Interview with David Renier

Duncans Mills, California on September 10, 2016 | Interviewer: Rebecca Scofield

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Rebecca Scofield: This is Rebecca Scofield and I'm here with David Renier. It's September 10th, 2016 and we are at the Rodeo on the River in Duncans Mills, California. What year were you born?
David Renier: I was born in 1961.
RS: Where did you grow up?
DR: San Diego, California.
RS: Pretty urban area or…?
DR: Very urban.
RS: Did you had you ever worked with stock?
DR: My family had a dairy outside of San Diego…so I grew up around cattle and horses my whole life. And then our family ranch is about 20 minutes east of San Diego so it's not actually in San Diego. I live in San Diego now but our ranch is outside of San Diego.
RS: So do you commute now?
DR: Yeah it's only about a 20 minute um drive from where I live.
RS: That's nice. So you grew up around dairy cattle. How did you first get into rodeo at all or gay rodeo specifically?
DR: Well, I was in traditional rodeo. I was in junior rodeo and high school rodeo and then I went and did some open rodeos after high school. And then a friend of mine told me about the gay rodeo and I was 21 at the time and wasn't really sure I wasn't out at the time so I wasn't really sure I wanted to be part of it. It was in LA at the time and so I went down and I entered one event just to see if you know it was something wanting to do. I did my first event and was hooked. Unfortunately, you had to enter both days on Friday…so I stuck around the weekend and watched everybody and was hooked after that.
RS: And where was that rodeo again?
DR: In Burbank.
RS: In Burbank.
DR: Yeah.
RS: And what year was that?
DR: I don't remember.
RS: Long time.
DR: Well it was, well it was ‘86.
RS: ‘86?
DR: 1986
RS: Excellent.
DR: Yeah.
RS: Which event did you enter?
DR: I entered calf roping.
RS: And how did it go?
DR: I won my first day of calf roping and that was all I got to do.
RS: How have…have you always done that one event or have you done multiple events?
DR: No, I typically, I run in the quarter horse circuit as well. So I run barrels and poles, I calf rope and then team rope head and heal.
RS: So you trailer your horses?
DR: Yeah everywhere yeah.
RS: How is that experience?
DR: You know I've done it forever so it took me twelve hours to get here. So I'm kind of used to being on the road with my horses and my dog.
RS: Do you ever caravan with other people or are you pretty solo?
DR: Once in a while…I had a partner…he passed away from suicide in October of last year so…I'm not really used to traveling alone so this year has been a little tough for me.
RS: Yeah, that would be a very hard adjustment.
DR: Yeah.
RS: Have you ever done any of the rough stock events?
DR: I did when I was younger. I thought that bronc riding would be fun, but I found out it was not as fun as I thought it was going to be. So it was a couple of rodeos and then I was done with that part of my career.
RS: Have you ever been seriously injured?
DR: Oh yeah, I've had three reconstructive surgeries on my knees, my arm, yeah stuff like that.
RS: Stuff like that but always ready to…
DR: Oh yeah ready to get back on.
RS: Did your partner rodeo at all?
DR: He didn't. He rode but he didn't compete. He was just he liked to kind of just be the cheerleader and behind the scenes kind of guy and yeah.
RS: You said you were involved with the Quarter Horse Association…
DR: Uh-huh.
RS: On either that or mainstream rodeos have you ever um, sort of personally run into any homophobia?
DR: You know I was lucky, with that…I started young, so I grew up with you know a lot of the people and I was friends with them, you know, prior to me coming out. And I slowly came out to the people that I trusted. And those people were always supportive and were always there for me in case there was any problem. And I think that they kind of embraced me because I grew up with them, you know. It was easy for me. I wasn't coming into a sport unknown.
RS: Do you feel like you've always identified as a cowboy sine you were little or was that something you came to?
DR: Oh yeah, yeah. I had my first horse when I was two. My dad got me a horse, of course we worked on a ranch so we were always riding horses and moving cattle.
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RS: Is the charitable aspects of gay rodeo something that drew you to the association?
DR: Oh yeah, definitely back in the ‘80s when I started I had a huge amount of gay rodeo friends and though the 80s most of them passed away unfortunately. And it was a main way to raise money to help with people with HIV and AIDS. And that aspect of it in itself was something that I felt you more compelling to do because of that. It was, you know, I love the sport but then that you know an added bonus that we could provide that.
RS: Yeah and in addition to that what other…was it just destiny? Did you find this space or what other things drew you to the gay rodeo community?
DR: It was definitely a sense of family. The comradery. And, you know, you can kind of say…like you know when you're really good friends, you don't have to talk every day. We have a rodeo every month sometimes you see them more than you see your family. It’s definitely a family aspect and great friends and you know that's one of the main things.
RS: Were you ever involved in the leadership?
DR: No. No.
RS: Never interested in it?
DR: No, I'm kind of just behind the scenes kind of guy.
RS: What do you feel like your major accomplishments have been in competing?
DR: Well I'm probably one of the most winning cowboys in the gay rodeo. That may just be because I've done it for so long. But yeah, I've won every championship that there is.
RS: Being at the gay rodeo have you ever experienced any homophobia here, from protesters or comments from people who may not be attending?
