When I was a little, I had a horse named Sun Dancer. He lived in my basement, in the corner, and his springs squeaked when I rode him. He ate things like Cheerios and potato chips, and on him, I galloped the rolling hills of Montana, chasing down them varmints who stole my pappy’s land.
Yeah, I wanted to be a cowgirl. But it ain’t easy to emulate Annie Oakley when you live in the suburbs. So I read a lot of Louis L’amour and dreamed of the day when I’d move west and start my dude ranch. But my vision of ranching was Bonanza, and little Joe, and cute cowboys in Stetsons, and horses. It was Oklahoma and square dancing and rodeo. Boiled down, I thought ranching was a country music song.
I got news for you. It ain’t. I know because I spent a week playing cowgirl on a real ranch, helping the owners dig a water line, and riding fence. It’s hot, smelly work, with cows that don’t like being told what to do, and horses that’d just rather go home. And not only that, but the ranch, well, it was on the backside of nowhere, over the river and through and through and through the woods until we came to a place not on any map. I got a big red star in the middle of Montana when I Mapquested it.
And being there, I learned something. Sometimes the dream is better than reality. Sometimes the smell of the pumpkin-nutmeg latte is better than the taste, the look of the leather pants on the mannequin better than in the two-way mirror. Which, frankly, is why I like to read books, why I like to write. My imagination is richer. It contains a soundtrack, and lots of handsome, tan cowboys. Besides, no one really wants to hear about the hours spent watering the bulls. We want to cut to the fun parts, like when the bull chased me into the truck. Or when the stars came out over the Montana night and seemed close enough to pluck from the sky.
I had dinner recently with a friend who says, “I never read fiction because it isn’t true.” Yeah, well, that’s why it’s called, uh, you know, FICTION. But he says he doesn’t like to spend time focusing on things that don’t let him engage in the world. (He reads a lot of theology and political books – way too much brain food for me).
Here’s me saying that sometimes I don’t WANT to engage in the world. Like when the washing machine seal breaks and floods my basement. Or when the dog eats all the chocolate cake and his face blows up like a balloon. Or when my husband gets food poisoning and is sick in bed for two days. I need to close my door to the world and escape into Montana, or Alaska, or even the Lifetime movie channel. Because, hello, no one is sick in my imaginary world. It’s cleaner. And less smelly.
In short, give me my fiction, some chocolate and close the door behind you when you leave.
So, here’s to handsome cowboys and Bonanza and the FAKE world of ranching. Now, I wonder what it’s like to be a fire fighter….
Susan May Warren let her imagination run wild in her new suspense/romance series set in modern day Montana. Book 1, Reclaiming Nick, won the 2007 Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award. Book 2, Taming Rafe, is the story of broken bull-rider and the woman who helps him find his footing again. Taming Rafe is also nominated for a 2007 Rita away.
In honor of the Petticoats and Pistols’ Spring Round-Up, I’m having a fun, “Petticoat” contest. Leave a comment on this post telling me who your favorite western hero is (books or movies!) and why and I’ll randomly choose one lucky person to win a $50 gift certificate to Victoria’s Secret, the place for fancy petticoats!