CH: No, neither one, neither one, but I was in Boy Scouts and I was in the band. The band I started in fifth grade by the time junior high came along, which was seventh grade, me and my buddy Gary Duncan, we both got to play with the high school band because there wasn't very many drummers in high school. So that was interesting to get to go to a state contest in district contest to be with the big guy, big upperclassmen. And, you know, we're just kind of very naive and scared and, you know, a seventh grader, you know, but I still have my medals that we won. I thoroughly enjoyed band. So we were in the marching band, the concert band. We used to, we used to go to the Missouri State Fair every year they had what they call band day. Band day, if you, if your band came, you got admission is free, and then you would do a parade in the afternoon. So and you got meal vouchers too, so that was pretty good.
CH: Our whole family played a musical instrument, I think, except maybe my oldest brother, Jim. I don't think he played anything, but mine was the drums. And my parents bought me a used drum when I started from somebody that they knew in the local area and I had it all, all them years, I finally gave it to somebody that wanted to be a drummer. So I just passed it on to him. We used to, we used to sell candy bars to raise money so we could buy new uniforms, and we did. We got new uniforms - they were pretty! And we had even had white spats and that were attached to our black shoes [inaudible] and that it was very blue and white colors. That was our, our school colors and stuff. And I had I had a pretty, pretty good time overall in school. My 50-year class reunion is coming up in September.
RS: Wow. So when you're talking about kind of growing up with that image of cowboys and Indians. What…what were the…what did you think of back then for a cowboy or for Indian? What was your image of them?
CH: Oh, John Wayne was a cowboy, you know, that was, then I was more like, I liked Hoss Cartwright. You know, he wasn't the most popular, but, you know, I thought he was the funniest and the and then that would have been me, I think, you know, him. I would'nt've been Little Joe, I would've been Hoss Cartwright. I [laughs] you know, it's funny how TV, when you're growing up, you're a kid, it seems to be real. And you know, it's not, but you, as a kid, it's entertainment and you don't get some of the lessons they were trying to tell you, or the point they were trying to get across.
CH: But I watch TV now and about the only thing I watch is MeTV. They have The Rifleman, Bonanza, Matt Dillon, Gunsmoke. Uh, all those. And I watch the Grit, Grit Network, which has movies, you know, constantly. It's a, I tend to decorate my house country themed, not necessarily Western, but kind of a mixture of rural cowboy-type stuff. I got a horseshoe over all three of my exterior doors. It points up. And that's for good luck. You're supposed to have that on each exterior door and - going to the gay rodeos and stuff was very interesting, I got involved with a dance group and we would perform, it was a line dancing, kind of like cloggers, that type of thing, and there are certain dances, even nowadays, where you go to the bar and you learn that dance, called something - certain steps.
CH: Well, we had a couple of guys on in our group that they were good at choreographing things from other songs and stuff. So we would go traveling around in the different gay rodeos at our own expense. And they would let us they would give us free admission to the rodeo if we performed. And of course. "Oh, yeah, we want to perform! We want to do that." The first group I belong to was called The Kickers, and then that morphed into the Spurs and we had a lot of t-shirts, different colored t-shirts. And, you know, you had to oh, tonight, we're going be wearing this shirt, you know, and that kind of thing. So it was. Yah it was fun, [laughs] but I wasn't too serious about it - some of 'em were. But uh, it was a good time.
RS: So after high school, did you, did you really become a hippie?
CH: Say what?
RS: Did you really become a hippie after high school?
CH: No. During high school.
RS: Oh, during high school.
CH: [laughs] Yes. Um, I didn't get my first bellbottoms till I just graduated high school, but in high school, I would take my blue jeans and the seam down at the bottom, I would use a seam ripper out of my Mom's sewing thing, and remove the stitching and then sew in a piece of colorful material and that would make it kind of flare out. And, you know, the long hair came then. Actually, when I got married when I was 19, I had long hair that flipped up on my shoulder, kind of curled upward. And in that day and age, it was there wasn't a lot of, ya know we didn't had school uniforms and things like that. But the principal, he would tell you, you need to get a haircut. And I think we just defied him, just because we're good. I skipped a lot of school my senior year. I skipped first hour, probably over half the time. And I had two girls helping me [laughs] and I still have the same car I had in high school. And so [laughs] I'm hoping to drive that to the class reunion [laughs]. We, we had a list of excuses in the glovebox: flat tire, ran out of gas, ya know, just whatever. We we'd get to school in time for second hour and the principal would go, "Well what is it this time?" [laughs] You know.
RS: So was any of that rebellion part of a larger political things that were going on, or was it was it just the stage of your life?
CH: As I think it was, some of it was protest against the Vietnam War at the time, and we had the draft then. I remember when I was 17, you had to be 18 to get drafted, when I was 17, they they pulled my birth date first. First. Ugh. Then when I turned 18, it was number two-sixty-two, so I never had to go, I never got drafted, never got even letters that saying that. I went to a little bit of college, but I didn't care for it. But uh, yeah, I think that uh. You know, there was. We also we also have a lot of a race, race riots in the 60's, and we're out we're living out on the farm and we're watching our black and white TV with the antenna outside.
CH: And we're seeing these people burning up their own neighborhoods and things, I didn't understand all that. You know, really, we weren't. It's like we're we're just isolated kind of in our own because we were I mean, you know, if you if you worked in the city, you commuted maybe in a van, bunch of you in a van or you carpooled, you know, or you tried to find a job local somewhere around there. But I think that that that really opened my eyes. The race riots and then the the protests where. Kent State. Kent State, really. That was really, um. I guess emotional for me that they. You know, they opened fire. You know, college kids are protesting, they can go out there to die. So, you know, they kept going on and on and on and every- it's still going on. They're still out there that it's. Yeah, I -
RS: Did your -
RS: Go ahead.
CH: I think it's better as well. I know. How people perceive gay people, I think is somewhat better. I'm not sure about the race issue. I don't know. I can't imagine being. They persecuted for the color of my skin.
RS: Yeah, did your town have a large black population at all?
