Published Thursday, 09-Sep-2010 in issue 1185
Name: Wes Wilkinson
Rodeo name: Wild Wild Wes
Years in gay rodeo: Since San Diego Rodeo in 1997 – 14 years
Current city: Elverta, California (10 miles north of Sacramento, CA)
Hometown: Lone Jack, Missouri
Birth date: September 3, 1964
Current occupation: Analyst for the State of California, State Water Resources Control Board
Married: Met Jeff Barr in May 2000 at a Barn Dance held by our local rodeo association. We got married the first day it was legal in California on June 16, 2008.
Animals: Three quarter horses, Blaze, Chase and Riddle. Three roping calves named BBQ, Sir Lion and Steak Diane, ten chickens and two chocolate Labradors named Sadie and Star.
Rodeos competed in this year: Phoenix, Fort Lauderdale, Oklahoma City, Sacramento, Calgary, San Francisco, Kansas City and San Diego. World Gay Finals in Laughlin, Nevada scheduled for October 22-24th, 2010.
GLT: What eventsdo you compete in the rodeo? Can you tell us more about them?
WW: I started back in 1997 with the Wild Drag Race and the following year I added Goat Dressing, which is a fun event unique to Gay Rodeo. Called a camp event, it is a 50 foot sprint to a goat and the objective is to place underwear on its hind quarters and race back to the finish line. The fastest team to complete the task and run back across the line wins. If the underwear falls off before you and your teammate cross the line, you are disqualified. Over the years I have added several other rodeo events to my line up; Calf Roping on Foot, Steer Decorating, Chute Dogging, which is wrestling a 400-500 pound steer with horns out of a bucking chute across a 10-foot line and down to the ground. Six years ago I started riding horses in our speed events at the rodeo and I have competed in Barrel Racing, Pole Bending and the Flag Race on horseback. I enrolled in Steer Riding at the rodeo school in Phoenix back in January 2009 and ended up riding a bull at the school twice. After a couple of hard landings on my hip, I quickly decided that Bull Riding and Steer Riding are not my favorite rodeo events to compete in. For these two events I would rather get the crowd energized and provide a little spirit by performing as the Head Cheerleader of the Sacramento Raw Rahs and Git’r Done Boyz. Which is a campy take on sideline cheerleading that entertains the crowd and keeps the audience engaged while the contestants are getting set on their animals in the chutes.You must see it to believe it!
GLT: Have you won any titles or belt buckles, and how are you ranked internationally?
WW: I earned my first buckle in 2002 in Calf Roping on Foot. Since then I have earned two more in the same event. Two years ago I was awarded the Wild Drag buckle at the LA Rodeo, the same year I won the Chute Dogging buckle in San Diego. Last year, my rodeo partner and husband, Jeff and I earned our first Steer Decorating buckle at the Liberty Stampede Rodeo in Philadelphia and this year we earned our first Goat Dressing buckle at the Best Buck in the Bay Rodeo near San Francisco. I am currently ranked on the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) circuit as 6th in Wild Drag Race, 7th in Chute Dogging, 12th in Goat Dressing, 12th in Calf Roping on Foot and 12th in Steer Decorating. In order to receive an invitation to compete at the World Gay Rodeo Finals you must place within the top 20 of each event. I am hoping that I will qualify for the Finals in all of these events and be invited to compete October 22-24 in Laughlin, Nevada this year.
GLT: What do you think attracts GLBT people to the gay rodeo and the culture that surrounds it?
WW: In my case, it was a natural gravitation to be part of a sport that involves working with livestock and being around animals. I am a competitive person and strive to be the best that I can be every time I enter the rodeo arena. I am out to my family, friends and co-workers in my every day life and I feel at home when I am in the rodeo arena competing with gay cowboys and cowgirls, which most of us call our “rodeo family”. I think the attraction for most GLBT people of gay rodeo is the cowboy or cowgirl look with the hats, chaps and ruggedness. To others I think it could be the attraction to the old western movies and the link from our western heritage and the “down home country feel” of the sport.
GLT: Canyou recall the scariest thing that has happened to you in one of your rodeo events?
WW: Every time you enter the arena the animal you work with is the “luck of the draw”. As a contestant you have no idea how the animal will react or respond to cooperating with you. I have had a couple of scary rodeo moments over the years, but one that I remember the most was chomping down on my protective mouth guard so hard during the Chute Dogging event that it broke out my front tooth at the Fort Lauderdale Rodeo in the spring of 2009. It was perfect because the Wild Drag event followed Chute Dogging in the rodeo event order and the missing tooth completed my Wild Drag outfit, which was “Sock-Hop Suzie from one of those Southern States”!
GLT: Do you have a boyfriend, if so does he ride too?
WW: My rodeo partner and husband is Jeff Barr. We met ten and one half years ago at a Barn Dance hosted by our local rodeo association in Sacramento. We share the same dreams in and out of the rodeo arena. We live on a five-acre ranch that we designed and had built seven years ago called the W-Bar Ranch, a combination of my three initials and his last name. We have three quarter horses, three roping calves to practice rodeo roping events and one large black-angus steer named “Brisket”. We also have ten laying chickens for egg consumption. Sadie and Star, our two chocolate Labradors are our children and canine companions. Jeff and I have both been competing in horse speed events at the rodeo since we purchased the horses in 2004. We also take our horses to the Sierra Nevada Foothills for trail rides and enjoy riding in our arena at our ranch.
GLT: How much practice and preparation goes into competing in your events at the rodeo?
WW: I am very lucky to have my horses located in our backyard or back pasture and to come home from work and jump on and ride whenever I would like. Making time to practice is a balancing act sometimes, but I try to ride at least once or twice a week. During the summer months I purchase small calves from the local livestock auction and keep them for four months to practice roping events in our arena. Jeff and I invite members of our Sacramento Rodeo association to come to our ranch and practice roping with us. I enjoy helping and teaching people that have never touched a rope to learn something new and encourage them to compete in one of our introductory events called Calf Roping on Foot. I get a sense of pride in helping someone learn to be successful in a rodeo event that they may have been too intimidated to try on their own.
GLT: Do you feel a strong connection to the animals that you ride?
WW: I currently ride horses in speed events and our horses are a part of our family. To us they are like big dogs with personalities, they just run a lot faster and eat a lot more than our dogs!
GLT: Is there superstitious behavior you do to give yourself extra luck before a ride or rodeo?
WW: I try to give Jeff a hug and a kiss for good luck before competition, whether we be roping or entering the arena for a camp event. Jeff and I have been rodeo partners for over ten years and we know that we can count on each other one hundred percent. When it comes to safety he has my back and I have his in the arena. Safety is important to us and I wear a rodeo safety vest, a mouth guard and gloves for extra protection. All of the safety equipment I use in my rodeo events is not required, but strongly recommended.
GLT: What is the gay rodeo all about to you?
WW: The most important thing about gay rodeo is that it is all about having fun and doing something you enjoy with people that you like. Gay rodeo is like going to summer camp with friends, but it only lasts for two days and you get to play with animals! We are competing in eight out of the sixteen rodeos on the IGRA circuit this year and we also have a different set of friends (rodeo family) to visit and compete with each time.
GLT: Do you have a song that gets you pumped up for your events?
WW: I love the song “Are You Ready to Rumble” because of the beat and the Sacramento Raw Rah cheerleading squad has a routine for it!