Throughout history there has been that certain kind of man—the hero? The daredevil? The fool who risks death? — Who rushes in when other men would have hesitated.
In my writing I often create heroes who fight for what is right, who win battles, who save the day, but there is another kind of man born for adventure. In flight, we call them the barnstormers. In the Army, they might be the Special Forces who go in when the odds are against them. And in rodeo, they are the bull riders.
I once did research on pre-WWI pilots. I found that some were gamblers playing with death but most loved the thrill of skating on the razor’s edge. (The book was CHERISH THE DREAM) These kinds of men are like mountain climbers and people who do extreme sports.
For the past few months I’ve been doing research on bull riders. Just by accident one afternoon I was talking to a man in his early forties who was a fireman. We were both waiting for a play to start. I mentioned that I was writing about rodeo bull riders. He tugged up his sleeve and showed me a long ugly scar running up his arm.
“That’s just one,” he said. “There are others.”
The character in my latest book is named Noah. I watched this fireman sitting beside me and in my mind my Noah came alive before my eyes. All at once this man became an older version of Noah. The fireman might be older and wiser than my young man, but the love for the rodeo was still there.
I watched him move to the edge of his chair as he talked, widening his long legs as if getting ready for the gate to open.
“I started college,” he said. “Into my sophomore year I got to going with a friend to rodeos. At first we rode to pick up a little extra money and for the thrill. Then we got our cards and took it seriously. School became less and less important as I began to ride every weekend. It was almost like a drug. We lived for the ride.”
He laughed and said, “It’s been almost twenty years but I can feel the adrenaline running through my body just thinking about the ride. If I thought I could still ride, I’d be in line to draw a bull right now.”
I kept talking to him because I was no longer in Lubbock waiting for a play; I was talking to my Noah from Harmony, Texas.
Only my Noah is 21 and he’s been hurt for the third time, and this time he’s afraid to climb back on and ride. His dad was a national champion. The whole town thinks he’s a hero living the life they’d all love to live.
Once in a while reality and fiction mix for me and I love it.
Noah was called Preacher in WELCOME TO HARMONY because when he rode in high school rodeos he got religion. In SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY coming out on Nov. 2, 2010, he’s started riding pro. In my third Harmony book, he’s hurt.
Come along with me and Noah and Reagan’s journey. I promise you’ll fall in love with them and the town of Harmony, Texas.
Contest: In my story Noah rides once using a Suicide wrap. Leave a comment and tell me your stories of attending or being in a rodeo. If you include the definition of this kind of wrap, you’ll be in the drawing for a copy of SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY. We’ll draw a winner on Sunday.
And let me know how you like the video.
Jodi Thomas is the NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of 31 novels and 8 short story collections. As of July 2006, she was the 11th woman to be inducted into the RWA Hall of Fame. She is also currently serving as the Writer in Residence at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas.
I can’t explain why I love the rodeo, but I can’t seem to get enough of it, particularly saddle bronc riding.Maybe it’s all those cowboys at one time in one place. In any event, even though it started with the Spanish vaqueros, rodeo has a firm place in America’s history.
Rodeo started when cowboys from different ranches engaged in friendly, and not so friendly, cowboy competitions of skill after long cattle drives in the late 1800s. Such a cowboy gathering was a good place to blow off steam and a form of needed entertainment.When the Homestead Act and barbed wire fences brought an end to the open range and cattle drives, cowboys would gather at stock shows to compete just like they do today at Denver, Houston, San Antonio, Fort Worth and many others.
Where and when was the first rodeo held? This is a hotly contested subject.
Payson, Arizona, claims it has the oldest continuous rodeo (1884).But when the game Trivial Pursuits upheld Prescott, Arizona’s, documented claim as the oldest organized rodeo (1888) it was Pecos, Texas, that threatened to sue based on recorded eye-witness accounts of a rodeo that took place there in 1883.
At that first Prescott rodeo on July 4th, Juan Leivas cinched the title and was awarded a trophy for all-around cowboy having won both the steer roping and bronc riding contests at the “cowboy tournament” as it was then called. Leivas was a Date Creek Ranch cowhand, and Date Creek is still a working ranch raising grass-fed beef and still employing descendants of Juan Leivas, according to his grandnephew, David Leivas Chavez, who worked there when he was fifteen.
The Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner recorded Juan’s steer roping win as follows: “His steer turned toward the herd at breakneck speed…Libas (sic) made a beautiful throw with his rope, bringing his steer to earth so suddenly that he spilled his horse over, also throwing him to the ground, but quick as a flash of lightning he was again in the saddle.” His winning time was one minute, seventeen seconds.
However, all three towns cited above might have lost out in their claim as the first ever rodeo by over a decade, according to the New York Times and ProRodeo.com. It appears Deer Trail, Colorado may hold those bragging rights. They held their event also on July 4th but in 1869 when two ranches got together to compete. An Englishman, Emilinie Gardenshire, successfully rode a horse named Montana Blizzard and took home a new set of clothes for his troubles.
After 140 years, rodeo is still going strong in big cities and small towns, not only out west but throughout the United States.Some say it’s now the fastest growing sport in America with pro bull riding and shows such as America’s Toughest Cowboy (Spike TV) leading the way. My own eastern town throws a rodeo the first weekend of June every year. Even New York City hosts an annual rodeo event at Madison Square Garden.
Unlike most sports athletes, however, rodeo cowboys, despite the danger, still don’t make a whole heck of a lot of money.First off, they have to pay an entrance fee to even compete. Before national sponsors, the cowboys would actually compete for a part of the entrance fee purse and nothing more. At some of the smaller rodeos, that is still the way it works. If that cowboy gets bucked off or doesn’t place, he not only doesn’t get any money, but he’s out his entrance fee. Then there are the travel expenses, which given the price of gas and the expanse of the west, can be formidable. Rodeo cowboys tend to “buddy up” in order to save on those expenses.It used to be two or three traveling together, now it is more like four or five cowboys spending 200 days of the year on the road with each other.
And then there’s the gear.Outfitting cowboy style isn’t cheap. They need a quality hat, a good pair of chaps, leather boots with spurs and protective vests, all with price tags to rival merchandise on New York City’s Fifth Avenue.If you’re in timed events, you’re also saddled with the expenses of your partner, the horse.
Trevor Brazile has been the top earning rodeo cowboy for the last two years, earning about half-a-million a year.He reported his annual expenses in 2007 to the New York Times as follows: event fees $65,000, fuel cost $31,000 (and rising) and horse feed another $15,000.And that doesn’t include room and board for him and his wife and young son who travel with him. You can just imagine where that leaves cowboys lower on the winnings ladder.
Rodeo cowboys clearly do it for the love of it.
In my new book, Re-ride at the Rodeo, available now at The Wild Rose Press, rodeo is the element that brings the couple together and threatens to tear them apart.The hero, Clay Tanner is a saddle bronc rider and rancher looking to make some quick money and have a good time. He spies a pretty little blonde who looks like she could use some fun. Trouble is, she turns him down.Dusty Morgan wants nothing to do with rodeo riders.Her late father rode broncs and he was never there for her—until he learned he was going to die. Now she’s looking for happily ever after, and despite her attraction to the strapping cowboy, she’s not interested in a hit and run with a footloose rodeo man.
In the story, Dusty grills Clay on why he does it.
He shrugged. He knew she couldn’t appreciate it. But he sensed she was trying to understand because it was important to her. He gave it another shot. “There’s also knowing that you’ve faced a difficult challenge. A challenge a lot of other people wouldn’t be able to meet. And you’ve succeeded. Against pretty significant odds. Done what most people in the stands wouldn’t even attempt, much less pull off.”
“Why not team roping or tie-down?”
He smiled. Those were safer sports in many respects, though they took a lot of skill. “I’ve competed in those events during ranch rodeos. But besides the money, rough stock is more of a challenge for me.”
She cocked her head. “It is about guts then.” She tossed in two pennies.
“Some, but I think there are other factors. Hell, sitting on a bull or bronc is nothing compared to facing down the enemy in a place like Iraq, or saving people from a burning building. There’s an element of courage involved, sure, but it’s more like you’re testing yourself. Most rough stock riders aren’t really competing against each other. Rodeo riders are a pretty tight bunch even though we play for each other’s entrance fees when the purses aren’t supplemented like here in Wayback. You try to better your own score, increase your standing. It’s a way, I guess, to measure yourself against the rest of the world. And if you measure up, you can take home some serious money. Does that make sense?”