CH: No, but we had a black church. The there's out of maybe 70 people or 60 in the yearbook. There might be a couple of them in senior or are senior and junior. There was never, ever a black person in my class ever in grade school or anywhere. There was uh, one family was Shocklee was their last name, and Benny Shockley, he ran a trash service that was back in the day when he had an old pick up with these sides he made on it, so it could hold more trash. He's like, come to this grocery store and get our trash. We didn't have compactors and big bins, or - it was all hand loaded. And then it was taken out to the local landfill, which wasn't even a landfill, it was just a place to dump. You know, I liked going out there to pick [inaudible] [laughs].
CH: But uh, yeah, the Shockleys. And there was there's Reverend Thomas and another black family. And he was the reverend of the church there. I think they still I think they still have a black church there. My own town actually had a black school at one time. And out here out here, in my other room, I have a box of books that were teaching books that they used in the classrooms. I have those from that school, a friend of mine, and she asked if anybody wanted 'em. And I said, of course I do. Yeah. I don't want them to get thrown away. I'm a very big history. I like to save things and collect and I've donated some things to the archives of the gay rodeo. And I have another box sitting over here that says, you know, my family - whoops, we there?
RS: I'm here.
CH: Oh, it disappeared, just a minute - there, OK. [laughs] All right. Yeah, my family won't know what to do with all that rodeo stuff, so I just have to have it go to the archives.
RS: And you said you got married at 19.
CH: Yeah, uh huh. I had, I married a farm girl, ya know grew up on a farm, and she had kind of a rough life because her mother was ill mentally, so she was one of the older ones, so she had to take care of the rest kind of, you know, and. Yes, this was not hard, not good for her. She had a job at the local Eaton Place for many years. And she was 18, I was 19, it was after she got graduated. We had one child, a son, he's now thirty-six. His name is David, and David knows all about me, everything. They, we were actually separated when he was two months old, so he doesn't he didn't have to go through the trauma of the divorce thing like a lot of kids do. And I always paid child support, I was always in his life. You know, he turned out to be an OK guy.
RS: So can I ask how you identify in terms of sexuality and gender?
CH: Oh, I'm gay. Uh, some people would say I'm bi because I fathered a child. Well, yes, but I had some - some things uh, go on with when before I became an adult that involved other men, most of it was not good um. And um, in a small town and I had I didn't - I couldn't go to anybody, I didn't know you didn't know where to go to ask - my gosh, if I would have told my friends or something, I would have been the town queer. We had a town queer. That's what they called him. And everybody knew it. And. [laughs] That was that was one of my bad experiences with that one, yah.
CH: And then mowing yards, I mowed a yard across from the Catholic Church, I was 14, so. Father [inaudible] came over and asked me if I wanted a cold drink of water, I said sure. He didn't have it with him, but we went and got it. That just took place over one summer. The other encounter was that it started out as a rape and he was a 30-year-old family friend who was known as the town queer. My parents knew what had happened. Nothing was done. And I get that I understand it's an embarrassment to a family back then, I guess there was no word pedophile but he was a pedophile. There wasn't even a term I don't think. Um, so. You know, it is very unpleasant but I would go back about once a month because. I don't know.
CH: You have something going on inside of you, you can't help, you can't stop. You need to express that and. So and then there was the, [sighs] the I'm not going to say it was, but it was the, two of the elders in the Methodist Church in Holden. They had families both of them. There was [inaudible] was a little town, or not little, well, it was a college town about a half-hour from us. And out on the highway, they had a motel, it was called the Sky Haven Motel. And I was 14, 15 and - [pause] - there's there's, ya know I wasn't [inaudible] me and stuff. I still have not really told anybody what went on there. Um, craziness. It is not good.
CH: You know, I'm thinkin. And thinking, oh, this is me, this is what it's going to be like but they didn't need, they didn't need - they shouldn't have been - shouldn't have been like that. Um, so, ya know - it is what it is, and uh, I didn't have to go to counseling all my life, really, so so yeah, I'm gay or queer. Or ya know, [inaudible] bag of words. And I guess it, it really hit home. Well, I got a divorce, I told my wife it was because of men and she was actually OK with that. She would have said if this was another woman, because she was very she's very a good wife and homemaker and just was, a good cook and you know. I didn't know how to do laundry! I had to call her up after we split just to ask her how to run the washing machine! [laughs]
RS: So how long were you two together?
CH: Uh, we were married for 12 years. And we didn't have our son 'til close to the end of the marriage. We didn't want to! She was on birth control. That was good. We saw some of our classmates, you know, out of wedlock, gettin' married all that - the babies and we saw them struggle and we weren't in that situation, so we didn't, we stayed away. We, we kind of built our careers. She worked the Internal Revenue, which she wound up retiring from as a GS14, which is pretty good. And I had my career in a remodeling contractor. So so we established our, kind of, income business stuff before we ever had had a child.
RS: And were you living in Holden still or had you moved?
CH: We when we got married, we rented what used to be my father's, parents' house. So my grandparents house, mom and dad had a lot of rental properties in town. So that was one of the property that had, ya know they owned it. So fifty dollars a month, a two-story house [chuckles]. That was all we had to pay for rent, and we lived there for seven years, and then we moved to a little place called East Lynne, which is near Harrisonville out in the country. And it was a house that had been moved on to a new basement because the homeowner, the original owner, built a new house and it was the old houses was in the way. So so actually my father-in-law wound up buying it and then we bought it from him.
CH: But it needed a lot of work and I did a lot of work to it and we lived there for five years. Um, and at that time, I worked a lot in the summer, but in the wintertime, there wasn't a lot to do if you're doing roofing and painting. So I sat home and I did jigsaw puzzles, huge ones, 3000, 4000, 5000 piece jigsaw puzzles then I got tired of that [laughs with RS]. But yeah, at that point in my life, I was not doing all of the different remodeling things that I learned how to do. But we had our house payments paid up until Spring. You know, things like that, and we went on a vacation every year.
RS: And did you have a big social network, uh friends or anything?
