**”Bronco Boy” is excerpted from the novel-in-progress To Call Ourselves Back.
Colt Studio Magazine, Winter, 1982
For this season’s “Man of Mystery Interview,” readers picked Terrence ‘Bronco Boy’ Morrison. Born and raised in West Texas, Terrence Morrison has made L.A. his home since ’75. Readers will recognize L.A.’s favorite gay cowboy from magazines such as Ours Truly, Era, Drummer, etc.
Paul Diggs writes for Colt and LUST: Lavish, Underground, Sexy, Truthful Encounters of GAY SEX, is the author of the gay comic book MEAT, and recently became editor of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis newsletter.
PD: I’ve known Terrence since he started working at Colt Studio, but he always declined interviews, so thank you, readers, for helping convince him. For the interview, I met Terrence at the site of his next shoot: Hotel Wilde. He wore his typical sleeveless, button-up denim shirt, black jeans, and skin-soft cowboy boots (I asked before touching). He stroked the handlebar mustache he’ll soon have to shave for the role of Wilde’s lover Lord Alfred Douglas. I ordered drinks—whiskey sour for his Lordship and a martini for me.
PD: I haven’t seen you in a while. You been working much?
TM: No, this is my first job in two months.
PD: It’s good to have you back. So, tell me, how you got started in the lifestyle industry?
TM: You won’t believe it, but I rescued Mr. Curiosity’s [aka publisher Tom Harding’s] dog. A Pomeranian with a bad disposition, Ziggy was running down the beach looking like he’d been struck by lightning. Somehow, I managed to catch him. I called the number on his collar hoping there would be a reward because, at the time, I was hard up—working the docks, living in Koreatown, missing Texas. When Mr. Curiosity came to pick up Ziggy, he invited me over to the studio. End of story, or rather the beginning.
PD: I love it. You know, the first time I met Tom, midway through our interview a man in a bunny costume walked in. Tom said, Oh, the characters you’ll meet. [Drinks arrive.] To all the characters!
PD: About the cowboy mystique, how much is role-play and how much is Terrence? I mean, you did grow up in Texas and you won Rodeo King in Reno’s last gay rodeo…?
TM: Yah, I grew up cowboy, which is why I’m good at playing the rugged type.
PD: Bravado and grit, so you’re the true Jack Wrangler. What is your favorite rodeo event by the way?
TM: Breaking wild horses. Anything bareback.
PD: Flamboyantly rugged, I like that.
[Now is a good time to flip back to the centerfold of Terrence aka Bronco in only chaps, boots, and a hat. You won’t notice his green eyes ‘cause you’re staring at his hands—a lasso in one and his cock in the other.]
PD: What do you do in your free time?
TM: I take long walks on the beach.
PD: Now you’re playing the elusive cowboy.
TM: [Coy smile] I give riding lessons to up-and-coming gay rodeo stars.
PD: I bet you do. What was it like moving from rural Texas to L.A.?
TM: I didn’t expect there would be horses. But you know, leaving was more memorable than arriving.
PD: Why’d you leave?
TM: I was seventeen when Pops caught me making out with Donny Hooper. Even though it was the beginning of calving season, Pops kicked me out. I haven’t spoken with him since. [Lights up a cigarette.] My mom called recently though and said my father is sick. Lung cancer. Thought he was Marlboro Man. [Wry smile.] Pops always wanted me to be a bull rider. So I finally tried at the gay rodeo. There wasn’t much competition, but I didn’t mention that in the letter I sent.
PD: You wrote to your father?
TM: Yeah, I sent him the bull rope they gave me when I won.
PD: Bull rope?
TM: It’s the leather strap you hang onto. [Demonstrates riding the bull, one hand up in the air, one clenching the strap.]
PD: Something for him to hold onto. That’s big of you.
TM: Until I met Curtis, I wouldn’t have thought it was possible, you know forgiving Pops. But I’m getting ahead of myself. When Pops kicked me out, I hitched all the way to L.A. The trucker who picked me up was a piece of work. Got dishonorable discharge for fragging his C.O., or maybe it was ‘cause he got caught rolling around with another soldier. I couldn’t get the story straight ‘cause in the middle, he asked to touch my cock. I could feel the momentum of our cargo—a hundred thousand popsicles—pushing us along. He kept one hand on the steering wheel and guided me at 65 mph into the blue sky above. When I came, it felt like my entire life was catching up with me.
PD: Have you thought about writing?
TM: [Laughs and shakes his head.]
PD: What’s next for you? Any new projects?
TM: Anything for Curiosity.
PD: Weren’t you and Curtis Spade working on something? Or did you guys actually break up?
TM: Curtis was doing this photography series called ‘domestic gay.’ He took pictures of me waking up in bed, the two of us cooking breakfast, taking a bath, doing laundry, him ironing; he loves ironing. Me cleaning my boots, and making Curtis soup when he got sick. On the outside, Curtis is this wild artist type, but at heart, he’s a homemaker. He made L.A. feel like home to a homo from West Texas for fucks’ sake.
