Interview with Candy Pratt

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

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Rebecca Scofield: So, this is Rebecca Scofield here with Candy Pratt. It's September 10th, 2016 and we are at the Rodeo on the River in Duncans Mills, California. Could you go ahead and tell me when you were born?
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Candy Pratt: I was born [...] in 1961.
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RS: Where were you born at?
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CP: Dallas, Texas.
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RS: What was life like growing up?
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CP: Growing up...I did grow up in the city but my grandparents had horses and were farmers and things like that, so that's how I was always able to be around the horse world, so to speak. And when I was in third grade, my parents bought me a pony and I boarded it with a lot of other people and they had these little things called play days which are kind of like rodeos but they were all horse events. A lot of young kids do that for a sport and it just developed from that. You get better and better and better and we got more horses and then, when you're in high-school, you do a little high school rodeo and after that, there's always barrel races everywhere. And then, I guess it was probably like 1988, maybe a bar ad or something like that for a rodeo in Dallas, was my first IGRA rodeo.
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RS: And by the time you found out about the gay rodeo had you already come out?
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CP: I had not come out. I did not come out until probably 1993, I think.
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RS: And did you go to many IGRA events?
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CP: Yeah, well I started out in ‘88 [with] probably one or two. Then ‘89 a few more. And then, by ’90, I was going to a lot of them.
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: ...
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RS: Initially, when you saw that flyer, what was your reaction and what drew you to the association?
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CP: Well, I didn't know there was such a thing. You know, growing up you hear of black rodeo or Indian rodeo or something like that. You don't hear white rodeo, it's just rodeo. So I just thought, “Oh my gosh!” I thought, “Gay rodeo, are you kidding?” So I went and I found out they had what we call speed events and at first I just did speed events cause I didn't know how to rope and I did not know how to do any of the camp events and stuff like that. So that was later self-taught with some friends and stuff. But it seemed like a whole lot of fun and in early years there was quite a bit of prize money and stuff like that from Miller Lite so it was fun.
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RS: That's great. Did you get more into the camp events later on?
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CP: Oh yeah. I met some friends--George Williamson and Dave Stinson and Dave is still one of my partners today. He's not at this rodeo, but we do a lot. We did the steer deco and won lots of championships and that was just something where you're tying a ribbon on a tail or whatever, but the wild drag George and Dave and I did that for a while. And then David's been my partner for goat dressing and all that stuff you didn’t know how to do, I learned how to do it and got good at that too.
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RS: Have you ever experienced any serious injuries?
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CP: Not at gay rodeo. I've had horse injuries or things that have happened to me through the years but it wasn't at gay rodeo.
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RS: That's good.
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CP: Yeah.
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RS: So, as a woman participating, do you find that it's pretty split 50/50 between men and women who join? Or is it more dominated by men? How’s your experience?
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CP: Probably more dominated by men because you'll, here in a little while you'll see there might probably be thirty barrel racers in the men and ten or fifteen in the women. So, yes, it's not as far as their talent or anything like that…there’re just more guys in gay rodeo than there is women.
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RS: Has there ever been…I mean is that seen as a problem?
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CP: I don't think it’s a problem. It depends on where you go. Like, if you go to Texas or Oklahoma you'll have larger numbers of women. So on the west coast, or let’s say at this rodeo. Like at the San Diego rodeo, when they had it, it was a huge number--it was probably more even. And Texas and Oklahoma is a huge horse-type state or whatever, so when you go to the Oklahoma rodeo or the Texas rodeo you’ll have like twenty women in the classes.
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RS: Have you ever rough-stock?
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CP: I did in the beginning. I rode steers but, you know, the older you get...I also did chute dogging and did pretty good in that but the older I got the steers got a little larger and stuff like that and I decided it wasn't for me anymore.
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RS: Do a lot of women do that?
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CP: There's probably a good number of women that do the chute dogging, but there's not a whole lot of steer riders.
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RS: That’s interesting.
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CP: And there’s no bronc riders. We had one young lady that did and she got hurt, so.
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RS: So, you said you were the president of Texas's association.
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CP: Yes, I was president of Texas for a few years and did a lot of things for them and developed the Red River Rodeo Association.
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RS: What were some of the challenges you've faced being the president of a large organization like that?