CH: We had friends yah, from high school and stuff and her her family. She was she had brothers and sisters that she she was closer to them than I was to mine. So if we were hanging out, it was probably more more on her side of the family than it was on mine. Not that I didn't get along with my brothers. Well, we we just weren't a very, I don't think social family. We didn't do any huggin'. There was no huggin'. Now, mom and I hug, oh, yeah, we hug you know? And I see all my nephews and nieces there, they're hugging and all of this, and just oh, it makes me feel good that that it didn't get stuck in a rut where there was no emotional thing like that.
RS: So when you were deciding to separate from your wife, you said that was in part because you were starting to be a little bit more open about -?
CH: And I was experimenting. Uh-huh. And I felt guilty, um. She didn't deserve that. I was working I was doing some traveling, doing some commercial roofing uh yah know, like five hours away and stuff like that, so. I'd get a motel, these older motels where they had outside entrances and all that was maybe two-story, maybe. But uh, I stayed in them, and then once in awhile I would have an encounter. I, I didn't even know anything about gay bars or I didn't know there was one until I was thirty-one years old, I think. That was after her and I separated.
RS: Where did you go after you separated?
CH: Uh, well, I stayed in that house for a little while, but it had to be sold because I couldn't afford it, just my income, so we had to sell it. And I rented a place in a town about a half-hour away for about a year and then. I wound up meeting someone about 1987, '86. And we dated for a while and then we moved into a house in east Kansas City. And. Then he - [laughs] that was kind of strange. He he was a jealous person, but he didn't have anything to be jealous about. But I think what was going on was I think he was doing something on the side and figured I was too, so he would accuse me of it [laughs], so so that it'd make him feel good.
CH: I guess so. So we actually split. Well, I had gone to see a friend of mine over the weekend when I got home. All his stuff was gone. It's all gone, and I had no clue that - but then! Like six months later, we get back together again, go get another house. So, and then, so that was a kind of a three year, three year thing. Ya know, it wasn't really a partner or relationship. You know, we didn't share bank accounts, we did our names were on things together. It wasn't really that I've had two of those in my life. And now this is just more like a boyfriend.
RS: And were you able to be pretty out in the 80's?
CH: Oh, yeah! [laughing] I have here in my living room I have a, it's a - I guess they call it tintype. It's a it's a newspaper article that they made it out of out of something so that never fades and all that. So. And was the Kansas City newspaper decided they were going to do a series on gay parents. So, they did a three, three-part, so three days in a row front-page news, ya know. Well, one of those days, here I am, my tool belt on, I'm working on this kitchen cabinets, you know, and my name is there. You know, and everything [laughs outloud]. And in fact, just recently when I was in Holden, my friend Sharon, who is helping me with the reunion.
CH: She was one of 'em that skipped school with me every morning. And she said that's how she found out, about me. Her husband says, "Look at this." And she looked it and she she didn't have a clue. She didn't know at all [laughs]. So I came out big time. I, since I had a convertible I would use it at the gay pride parades that we had in Kansas City. Maybe a councilman or a congressperson from Missouri would be in the parade and they'd ride in my car or the grand marshal. And of course, we had Fred Phelps gang protest this. And it was fun to go by them and honk and wave, "Hey! How ya doing Fred!" Ya know? [laughs] Ya know, antagonize them. Oh, man. But yah -
RS: Did your -
RS: Did your whole family know by the time the newspaper article was published?
CH: And I believe so because my, well, I don't know about I don't know about the whole family and the extent that they knew. Um, I was divorced by then, and so at least the immediate family knew, and I, I'm sure they never really talk about it, so you know they never really said. I'm sure [laughs] I'm sure they do when I'm not there, and that's OK. I talk about them when they're not there! [laughs] But, yes, I I've been - mom always made sure that if I had somebody in my life that they were invited to Thanksgiving dinner. And this guy's name was Dale, the one that, the boyfriend I was with first, or twice. Uh, he -I came across a picture the other day of him at one of our family functions, ya know? Yeah, so, oh, yeah, they they know, yah [laughs] And and I, I like that, I like that I don't I don't have to hide like I used to. I just wish everybody could have that luxury that they can.
RS: Um, and was your your sort of contracting business at all affected by having such a public, um -
CH: It didn't appear to be, as far as I know, I actually was a member of the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in Kansas City. It was a kind of a grassroots thing that some business owners got together with me. We had a float in the parade and things like that, you know, and. And I always advertised in the rodeo program, things like that, and I would get some business, ya know. And I would get I get the ones where they weren't really wanting me to do repairs, but they got me over there with that OK? But I, I am very I am very good at weeding out those that that do that. I can tell just by having a conversation with them beforehand.
CH: Then ask questions about their project, they kind of hem and haw around, and I needed to let these people know that this is my livelihood, you know? All right, I'll come over and do some work if we like each other, we'll go out to dinner or something, you know, or somethin' - somethin' [laughs]. Oh, yeah, there was a little bit of that. Some of them want to know if I would work naked. I said, no, no extra cost [laughs]. I very rarely did that because I always had to go outside to get tools or something [laughs]. [RS laughs] So there's a handyman fantasy, did you know that? [laughs] I was their fantasy, except, you know, it didn't go the way they wanted it! [laughs with RS] Now after I got the job done? After I got paid? Then we can talk about it.
RS: [laughs] So obviously during the eighties, the the AIDS epidemic was happening. Did that affect, you know, how you were treated by people or how the gay community was coming together at the time?
CH: I remember being a buddy for guys AIDS, AIDS - they're not victims, they're affected by the AIDS virus - that pertained to taking them shopping for groceries or to a doctor's appointment. And we were called buddies, you know. And I know there is so much and it's not the medical professions fault, nurses, they were afraid to go into somebody's room at the hospital, you know? They they didn't know what this was, they didn't know how to, you know, anything. So so and it's so sad that. You know, that so many people were left without proper care. But it's really nobody's fault, it was just the unknown. But they, they started having a, they formed a thing called Good Samaritan Project, and that started out finding a building or apartment building or something and turning it into affordable housing for people that were HIV positive, ya know, and that that would be rejected, in a regular, a regular place. You know, I remember that there's also a, it was an older nursing home, but it was bought and it was used for the end of life for the patients that were full blown, full blown, as it were.