PD: So the break-up was just a rumor?
TM: You really want to hear about it?
PD: [I nod nonchalantly but I’m burning for details. TM lights another cigarette and cups his chin in his palm, elbow on the bar top. Beneath the bravado, he looks downcast, like he hasn’t slept in months.]
TM: Two months ago, I came home and all Curtis’s stuff was gone. Everything except the bandana I’d used to blindfold him and lead him across the threshold of our first apartment. The bandana was from my Texas days. Red faded pink. I gave it to him so he could keep the hair out of his eyes when he was painting. But recently, he caught this shitty cold and used it as a hankie. After doing laundry, he had it folded real neat on top of the dresser. Around that time, I started sensing something was up. Every time I noticed the bandana, I thought about asking. But I never did. The day he left, the bandana was on the kitchen counter like he was giving it back. I got this uneasy feeling, like the time I was cruising a public restroom and saw a blue bandana looped through the stall door. Back then, I didn’t know the difference between a bandana tucked in a guy’s back pocket and on a bathroom door, so I was still there when the cops busted in.
PD: Shitty way to figure out the signal for police. You spend a night in jail?
TM: Yeah, discovered I’m claustrophobic. That’s how I felt looking at that bandana, so I headed for Sunset Blvd. It wasn’t long before I noticed this Strawberry Roan checking me out and followed him down an alley.
PD: Strawberry Roan?
TM: It’s the coloring of a horse. It’s more accurate than strawberry blonde cause you know those boys that got hair all over?
PD: Sure. So you followed this Roan into an alley?
TM: He was giving me head and I was hard but couldn’t come. I was staring at spray paint on the wall; someone had tagged “for a good time” and a phone number. You see, when Curtis asked me out, he used that line so it was kind of a joke between us. Looking at it in the alley, I felt like I was bull riding and if I let go, I’d be trampled. I grabbed hold of the cement wall while the Roan gripped my hips and took me down. When I came, it was like falling. And the next thing I knew, I was at the beach. A storm was rolling in. It looked like Texas in July. Before the first thunderstorm, there’d be a cloudbank on the range, dark and ominous. Pops would say, looks like the cows are coming home, and my mama would say, looks like Judgment Day. But it was just dust stirred up by the Gulf winds—the kinda dust where you could lose half your herd; the kinda storm where you couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see, and it had nothing to do with God, just the fact you forgot your bandana. That’s what I was thinking on the beach, how the blue bandana in the restroom and the red one in my apartment were like a dust cloud on the horizon—a warning you get too late.
PD: Getting dumped sucks.
TM: If I knew he was going to leave, I could have talked him out of it.
PD: This was your first relationship?
TM: [Nods.] Before I met Mr. Curiosity and discovered the scene, I thought being gay meant cruising.
PD: Did you and Curtis meet at one of Tom’s parties?
TM: Yeah. Tom asked Curtis to do an installation. Curtis was taking pictures of everyone sucking on chocolate or vanilla popsicles.
TM: Right? Then he used the popsicle sticks to make a sculpture of two men’s bodies blurred into one like a force of nature. I ate my popsicle, handed him the stick, and that’s when he wrote, “for a good time come to dinner” next to his number. When he handed it to me, my hands were shaking so bad I could barely read it.
PD: What’s up with you and popsicles? Wasn’t the trucker hauling popsicles?
TM: Well, he said ice cream, but I picture popsicles. I’ve been fantasizing about eating boxes of them, enough to make a sign out of the sticks. Something to win Curtis back.
PD: Didn’t expect you to be such a romantic.
TM: I thought what we had was real.
PD: It was real. But sometimes, not even that is enough.
[I didn’t have the heart to ask him if Curtis could have the gay cancer.]
TM: [Finishes his drink.] I ran into Curtis’s friend yesterday and he said Curtis is staying with some people outside Frisco. Curtis told his friend he didn’t want me to see him like this. I asked for an address so I could send him the bandana.
PD: Something for Curtis to hold onto?
TM: Something like that.
PD: Well, I’m going to challenge one of our readers to come up with a dazzling pick-up line and ask you out. Because Terrence, if you fall off your horse, you gotta get right back on again.
TM: [Tips his hat.] Cowboy up.
PD: That’s the spirit. What would your popsicle sticks say, by the way, the sign for Curtis?
TM: It’d read, “For a good time” or “Please come home.”
Berkley Carnine is a queer organizer, educator, writer, and musician of mixed European descent. She grew up in Oregon, lived for nearly a decade in the Bay Area, and currently, resides in Arizona. After receiving her MFA at Arizona State University, she moved up to Flagstaff where she teaches activist-themed courses, herds sheep, organizes around Indigenous solidarity, builds queer creative community, and makes a home in a bread truck. She is currently living in Tucson finishing her first novel.