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CP: There was and still today--even the Texas people they would tell you--there are lots of politics. Too much politics for me--I think everybody should just know the challenges were to raise money for charities and to have fun and stuff like that. And when you have a group of people, everybody has an opinion and that’s fine as long as you’re doing the work for the opinion. I gave a lot of my life to that association and one year someone chose to give a vehicle away. I don't know if you’ve ever been a part of that before but I had a lot of sleepless nights,‘cause we had to get the vehicle paid for to make money. So my partner and I, Dorinne, we were every weekend at all the bars selling tickets. And there was not a lot of help. So, that was a huge challenge, and I know another association that tried that same thing and went under because of it. In the end we paid for the vehicle and made $5,000 but I was at--I don't choose to be at the bars that much--and I had to be at the bars many, many nights of the week to get it done.
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RS: Sounds stressful.
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CP: Yeah.
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RS: When you come to gay rodeos do you go out? Like tonight they're having a party?
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CP: Yeah, my friend Rick {Rhett?} Ranger travels with us. He likes to dance and I like to dance, so last year I went to a couple of the parties they had. And tonight there’s a dance, so we'll go out for a little while. Generally, we would fly here and we don't bring horses or anything. This year we drove out and brought our horses because there’s two rodeos back-to-back so we are doing a little vacation in the middle, so we brought the horses. But yeah, in the evenings we'll go join the festivities.
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RS: That’s pretty great. Can I ask where the next rodeo is?
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CP: Sacramento.
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RS: Excellent. That'll be fun.
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CP: Yeah, exactly.
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RS: Have you seen over the last ten/twenty years is it harder to recruit younger people to join?
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CP: Yes, it is. I have my own philosophy, and everybody will have their’s. We don't make money, but used to we did. Years ago there was a lot more money in gay rodeo--Miller Lite gave a lot of money--and there was more money, more prize money. So now, you if you can imagine the fuel out here and the expenses and stuff like that, if there's no added money then your check’s not even gonna be close. So we do it for fun and stuff like that. I'm fifty-five years old and have a good job and stuff like that, but there's not a lot of twenty year olds that can do stuff like that. So that’s, I believe, the difference between straight and gay rodeo is that the straight rodeos, they make sure there's plenty of added prize money and stuff like that so that's the reason you'll see lots of young people in that. My philosophy.
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RS: In your home community, too, is there a sort of difference in sort of gay community at large after legalization of gay marriage or you know the sort of political successes of the LGBTQ community?
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CP: Yeah, if you would have told me…Dorinne and I, we've been together twenty-three years, and we got married in Maui because I didn't think Texas would ever be legal. I thought that would be the last state that would ever be and it shocked me the very next year that it was legalized. I've seen a huge difference and I am more open about my lifestyle, myself. You get to a certain age where things don't matter. Before I kind of lived in the closet at my jobs and everything. Now I’m out at a really good company that's very diverse. And I see communities being that way. My sister is a school teacher and it completely changed her life and she's very supportive and gets into arguments with teachers if they if they don't support the gay children because that's a big deal. These kids have a lot of stress and when they are not supported in schools it’s a bad deal so, you know. I think it’s better.
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RS: And does your partner travel with you?
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CP: Mhm. She's here, absolutely.
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RS: Did you guys know each other before?
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CP: No, I met her at a rodeo in Minnesota.
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RS: That’s fantastic.
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CP: Yep.
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RS: Can I ask, how did the relationship develop? Did you keep running into her at rodeos?
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CP: Well, actually, the year before it happened I had gone to the IGRA convention in Minnesota and saw her and thought she was very beautiful. And then later that year I was at Washington and she was there at the awards banquet and I had won a bunch of stuff and I kept walking by the table and the very next year, that's when I came out, and my mother went to her first gay rodeo with us which was Minnesota. And told my mother that there was a beautiful girl here, you know, I didn't know where she really lived and we had gone down to the, you know they used to have clogging and big dance competition, and my mother was downstairs and I had forgotten our badges. So when I got to the bottom of the stairs, my mother and my friend David Reiner were standing there with the girl, with Dorinne. So it was kind of it was kind of meant to be.
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RS: That's fantastic. Does she compete as well?
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CP: Yeah.