CH: There was no meds and this in the late 80s, early 90s and I remember both groups, I belonged to the Kansas City Cave Bears and I belonged to the Missouri Gay Rodeo Association. At Christmas time, we would get a list from that facility and we'd go shopping and buy things and have a Christmas party and the Rodeo people did it and the Bear people did it. And then, other times, I'm inside the facility painting, volunteering to paint. I've always, been a big volunteer. I don't know where I get that from because I don't like my family is [laughs], but yeah, I been a volunteer with a lot of things. But doing that in the AIDS epidemic. Oh, now this is, yeah. This is kind of creepy. [sighs] There was there was something called viatical or something, people could take their life insurance policies and cash them in and then when they died, that company got their, OK, but they didn't get pennies on the dollar or whatever, you know, get the full thing.
CH: I was hired twice. Both times by a single male. Younger than me, actually, at the time. They were probably not even 40. And they hired me to come in and finish their home. They had maybe been working on it themselves. But just lost energy and could not do it. They wanted to see it done. They wanted their families to see it done. That - [long pause] doing work for them. Knowing that, the reason why we're doing it, was sad. It was, it was hard for me to go to work some days because they're in the next room and somebody's in there with them and they're throwing up and they're, you know, there's agonizing and… So, I'd do it again, if I needed to, I'd go fix somebody's house up.
RS: Is um, is this about the time that you're finding the gay rodeo?
CH: I found that in 1989. Yes, it was during that during my "out" period. The Missouri Gay Rodeo started off in Joplin, Missouri, and they used to have what they call roundups. And it was just a big party, you'd drink and eat, and play silly little games like the old stick horses, you know, they put between your leg and race and, you know, maybe do a blindfolded or whatever, you know, but I remember going down there. We were in the dance group. And we went down there for the roundup and performed, and that's when I joined the Missouri Gay Rodeo Association. That was in 89. I'm still - it's been thirty-two consecutive years. So, I'm pretty proud of that. And I give him a hard time! I say, when are y'all going to give me a free membership? It's cause I'm old. Ya know, lifetime membership, come on! [RS laughs] I have another friend that maybe he'd been in the rodeo just a little bit longer, we're about the same age but, you know, we're the same way - we're still around, you know? [laughs]
RS: And do you remember, um, so, so you were going to the kind of roundup events, when did you go to your first rodeo with them?
CH: Well, then so, Kansas City formed a chapter. So and at one time, there was Springfield, Joplin, Kansas City, Columbia came in there a little bit, St. Louis a little bit, but then they formed their own, so. We, we weren't really big enough. Felt confident enough to put on our own rodeo, so we joined forces with Kansas and Oklahoma, and we became the Great Plains Regional Rodeo. And our first regional rodeo was at the American Royal Arena up there, and we lost a lot of money [laughs] that was very expensive. And that was that was the first one I attended for the Missouri. But I had been to some others probably a year or two before performing around and different things and. Yeah, it was, and then later Arkansas joined us. So there was four! Four states, but we realized that if you're going to have a rodeo in Kansas City, it's almost always the work is done by people that live there, but yet the other three states wanted part of the cut. Well, in the same way, if we went down there for their rodeo, same thing. So we had gotten our feet wet and all branched out into our own, own rodeos, which was good.
RS: What was it like going to those types of events then? What did, what would you spend your days or nights doing at a rodeo?
CH: If I was just visit - I always worked at ‘em, at the Missouri. I had a job, [laughs] but I did, once and awhile, I'd get to go when we traveled with that little dance group and we'd watched rodeos, we watched the rodeo, you know, and go, go dancing at the bars at night and have parties, you know, and just, just be gay cowboys. Is what it was. And the contestants that we had, they had difficulty in mainstream rodeos, at that time, discrimination and things like that, you know, and you didn't - if you were a cowboy, you didn't want the others to know you were because they would, they'd give you a hard time about competing in their events and things. You know, we don't want none of you around here. There are no gay cowboys or whatever, you know. Yeah. So uh, they had vendors at this place. I remember buying a money clip. I still have that money clip and that I take every day with me. There was uh, I met a lot of nice people. I did. They were contestants, they were officials, they were vendors. And it was very, overall, a good experience, everything has a little bad once and awhile, but overall, I'm still there [laughs]. I started out, I had a pickup truck, so it was easy for me to go get the trash barrels, put em in the back of my truck and go to the dumpster. So that that was when I did my second year.
CH: My first year I was security. I was way up in the nosebleed section, at Kemper Arena, where nobody was, but I wasn't supposed to let anybody in [laughs]. And so that's where I started off. And then I just I worked myself up to, you know, we had a rodeo director, Bobbie St. Jeor, is a lady but she looked like a man. She could crack three eggs at one time. She she was a cook also. She was killed in a car accident, going to a rodeo in 2004. But I used to shadow her, I guess. She'd send me off to go do something and I'd get it done, and I'd come back, "Now, what do you want me to do?" So by doing that, I learned a lot of stuff. We used to have these Wyandotte County Fairgrounds where we were able to sell food and keep all the profit, sell alcohol and drinks and keep all the profit, these other places like Kemper, we weren't allowed to do that.
CH: So it was nice out there. But the the arena, out there. Our rodeo was usually a couple of weeks after the demolition derby. So. We'd get out there on a Friday and we'd have buckets and we're all going in a line across the arena, pickin' up car parts. Because you don't want the horses to, ya know [laughs]. Yeah. And then there were stalls. Kind of tiny and crowded, and they had to be cleaned out after each rodeo. You had to scoop it out to the aisle. That was part of the deal. And. That was probably the worst job you had to do, especially on a Sunday morning, or no, a Monday morning. Monday morning, and you've been, if you've been partying. So, yeah, that was one of the jobs people disappear.
RS: And did you ever have any romantic relationships with anyone on the rodeo circuit?
CH: No, and you know what, I've been in several things in Missouri, I've been barn manager like 13 or 14 times? Well, that means that I'm around all of the contestants that have the horses and things, you know, and you hear stories about what may have happened and in a stall somewhere, somebody said or whatever. Honestly, honestly, I would swear, never, ever, ever did I even kiss the man in a stall! I mean, I guess I was professional. I was, I wasn't out to, to hit on somebody that you know, that's a contestant- and they're, they're really focused on the horse and the rodeo and making a buck, getting the buckle that, you know, I'm sure things have happened with people and things that I can say that. Now, maybe if it would've somebody would approach [laughs] but anyways, yah, that never happened. But that's OK, I didn't really, I liked talking to the horses, like going up there and talking to them, the horse whisperer [laughs].
