Fighting off raging bulls, Jamie Gilowski has been called crazy, even borderline stupid.
But the bruises, broken bones and blood in the arena are nothing compared to the battle he fights with addiction.
The Armstrong-raised resident started fighting bulls at age 16, as his interest in local professional bullfighters grew watching the brave cowboys who fought and rode the bulls, and who too were often called crazy.
“I knew something way back when I was about seven or eight years old, when my mother took me and my sister to the local pro rodeo in Armstrong, I was going to be a bullfighter and protect cowboys from those beasts of nature,” said Gilowski, now 35 and currently living in Vernon.
A gentleman from Armstrong took Gilowski under his wing and spent time showing him the basic steps and some animal sense. It wasn’t long before Gilowski was hooked on bull fighting, aka cowboy protection.
“I was travelling to Alberta at 17 most every weekend for a contractor in Alberta for high school rodeos,” he said. “I even missed my prom ‘cause rodeo was more important.”
At 18, upon graduation he enrolled into Olds College.
“That’s where things changed. I was in the house rodeo program and had the likes of some top bullfighters in Canada around me at all times and I started getting calls to do rodeos all over Canada.
“I took many bumps and broken bones and a few ambulance rides along the rodeo trail. Then at 24 things changed dramatically – I had a very severe self-inflicted incident outside the rodeo arena and found myself looking at death’s door.
“As if fighting bulls wasn’t enough.”
It was a long road to recover from the injury, in and out of sports rehabilitation to be able to use his lower right arm, which was near severed. That’s when he got the taste for a new addiction.
“I seen my dream fading away. So I turned to alcohol/substance abuse and that caused me to put rodeo on hold and that it did.”
He traded in his baggy pants, grease paint and suspenders for the bottle and partying.
But eventually, he started to realize that a future with children and a family was fading away.
“In time I realized I was missing something and in order to get that back I needed to sober up.”
Gilowski was able to do just that and has been on a new road to recovery where the doors of opportunity are opening for him.
Just recently, he made it back into the arena, in his home town for the sixth annual Little Kingdom Armstrong Professional Bull Riding event.
He gave it all he had that night and made it his final fight.
“I left the rodeo arena for the last time and it was on my terms.”
But as he says goodbye to bull fighting, a new chapter is evolving for Gilowski which will keep him in the ring.
He has ordered his barrel and will be seen at local arenas in the near future as a rodeo clown/entertainer. The barrel man even has plans to entertain crowds Canada-wide.
Gilowski gives special thanks to all the rodeo cowboys and stock contractors who helped him on the path, as not everyone gets an opportunity like this, as well as his family for their support especially his mom and sister of Vernon.