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RS: What does she do?
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CP: She does the speed events also.
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RS: You said you didn't travel with a horse a lot…
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CP: No, I do. We just, the last couple years…years ago we came, in like the early ‘90s, 2000s, or whatever we came to all the California rodeos, but when the money went away it just didn't pencil out so we stayed around Texas/Oklahoma areas, places that we could drive within fifteen hours or something like that so.
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RS: And so does that present a whole other hurdle to get to these things to bring your own horses?
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CP: Oh yeah, you know, it’s expensive and you've gotta really plan things out. But we have a lot of friends that we all travel together and stuff like that. We had two trailers that traveled all the way out here, so we kinda made it fun.
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RS: And do you stay at the grounds?
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CP: Yes, our trailers are all self-contained. They have a generator, a shower, beds, everything.
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RS: That's nice.
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CP: Yeah.
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RS: Helps out a lot.
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CP: Yeah.
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: ...
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RS: Do you feel that because of this big shift in this culture, IGRA, as an association, is going to grow and keep going or is it facing too much with the sort of competition you were talking about with mainstream rodeos being able to offer more money?
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CP: I don't think...my personal…you know, like when we had the movie Brokeback Mountain and all the sudden it was cool to be gay. That helped but there's not enough of that. The people like Ellen and all these others, it’s really helped a lot but in my…because I don't just compete in IGRA and I compete in other things, the draw is money. And also I try to tell them it takes money to make money. So you know if you have $5,000 added money and you get all these extra contestants. They're gonna spend money while they're there. So, until the belief changes, I don't think they will grow that much, my personal opinion.
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RS: So as you've journeyed across…do you feel like you are pulling back at all as you get older from…
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CP: Absolutely.
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RS: From the community?
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CP: Well, not pulling back. But I, we don't…We have our own little…like on the weekends we'll have, you know, all our friends come out and we'll rope and barbecue and stuff and not necessarily go to the bar. That's not the main focus like when I was younger, we went all the time. I think that is straight or gay, the older you get you get to be a homebody, but there are so many of us we just come out and rope or ride or do something and it’s just not so much going to the bars but we still, it’s a huge group of us.
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RS: Would you identify yourself as a cowgirl?
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CP: Oh absolutely.
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RS: And what does that really mean for you as a woman? As a gay woman? As a human? What does it really mean for you to identify that way?
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CP: Well, I can tell you anything about farm animals and stuff like that. You know, how to take care of them, what to do to them, I can rope, I can ride, I can build anything. I can change a flat tire really fast. You know, it goes with [being] tomboy, but then when you change it to cowgirl, I can rope well and do all the stuff it takes to work on a farm or ranch.
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RS: Can I ask [coughing, clearing throat] sorry…your home--do you have a lot of land with it and a lot of stock?
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CP: Actually, I don't have a lot of land. I used to have a lot of land when we leased. But we own two places side-by-side and it's 7 acres but I have everything. I have an arena, barns, it’s all self-contained. We had a big practice deal, I had 60 people show up a couple weeks ago, it was really successful. It was a practice deal for one of these, all the events and everything. It was a huge success but I had 20 trailers, I had enough pastures and things like that. It’s big enough. The area around me has grown like 500% or whatever, so our places will probably sell by the square foot. So, we'll move to a bigger one--I want something like 25 acres. I used to have all the places around me leased I didn't have to have it. But then as people died and the kids sell all the big bucks and everything so our ranch is sitting here and there's nothing but fancy houses all around us. So, we're kind of getting pushed out but we will find a bigger place soon when things hit right.
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RS: Is there anything else you would want to share with your experience with IGRA?
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CP: I think we come to these because there's so much comradery and stuff like, that I would encourage people, especially people that want to come out and have a good time and be out, you can at one of these.
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RS: What did it mean to be able to bring your love of horses together with being out and open?
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CP: Oh, you know, it’s huge. It's funny I see it spill over when I go to a straight function or whatever if somebody says something about Dorinne or something like that. I don't hide our relationship to where before I would have said my roommate you know. [Laughs] So it’s much different. I don't even blink an eye now. I used to, I remember all the years of changing the words up and hiding the relationships and stuff like that. Now I don't worry about it.
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RS: Well, thank you so much for sharing your story.