RS: And what did the association look like, I mean, was it mostly men, lots of women?
CH: It's always been mostly men or was. But there were several women, too, you know, and some of the guys tried to be in charge and didn't think the women should, ya know. But currently we have a woman director. Hopefully she'll get to do that next year. She's been director before, you know, some guys had a thing that, "Oh, women can't do that." But I think the horse people, and I mean the rodeo people, they're more accepting and tolerant, and know that, know that a woman can do just as - we have, there is a bull rider that goes that's in our IGRA circuit, the rodeos. Man, she is somethin', she does really well. Really well. And she's been interviewed, you may have even seen her, she's African-American, just a little small gal. But she gets her gear on and protective equipment and everything, gets up there. And, yeah [chuckles softly].
RS: Do you think the it's changed since…in the 32 years you've been a member? How has it changed?
CH: I think it's I think it's, I - it seems to be going by the wayside. And there's not as many associations, there's not as many rodeos, and we're not counting the Covid thing, but even before then. And I, you know, back in the day when the first gay rodeo started, the charity was muscular dystrophy. Well, when the AIDS epidemic, that was in the late 70s. In the 80s, it was more, they were raising money for AIDS charities. So all the gay people would come to the rodeo and help support the bar owners would support saying people go buy buckles, sponsor buckles. And it was like, "Oh, there's a gay rodeo. Oh, wow. What's it like? Is it like a [inaudible]?" Well, yeah. They have the same events, but they also have a few other fun ones, you know? And. I think it was important then for the community.
CH: I don't think our government was doing anything or enough. We had to help ourselves. We had to do things for people that, you know, they weren't getting any other help. So I think that was very important to a lot of people. And nowadays, I've noticed that some of the charities they choose may be the animal shelter or you know, that type of thing. They also do, Missouri, I think, is always doing the, the youth, youth organization. You know, I'm a big supporter of that also because if I would have known, you know what - it could have been me, I could have been kicked out, you know, but I didn't I wasn't blatant about it.
CH: I hid in the closet. If I would have come out, at that time, I may not have been able to be home. So I think it's sad, that it's, it's going. Going away, it may not completely, but also I think the mainstream rodeos is fragrant with people being more accepted than some of our people are more comfortable going to those rodeos and competing. And, I know there's some, there's always drama somewhere in the rodeo, except in Arkansas. Arkansas has no drama [laughs]. They put that fire out quick [laughs]. But uh, yeah, there's there is always conflicts things and it's never good, you know. But it is what it is, you can't you can't take a bunch of people and everything, the same personalities and yeah. You're not going to please everybody,
RS: So you mentioned you know the, younger people might have more opportunities because of a shift in the larger culture. As someone who was born in the 50s till now, you know, for you, what was it like experiencing some of those large cultural shifts around LGBTQ rights?
CH: I went to the march on Washington in 1993. I had a boyfriend that we lived together, but not his partner-partner, but we were pretty close. We flew out there, we stayed out of the suburbs with some friends of his. And I remember riding the train into, into D.C., that day of the protest. And each stop, more and more people were getting on the train. You're all gay, lesbian, you know, the pride colors, and you could just see. The enthusiasm and excitement on people's faces. And we marched right in front of the White House. It was awesome. I have a poster in my living room of that event and. Yeah, it's. Do you ever hear of ACT UP?
CH: OK, yeah. I wasn't a member, but I would support them, you know. They were doing the more hardcore protest, trying to get attention for funding and stuff like that. So, yeah, that was a very kind of activist group that was out there. And I've seen, ya know, somebody is always going to get beat up, somebody is always going to, whatever - you know, the Matthew Shepard thing is this awful. But we don't know what we don't know all the sides of the story either. We don't know [sighs] did, did he go too far, or? I don't know. But anyway. I think society is more accepting. And until Pulse, until that happened. That's 50 miles from where I live and. A day after that, I took down my rainbow flag. And I took my bear rainbow magnet off my vehicle. And it was like going back in the closet. But. I didn't want to get killed, I didn't want to get shot just because I had that symbol or they and my neighbors know our here, they know that, they knew my second partner and everything so, but I don't. I don't, I don't uh. How do I say it? I don't hit it, I don't try to be, I'm not a - that much of worry wort, I mean but I would never do that so and so we get along really well.
RS: Do you think the last couple of years has been sort of - step back for…?
CH: Yes. Oh, yeah, yeah, well, when the Cheeto was elected. And. My whole family's Republican nephews, nieces. I think I think my youngest brother is a Democrat and his wife. Cause she says something once in a while at our family gatherings. My older brother that's living, the oldest one living, I wasn't allowed to wear my Hillary hat. But he was allowed to wear his MAGA hat. So that appears in all the pictures of that event. It was suggested to me that I'd not wear it by a sister-in-law. She knew something I didn't and he's that type of… And, you know, I never really got along with him. He tried to be my boss when he got back from Vietnam. And I was I was running around with some people doing acid and smoking pot. He tried to keep me from that. My friends were terrified of him, so they didn't even want to be around me. I remember one night, we met him on the street driving by, and I had already ducked down where he couldn't see me, but he was looking and they said, hey, if I was in their car, they turned the corner and I got out at the alley and I got out of there and I walked home that night about a mile to go home because of my brother wanting to keep me away from friends. And we still have conflicts. Still. He's the power of attorney for Mom.
RS: How do you think they reconcile some of their political beliefs with having an openly gay brother?
