Jean Stegman: Jersey’s Secret Rodeo Queen

Jean Stegman’s hands are above her head. She’s wiggling her fingers and stomping her feet, screaming at the top of her lungs: “Luuuuu-casssss!”

In Point Pleasant, New Jersey, not much happens. A hurricane blows through and knocks out the boardwalk, which garners national coverage, but in the off-season life consists of parades and sales on bagels, the occasional concert or festival, who was “drunk as a skunk” at the Dollar Tree Saturday night and when Jean’s baby boy, Lucas, comes back to town.

In Jean’s house, animals roam openly. An African grey parrot named Captain flies between a three-foot branched stand and a plush hanging spiral adorned with bells, while Houdini the cat strolls carelessly across Jean’s purse, bags, and computer. The mammoth Great Pyrenees, Yeti, lays completely still on the linoleum, white congeals of drool gathering underneath the folds of his black lips.

Jean, currently a hairdresser, spends her days texting her son in Boston, cleaning and managing life with a small menagerie of animals, making dinners for her 90-year-old mother-in-law and running to the salon for an appointment or two. She leads a busy life in “Nice Jersey,” what she calls the small patch of coast within which she lives, but thirty years ago, she wasn’t going to be a hairdresser. She was going to ride horses.

This photo essay is a sliver of Jean’s life, the day after her stepdaughter’s wedding, caring for the animals the way she always does, and remembering the days before.

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