Having been bucked off both a burro and a horse, it certainly doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
My burro incident came when my sister convinced me to ride our neighbor’s burro in the town’s Fourth of July parade. She was always talking me into something. She clapped a sombrero on my head, gave me a colorful shawl and there I was riding a reluctant burro with the marching band providing the beat. Unfortunately a bystander’s dog decided he’d like to play with that burro and dashed out into the street and started barking. Well, you can guess the rest. Next thing I knew I was down on the hard pavement, scraped, bruised and bloody. My mother burst from the crowd, scooped me up and took me home—ending my parade career. Along with a sprained ankle, I was sore for days.
Of course, that didn’t deter me in the least from riding, particularly since my oldest sister had just gotten a horse. Dusty (yes, I named my heroine after our palomino) had been a wild mustang when our neighbor got her. Unfortunately, wild seemed to be in her nature since no one, no man that is, could get near her. My sister could. The neighbor told her if she could break that horse, he’d give her a good deal. My sister spent every day for weeks working with the palomino, until she was finally able to ride her. Well, one day my sister announced it was time I rode Dusty. She didn’t have to convince me on this one; I’d been yammering at her for weeks to let me on.My mother hadn’t yet agreed to it, however, since I was many years younger than my teenage sister. But Mom wasn’t around that day so up I went on Dusty.We pranced around that corral and I felt like I could conquer the world.
But Dusty was easily spooked and something–we never did know what–spooked her and up she went on her hind legs and off I went—landing with a thump on the hard packed earth. It was the first time I had ever had the wind knocked out of me and I remember panicking for breath as my sister stood over me yelling, “Don’t tell Mom. Promise you won’t tell Mom.”Tell Mom?Couldn’t she see I wasn’t even breathing?
Even though I tasted blood in my mouth and had bruises all over my back and legs, I never told my mother.I was too worried she would insist we get rid of the horse.Dusty eventually calmed down—some. Enough to compete with my sister in barrel racing anyway.
Those two experiences, however, have convinced me that riding animals born to buck doesn’t make much sense—but I still love to watch those cowboys do it.
What about you? Any horse encounters you care to relate? Any rodeo memories you’d like to share? What do you think of the sanity of rodeo riders? And if you have any questions regarding the rodeo, I’ll do my best to answer them.
Leave a comment and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a free e-copy ofRe-ride at the Rodeo.
Click on Anne’s book cover to go to The Wild Rose Press:
….Where nothing beats hard muscle, soft eyes, and a Stetson when a lady’s heart needs winning. ~~Romantic Times
Yippee! Give Me a Cowboy is galloping straight into bookstores everywhere as we speak!
That’s right. The second anthology in this Give Me anthology series releases this week. Seems it was just a short while ago that Give Me a Texan came out. Time passes very quickly when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?
When I first started gathering ideas for Texas Tempest, my story in the Give Me a Cowboy anthology, I had this picture of a woman alone in a cemetery tending a row of graves. I knew they were her husbands and I knew she had a story to tell. But she needed a hero, someone to fight for her. Into my head popped McKenna Smith. I patterned McKenna after Paladin, the Richard Boone character in the TV western Have Gun Will Travel. Like Paladin, McKenna Smith is a gun-for-hire who’s gained a reputation of fighting for truth and justice, oftentimes in the face of overwhelming odds. Folks in Texas call him the Guardian of Justice because of his desire to uphold the law even when there’s little to be had.
McKenna rides into Kasota Springs, Texas (which is an actual old railhead 17 miles south of Amarillo) just as the town is readying for their Fourth of July Celebration and Rodeo.
Tempest LeDoux, a five time widow, gets into a heated argument with a man hanging a banner across the street. She orders him to take down the banner because it proclaims a “Cowboy Reunion.” Tempest insists that it read “Rodeo” instead. So that’s how McKenna comes to meet Tempest. He likes how she fights tooth and nail for something she believes in and it strikes a chord in him. That begins their attraction.
Tempest has McKenna pegged as husband number six from the moment the black clothed figure rides into town. She becomes obsessed with making sure he lives long enough for her to get him to the altar. She feels like fate is against her. She just wants one husband who won’t up and die on her before the ink dries on the wedding certificate. And with the rodeo about to begin, she sets out to prevent him from entering any events. What ensues are some hilarious scenes involve a little black magic, a secret potion, and lots of stubbornness.