CH: Well, I wonder that, I wonder. Why? Why would someone support a platform or a person that would just as soon ship all of gay people out on a deserted island and treat us as lepers? How can family members vote for someone like that? But also my partner, Bud, for 11 years when he died, I had a memorial service. Some of the rodeo people came some of the Bear, Cave-Bears come. And. Every one of my brothers and their wives came. Now that. Them coming there was more important to me than any of my other friends that came there that night. I was flabbergasted that. Just totally I had no idea that. Bud was a very nice person. He got along with everybody and, you know, so I guess in that way they supported me. But boy, I don't kn- and, you know, I don't really talk much about it, because we know we're on opposite sides and there's nothing. You know, my brother campaigned for Donald. Actually campaigned and sold MAGA hats and then he'd say he was gonna put a sticker on my bumper. I said, "Yah, go right ahead, I'll put one on yours." I don't put up with it, I'm not going to be bullied by a, by my brother. And I think that makes him more [inaudible] [laughs].
RS: So how did you meet Bud?
CH: He lived in the St. Louis area. He was divorced and had a partner, he had three children, boys and I lived in Kansas City area. St. Louis, there's a bear group over there called Show Me Bears every year they have what's called a run is a big party where everybody gets together. So I just thought I'll go over there. So I went over there and [huffs] I'm not really a bear. A bear's usually bigger or hairy and all this, I'm kind of like the complete opposite, but that is who I'm attracted to physically. So I'm in this bar and I'm in front of the cigarette machine wit my arms folded because I'm not really having a good time. Nobody wants to talk to me. Maybe I appeared standoffish. But he came up to me and said something and I'm not going to repeat it, but I said, OK. And he had allegations because he was a member there. But after two o'clock, he came to my room. And it just, I did the I-70 shuffle for about a year, and both of us from Kansas City to St. Louis. Dating and I finally I gave I gave up my business and moved to St. Louis.
RS: So how does bear culture compare with the rodeo culture?
CH: There's similarities, there's always drama, there's always pretty people, there's always ugly people, there's always big, always little. The rodeo there, they're the people, the contestants, and they're more focused on their competition and the winnin' and it's very expensive to have all that and to travel you know, so they need to be making their money when they compete and things. The bear groups, they're kind of just kind of laid back and just want to lounge around, you know, and eat honey or whatever [laughs], but both groups are very charitable organizations too. I belong in the Cave Bears. I was one of the founding members in 1994 and I stayed for. Probably, 16 years before they disbanded.
RS: So you said you kind of found, I mean, to some degree, you started going to rodeos to dance. Did you ever do any of the big, like, two-step dances or big dance competitions?
CH: Not really a competition. I know there were some groups that had competitions like cloggers and things like that. And I think you would have them at finals rodeo. But we didn't get into the competition part. But just the regular dancing, tow-stepping. Oh, yeah, I did that a lot. That was fun. It's great to be dancing with a man with your arms around each other. Comfortably. You don't have to worry. You know, I do think we're getting a little bit better in society to where things are more acceptable. And people find it, find that gay relationships are really not that much different from theirs. If they think about it.
RS: So you know -
CH: All they see on the news is the drag queens, the leather guys with their ass sticking out, you know, that's what the news is. They want that sensationalism. What about the rest of us just walking with our kids and things?
RS: Did you. Have a lot of Leathermen or drag queens as part of the rodeo circuit?
CH: Not so much leather, but drag queens because of the royalty, the know each association, if they want to, they will have a competition to where these people win titles and then they go on to international rodeo and compete at finals and win that title. If not, but there's a Mr. for a regular guy. There's a miss for a guy dressed in drag. There's MsTer, which is a woman dressed like a man. And, I think there's maybe a couple others [laughs] in there that I can't remember, it's kind of like the LGBT, then it gets longer Q, X, Y, Z, plus three [laughs]. So but there's I think there's…I would say five, five titles in that, and, you know, I'm not really, I understand the drag queen thing and stuff is. But these you know, I just it's not for me, but they raise a lot of money for the rodeo association there and there, they even have requirements. They have to raise so much or they'll lose their title. So ya, know.
RS: And are they, are they pretty visible around the rodeo grounds?
CH: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. They got their sashes on and their nails done or whatever and they're, they're usually together. And one year a few years ago there was these three guys that were just hilarious! They, they'd show up at one of the rodeos and they'd be dressed as donkeys. Or rabbits or. You just didn't know it was so funny, entertaining, entertaining, um [chuckles softly].
RS: So I know you said you haven't really done the competition side of things, but have you ever competed in anything?
CH: Once, once [chuckles] I still have my number, I still have the safety pins that held the number on. Uh, it was in Chicago, Memorial Weekend. Not sure what year it was, but. For whatever reason, I decided that I would be the enter the wild drag race. The wild drag race is a man, a woman, and a man dressed up like a woman. Well, guess which one they wanted me to be? Yah. They needed somebody, so I was like alright, I'll do it. Well, I'm the one that has to get up on that steer and stay on it till you get across the line. Well, I got bucked off. I hurt my shoulder. We didn't even place [laughs] it didn't go over the line. So that was my one and only and last final. Because I couldn't be injured with swinging a hammer and running saws and ladders, and so I thought, OK, that that hurt when I hit the ground [laughs] that ground is hard! So so, yeah. And I tell everybody that too, I says, I'm not really a competitor - I work behind the scenes. And I do, I like to do that, I like I like to run things back in the background. I don't need to be out there. I'm behind door number two.
RS: So as barn manager. Do you ever get to watch the rodeo or do you help competitors get ready? What does that job entail?
CH: Barn manager entails, pretty much 24 hours a day starting Thursday morning. Until Saturday morning. Then your job is pretty much done, everybody’s been checked in, they've got their stalls, money's been collected, if there's money and they've all registered Friday night at the rodeo so but they'll come in all times of night and day. So that's why somebody needs to be there on the ground. I slept in my vehicle many times and that's my choice, my decision. But I didn't want them calling me up and I have to go 30 miles to get there because there's a problem. So and I, I liked that. I think they liked me, too. I think they liked me because. I just.
CH: I treated them with respect and uh. I treated them like if it wasn't for you all, we wouldn't be having a rodeo. That's true. If you don't have the horse contestants, that's not going to be a very good rodeo. So you got take care of them. You got to take care of their horses. And I think that was my, that's my best job ever in the 32 years is being the barn- uh, Arkansas is having a rodeo in, I think it's April of next year, 2022. And it's possible I may be the barn manager. I know, a couple of my lady friends there want me to be, but it's not up to them. It's up to the rodeo director to choose, ya know, and I don't live there, you know, and if they pick someone local, I'm not going to be hurt by it, ya know.