DR: You know I've seen them but it's very minimal. I think that we have a great amount of people here that are well versed in speaking to those people. So usually what they do is they go out and try to educate those people. And a lot of times you know it changes their mind once they find out that the way we treat our animals is much better than we treat ourselves. The other day, I had a cut, I went to my medicine cabinet and I couldn't find a band-aid I went out to the barn looked out in my horses Cabernet and I had gauze, I had all this stuff. I was like: “I don't even have a band-aid but my horse has a whole tackle box full of first aide stuff.” …Once people see that, you know, we take care of our animals. Like I was taught that as a young child. My parents taught me take care of your animals before you take care of yourself. They eat before I eat, you know. So I it was taught to me as an early childhood thing.
RS: Do you feel like there's any push back in the larger gay community that, you know, rodeo is not something gay people should be doing?
DR: No, no, it's especially in San Diego. I'm the only gay cowboy in San Diego basically that competes. And, you know, a lot of them don't really understand what rodeo in itself is let alone gay rodeo and, so you know, being from a town like San Diego, it's pretty much like, you know, the anomaly.
RS: Do you dress in Western wear on a daily basis?
DR: Absolutely not. I do not. There even is a bar that is a country western bar and I don't dress up to go dance or any of that. I'm very much a baseball, t-shirt, kind of shoes kind of guy.
: ...
RS: The association doesn't seem to have a lot of people who are younger…is there an issue with recruitment or anything among….
DR: I think for one thing, rodeo is not a cheap sport, especially, I have two horses you know I've got to bring my horses. It’s expensive, so for a young person these days the cost I'm sure is an issue. And also I believe there are just not as many farmers that are ranchers anymore and so I think that that that itself has less people coming in.
RS: Have a lot of the people coming into the association…did they mainly grow up on farms and ranches or were they just enamored with the cowboy lifestyle?
DR: Yeah I don't think, I think there is probably a handful of us that were raised on ranches, but I think the other people saw it and perhaps when they were younger their parents didn’t live in a place where they could have horses. And now as adults, they’re, it’s you know, something that they wanted to do ever since they were little and now they are living out their dream.
: ...
RS: That's understandable. Are there any particular incidents that stand out to you of just feeling that this was a place you could belong in those early days? And a place you wanted to invest in?
DR: Yeah definitely, I like I said I participated in, you know quote, unquote straight rodeos. But when I came to the gay rodeos there are some aspects of my life that I didn't share with people. I wasn't walking around with my boyfriend, you know, it definitely was a place that made me feel safe and secure and able to be the authentic me.
RS: And when it comes to identifying as a as cowboy what does that mean to you? What does it mean to be a cowboy?
DR: Well, I think that there's like a lot of you know different I guess ideas of cowboys. I guess, like if somebody was to ask me if I was a cowboy, I don't know that I would necessarily…I think of a cowboy as a father as that was his living, like that was his life. And he lived and breathed it. And you know I'm lucky enough to be able to do it on the weekends so I guess I am a cowboy but as far as my thought of a cowboy that would be more of my father or something like that.
RS: More of every day….
DR: Yeah, like that's how you make your living kind of thing.
RS: Yeah.
DR: The hard way.
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RS: What do you think the future of IGRA is? Is it going to keep growing?
DR: You know, it's kind of a frightening question because I've asked myself with the lack of new younger contestants coming in, us older ones, I was doing every event and each year I kind of cut back a little bit more and a little bit more--just you know partly like having knee surgeries and stuff like that. I could say my hope is that it continues. But to be honest I don't really know that that will happen. And I also think that, not that there's not a need for the gay rodeo, but with today's life I think people are feeling more comfortable and confident of going to open rodeos and, you know like I…I don't know like there more money for us to win obviously. So if they feel accepted at an open rodeo they would probably be like it's a wiser for choice to make more money.
: ...
RS: What's the main difference between the events, I mean the rodeos as a whole between something you would have gone to in the ‘80s ‘til now? Do they look pretty similar?
DR: Not at all. Back in the day, there used to be thousands of spectators and thousands of people there for the evening parties and hundreds of contestants and both of those have dwindled.
RS: Why do you think that is?
DR: You know I'm not exactly sure why that is. I think that a lot of rodeos that were the bigger rodeos are no longer like San Diego and LA and those really had a big following and they were always a big production. And both of those rodeos have been cancelled and so.
RS: Can I ask why?
DR: You know I'm not really sure if it was financial reason or people in those areas just weren't interested in putting in what it takes to put one on.
RS: But you continued to do it even with smaller crowds?
DR: I do, like I said it's kind of like seeing my family you know and my rodeo family. So it's nice to come and spend time with them. We will be on the road now for ten days together. It's kind of fun.
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RS: What do you do with all your buckles?
DR: I either give them away or my nieces and nephews take them from me. Or if like they are special ones like my first and second ones that even I have a big display-like coffee table I've got them in there. But like one of the things for us contestants that have a lot of buckles if we see a new contestant, we usually give them a buckle and say, "This is your buckle until you win your own. When you win your own, you can give it back to me.” So it's just kind of one of those things to make those people know that you're are supportive and we believe that they will give it back one day and have their own to wear one day.
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RS: Does it influence your broader life in particular ways at all, relationships or job or anything?
DR: Well since my partner’s death, suicide, I've now started…I've created my own foundation and am doing a bunch of stuff for that and my rodeo family here…I've had more support than I ever thought was imaginable. When that happened, I could probably tell you that almost every member from IGRA contacted me to let me know they were there for me. You know it's something that I always knew like if something happened in my life that I would have them at my back and it's surely come true.
RS: Alright, thank you so much for your time.
DR: You’re welcome and thank you.