Though McKenna is dead set against marrying her (he has lawless men to catch and justice to disperse) he can’t deny that she’s the kind of wife a man needs…if a man was looking for one. He doesn’t mind a little kissing and cuddling but lays down the law when it comes to doing it on a permanent basis.
But before he can say “Amen” twice the beautiful Texas Tempest has him in her crosshairs.
The only question is…will he climb on that 1200 pounds of angry muscle and hide in the wild bronc event?
And now for your viewing pleasure, here’s the book trailer.
Jodi Thomas, Phyliss Miranda, DeWanna Pace and I are pleased to bring this anthology to you for your reading pleasure. We hope everyone enjoys this collection of stories about the 1890 Fourth of July Celebration and Rodeo in Kasota Springs, Texas.
Rough and ready and aimin’ to please….Give Me a Cowboy!
Romantic Times says this about Give Me a Texan: “Four ladies who know what it means to be a Texan create a quartet of memorable novellas that bring the great state straight into your heart. The three-dimensional characters and unforgettable heroes, combined with splendid stories, are unmatched for fans of the Old West.”
Post a comment for a chance to win one of five autographed copies of this book.
And don’t forget our new Chance in a Million Contest and It’s Raining Cowboys!
Although I’m a Californian by birth, I’ll always be a Nebraskan at heart, thanks to my college days. So why is this blog titled Hawai’ian Cowboys?
Well, first off, I can’t resist a chance to plug my new book, Marrying Minda, set in fictional Paradise, Nebraska (read: Platte Center LOL), which will be released by the Cactus Rose line of The Wild Rose Press in early 2009.
Something about those blazing sunsets, the rolling prairie, the Sand Hills cattle ranches, and ruts from the Oregon Trail just evokes everything Western in me. In my humble opinion, the land of the Cornhusker is a tailor-made and long-overlooked setting for cowboy romance.
My heroine Minda Becker is a mail order bride who finds herself alone in Paradise -married to the wrong man. Yet the hottie cowboy has her tingling top to toe. What’s a poor girl to do? Especially when he constantly yaps about going back to Texas? Stay tuned and you’ll find out.
Secondly, it seems we have another long-overlooked setting for historical Western Romance.
If you’re like most folks, you likely think the Old West stopped at America’s Pacific Coastline. Which it does . . . if you travel three thousand miles farther. Yes indeed, Hawai’i has a cowboy history all its own. It even involves vaqueros!
Those first cowboys, Mexican vaqueros, taught Texan buckaroos how to lasso, make lariats and herd cattle. But much earlier in the 1800’s, those guys traveled across the Pacific and roped longhorns in Hawai’i.
What? Longhorns in Hawai’i, land of coconuts, nene geese, and menehune? (elves)
Yes, indeed. Captain George Vancouver brought Hawaii’s first longhorn cattle as a gift to King Kamehameha I in 1793. Vancouver believed he’d delivered a new resource to the islands, but His Majesty imposed a ten-year kapu (restriction), making them a protected species. The animals were allowed to roam wild and breed freely.
Consequently, the herds became a nuisance, harming native vegetation and forests. Upon descending the uplands, the cows knocked down fences, trampled village gardens, and destroyed taro fields.
So vaqueros from Mexico and Portugal were imported to control the cows and teach native ranchers how to oversee the herds. The islanders called these guys paniolo. (Some folks say paniola.) Ranchers constructed stone walls and cactus barriers to stop the foraging beasts. Tourists today sometimes view old rock walls in Hawaii and assume they’re ancient heiau (temples) or home sits. But more often than not, these rock piles are just leftover cattle walls!
Like cowboys everywhere, a paniolo relied on his horse to round up the wild pipi (cattle) from the places they shouldn’t be. When he roped a bull, he would “dally up” the rope around the horn of his saddle and get the bull over to a strong tree, wrapping the rope around it and pulling the animal flush against the trunk.
Furthermore, he’d secure the bull’s horns to the tree with a short rope. Most times, the bull was left like this until the next morning. At that time, the paniolo returned with several tame bullocks, called pin bullocks, which would lead the wild pipi back to a holding pen for slaughter or sale. Catching wild cattle in this method of Po’o Waiu has now become a rodeo event.