CH: That just means that I can antagonize them all day long and I don't have to do anything [laughs]. Yeah, I'll do, I'll do something when I'm there. I'll do something. But, I've always sponsored buckles and I was a presenting sponsor in 2007 at Kemper arena it was Hancock Remodeling. I gave him a hundred bucks [later recalled it was $3,000] and I bought my sponsor [laughs], you give 'em, and I was the grand marshal that year too. They put that sash on me, and I just was, ugh. And I said, "Don't do that," and they said, "Yes, we're going to do it." I'm not a sash person [chuckles]. I still have it in the closet [laughs]. It's being donated to the archives.
RS: So you said you moved to St. Louis to be with Bud, did you guys stay there?
CH: No. We stayed there maybe two years and then we went to north Missouri to help a friend of ours run his properties and stuff up there to Jamesport, Missouri, which was Amish country up there in Missouri. Horses, buggies, black, all dressed in black. And you go by their houses at night and there's no electricity and things. But somewhere they do have a field where they park their vehicles and they'll commute, they'll commute to Kansas City to work. Yeah. So, the that's not very well known.
RS: That's really interesting. So how long were you there?
CH: Oh, a couple of years, and then things went sour with Max. He decided that he wanted me and he was going to push Bud out of the way, and it actually turned out the opposite. That made me angry. So, Bud and I moved to Harrisonville, which is south of Kansas City. And that was in 2001. And then he died in 2006. And I waited a year and then I moved to Florida.
RS: Why Florida?
CH: Bud died in August and then January of '07, I went on a three-week driving vacation to Florida. I went down the Gulf side all the way down and then back up the East Coast. And I had met somebody in Clearwater, which is near St. Petersburg. So on my way back, I stopped to see him again. And then, so we dated for several months, about a year. And then he wanted me to, he was retired from government. He used to work in embassies around the world. He was the one that when they'd get a new ambassador, the wife would want new draperies, so he'd arrange for that. She'd want this painted or that chair done something with, so he would arrange that. So he had that career. So I retired and moved down there. Again, retired again [laughs]. I think it's three times now.
RS: Yeah, are you retired now?
CH: [laughs] My Facebook says I am, and it says, call someone else. And you know, I have - I'm booked up till October [laughs], I'm supposed to just be doing part-time little bitty stuff. My, a customer of mine, I went over there today, and she, I thought she was just wanting me to go over with her again what I looked at last year and, you know, cause she's ready to do it. Then she showed me all this other stuff. I'm going, Sheila? She says, "That it?" She's going, "well no, you know there's one more-" "Um, Sheila?" [laughs] So she says, "You're going to be over here for months, aren't you? I said, "Yeah."
RS: I mean, that's what the pandemic did, right? We all had to sit in our houses and saw how we could improve them [laughs].
CH: But I didn't, I traveled actually. I was, by the end of August, I was gone a total of four months last year [laughs]. Yeah!
RS: Did you go and stay with friends or?
CH: Yeah, and if I stay in motels, I get points and bonus points. And this trip, on my way back, I had seven free nights accumulated. It's mostly staying with friends or, or my mom's house. You know but then there's sometimes I, like in Birmingham, Alabama, I had a hotel for nine, nine nights in a row, but part of that was a job I was working, and they were paying for my hotel. And like uh, this one hotel group they're offering, if you reserve two nights in a row, you get bonus points. So I'd make my reservation for two nights. Then I'd make another one for two nights, all at the same place, same room, so you got, you got like three thousand bonus points each time [laughs], so.
RS: Usually on your big trips, are they usually in the US or do you ever go abroad?
CH: No, I've never. I have five states left to see here and I'm not interested in going to Europe unless somebody's paying for it. But I've been barely into Canada, barely into Mexico. I want to see the Dakotas and Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. And I, that is, I'm actually planning that trip for next year and it's going to be a driving vacation, I believe. Part of it I may take the train and then come back and pick up your car or something? Not, not quite sure. But that will be, well, I'm not going to be gone as long, probably, but it will cost more money. Yeah, yeah.
RS: What are some of your favorite places you've visited?
CH: Colorado is my favorite vacation state, but only in the warm weather, and I've been to the Garden of the Gods and Royal Gorge, the Rocky Mountains of Pikes Peak. The Four Corners um. Um. I've been to New Mexico to a bed and breakfast up in the mountains. I like the Missouri Ozarks a lot, and that spills over into Arkansas, Kentucky's nice. My wife and I used to go on a trip every year somewhere. We be gone two weeks. Bud and I used to take a vacation every year. We had two incomes. Then, when he passed away, is like, oh. He did have some life insurance, which. I got some new vehicles, but other than that, you know. It's really, it's really hard when the income just stops, you know, and you don't have much warning. They, they said he had a year to live and he died in six weeks, so.
CH: But, but we already had our power of attorney and financial stuff already in place uh, since we'd been together to an attorney, you know. His kids tried to take the house. I get a letter from their attorney, yah, and you know, his oldest son calls me up. About 10 hours after Bud had died, he calls me up and says, "Did my dad leave me anything?" [chuckles] Yeah. And I said, "Yes, he did Kevin, there's a shoe box here of his mementos that he wanted you to have." Kevin, I never saw Kevin again. So I still have those, these things, yah. I still, I still have some things of Howard, and. Sometimes I put their pictures up somewhere. Sometimes I take them down, they're down now I just they're part of my life, but I don't. Not going to go back there, yeah, and I know you don't want to bring that baggage into a new relationship.
RS: Was Howard your first partner?
CH: No, second. Bud was first.
RS: Bud was first.
CH: So I didn't really have a partner until '96. I had some boyfriends, but not a partner. Not, you know, an actual move-in, our own place, and he didn't like financial stuff, so he let me take care of the checking account and the bills and I did the cooking and he did the clean up. So that worked out pretty good too - and I was that, I was the repair person, but he was there getting me tools or holding the other end of the board or, you know. Just don't turn him loose with a screwdriver, he wasn't very good at it [laughs].
RS: How did you meet Howard?
CH: I met Howard online on a website. We had a date. And he asked me to come back the next day and spend the night. He had never done that before. He didn't do that. He didn't have overnight - he didn't have relationships, er - Howard. Howard has, Howard used to be a really big man, like over 400, but he lost a lot of weight and he was like 260 and it never bothered me what size a person is, what they looked like or what they did for a living - None of that ever bothered me. He was kind of self-conscious of it. But uh, he didn't, he didn't have a great life growing up either. His sister was pampered and he was kind of pushed aside like a crazy one and. But he got married with, to a woman that had three children. And he raised those kids as his own. And then he had two biological children from that woman, two boys. So. Howard was, Howard was a carnie. Do you know what a carnie is? As in Carnival.
CH: OK, sideshows. He, he had a Jaws exhibit, a sideshow. He got a letter from whoever's in charge. You can't have this show. That's copyright, ya know. Well, he'd do that just barely changed something but it would associate with something, you know. So, it was the Jaws of Death, with a big shark? OK? But, that was before I met him but I've seen pictures and stuff, but he did food trucks and things like that. And his family was in it, in the business. They drove vehicles when they had to jump to another location, they ran the fish pond or you know, I am actually a card-carrying carnie now [laughs]. I have a card. Uh, the, the carnival association is just about a half-hour from me. Um, and I should go up there.
CH: His daughter, his daughter bought a memorial brick and had it placed in the, ya know the sidewalk up there. And so I see that when I go. And uh, yeah. And she she, he was cremated, but she had a headstone created for him and it's etched in marble. It is a carnival scene. The merry-go-round, the ferris wheel and stuff. I remember going up there, um, it was one-year anniversary of being dead, and I had a little party. He was a big fan of SquareBob, SpongePants or whatever that - so I got, [laughs] I got a balloon, and hats and, I still have a pointy hat over here that, that theme ya know and. And I got some streamers and, yeah, we had our own little party.
RS: So did you guys live together in Florida?
CH: Did we what?
RS: Did you live together in Florida?
CH: We stayed in each other's house, but, when I met Howard, he had just purchased a new home that was in a bad area. But it had special financing and stuff because of the location and Howard's income and stuff. So he was just into that, getting started. I'd had my home for a year, about, so we were both of new homeowners, so we didn't. But we, yeah, we spent a lot of time together.
RS: And did either one of them go to rodeos with you? Were they involved with the rodeo association at all?
CH: Yes, yes. Uh huh. Bud would go to the rodeo things. Um, you know, if we lived in St. Louis and I was doing the rodeo in Missouri and Kansas City, he would definitely be with me, ya know that weekend and things like that, you know, and he'd you know, he didn't do too much as a volunteer, but he is good at sitting in the stands and yakking with people, [laughs] things like that. And that was OK. That was fine. And Howard, he went with me down to Fort Lauderdale for a rodeo down there. I was, I was the treasurer of the rodeo in Florida. So he went with me and he helped me with the money side of the thing and counting it, and transporting it so nobody would mug us. He was kind of a mean-looking sucker, big. So I liked him, having him around, but he liked ice cream too.
RS: So with this last year, with all the rodeos being canceled, did, did that. Was that difficult to deal with for your year?
CH: Not as difficult as it was for a lot of people. I think we've lost momentum. I think we've lost because we were we're somewhat declining as it was, just naturally, and then just to have it shut down for a whole year, year and a half. Well, what are there, three or four this year is all they're having? Ya know? So all the points from last year and this year they're going to go to next year. But, you know. People, ya know, this covid thing has changed a lot of things, the way people do things. So we'll see. We'll see what comes out of it. Maybe it made people realize what friendships they have in the rodeo, and maybe they'll come back in full force and really be a fire under 'em. That would be great. That'd be great. I wish the best for em. I'll be there somewhere.
RS: Yeah, do you know which one you're thinking you'll be able to attend next?
CH: The next one?
CH: The Arkansas.
CH: In April. Uh, Missouri may have theirs in May, may have it in Labor Day like they always did. I'll probably be barn manager again, because I know the rodeo director, [laughs] Angela, but um. You know, yeah, I'll go to that one and I'll buy a buckle, or sponsor buckles. You know, I do that. I usually, I usually spend about a thousand dollars when Missouri has their rodeo and that's just on buckles and [laughs]. One year I sponsored the porta potties. [laughs out loud] That, there's, Charles Hancock Remodeling on it and this is sponsored by [laughs] and I loved it! I - [inaudible] I'd get a kick out of it. And you know 50 bucks a porta potty and there was three or something like that. Ya know [laughs] that's good advertising! You can get a lot of people coming and going.
RS: Those are the most necessary things at a rodeo ground!
CH: Well, yeah, they should be sponsored, right? So and, and you know that thousand dollars is, in addition to what I spent getting there, paying for my room, and everything associated with being out of town. You know, the more, the more money that Missouri would spend on somebody like me to pay me to do that or to give me perks, that's less money going to charity. So, they already had to fly in the officials, officials, you know, provide them in hotel rooms and things, so. Oh, and I've complained, you've got to complain but. They know, they know I'll still come.
RS: Well, I've kept you for a long time. Is there anything else we haven't talked about that you really want to talk about?
CH: Mmm? No, I don't think so. II have a rodeo resumé. It lists everything I've ever done [laughs]. You know, all these years and stuff.
RS: If you wouldn't mind sharing that, we would love to incorporate it to include that with your transcript.
CH: Well, I tried to find it right before the call, but I didn't want to miss the call. So it's here. I can send that when I send you the forms I have to sign, which I got new ink for my printer today. It ran out right before I went on my trip. So, I'll go back and download those things, get them signed and do whatever I got to do and scan them or whatever and get them back to you.
RS: That'd be great. Yeah, we just want to make sure in. Ten, twenty years when researchers are going in that they know that you were one hundred percent on board with this and you're OK with it.
CH: I want to be. I want that to be. Yeah, because I'm comfortable in doing this. And if it helps or whatever other people. [laughs]
RS: This is wonderful. Thank you so much for your time and we will transcribe this and we can always chat again if you if you think of more things. So I'm going to stop the recording.