Today about 75 percent of the state’s cattle roam the Big Island of Hawaii. Fifth and sixth generation Hawai’ian cowboys continue to raise, herd, brand, and market cattle.
Parker Ranch is among the largest ranches in the United States, spanning some 150,000 acres across the Big Island. Established nearly 160 years ago, it is also one of the country’s oldest ranches.
The ranch’s story begins in 1809 when nineteen-year-old John Parker jumped the ship that brought him to Hawaii. He quickly came to the attention of King Kamehmeha I for his new, state-of-the-art American musket. The gun got John the “privilege” of being the first man allowed to shoot some of the thousands of maverick cattle wandering the island’s remote plains and valleys. Due mostly to John’s efforts, salted beef replaced sandalwood as the island’s chief export.
Horses, of course, are a cowboy’s best friend even in Hawai’i. In 1803, the first horses arrived on the Big Island and Maui. Many roamed freely and quickly reproduced in the wild. By the 1840’s, horses better suited for ranching and riding were imported but sadly, the wild horses had contributed to the destruction of vegetation. They were considered an “alien” animal. Other “aliens” associated with paniolo history include Koa haole. This plant first used to feed livestock has become a threat on all the islands because it multiplies so quickly. (Haole actually means “foreigner.”) But dung beetles are good aliens! They reduce cattle manure, which controls flies.
And guess what! 2008 is designated The Year of the Hawai’ian Cowboy by Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle and Harry Kim, mayor of Hawaii (the Big Island) County. In Waimea, the Big Island’s headquarters of the ranch industry, festivities for The Waiomina Centennial Celebration have honored legendary rodeo champ Ikua Purdy, who set the rodeo world on fire with his roping and riding skills at the 1908 Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming. In fact, Waiomina means Wyoming in the Hawai’ian language. A year ago, Purdy was inducted into the Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame.
The Paniolo Preservation Society sent a large Hawai’ian delegation to Cheyenne’s Frontier Days this year, and an exhibit featuring the Hawai’ian cowboy will be on display at the Old West Museum there throughout May 2010. In turn, Wyoming sent a reciprocal delegation to The Waiomina Centennial Celebration in August.
And as for John Parker, he was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum’s Hall of Great Westerners in April.
I hope you enjoyed this little bit of aloha yee-haw. I know there’s no Chimney Rock in the Hawaiian Islands, but the Iao Needle of Maui is a pretty spectacular pinnacle. Now, I’ve been racking the noggin, trying to find some question to leave with you to get you to respond, so how about: Which of these United States produces your favorite brand of cowboy? And what’s your favorite drink of choice to imbibe while you consider this important question?
(Me, I’d like a Lava Floe please.)
I’m off to the Islands and couldn’t resist blogging about the Hawaiian cowboy, the paniolo. I’ll be bringing back an aloha-style gift for one lucky name drawn from this weekend’s bloggers.
It might be some Hawaiian style Arbuckle’s (Kona Coffee.) Or it might be some Donkey Balls (round chocolate truffly things). Or maybe something practical like a rice paper journal. Just kinda depends on what I find while shopping in historic Koloa Town. Honest, you’d think you were in Wyoming or something. The town is still oftentimes called Homestead and was established about 1835. It’s the site of Hawaii’s first successful sugar plantation.
Thanks to all who participate! Thank heaven for WiFi.
And I hope you’ll not only enjoy Marrying Minda when it’s released, but also the Christmas story I was asked to write for Cactus Rose. His Christmas Angel spins off the handsome schoolteacher who fights for Minda’s hand. I figured he deserves a happy ending of his own…with Minda’s sister. It’ll be a free online read during the holidays.
Thanks to the wonderful Fillies for inviting me back to Wildflower Junction. I promise ya’ll more fun from the Luv Wranglers next time — if they invite me back LOL. Aloha!
Back in the late 1800’s when rodeos first started they were called Cowboy Reunions or Cowboy Competitions. They were rarely called rodeo until after the turn of the century. Plain ol’ cowboys came from all around to compete in these. They were fun and they allowed cowboys to get together, let off some steam and renew acquaintances, hence the name of the affair.
Every August here in Wichita Falls we host a similar kind of thing that we call the Texas Ranch Roundup. It’s where all the competing ranches sign up for events that feature just ordinary, everyday cowboys. There are no professionals allowed.
Some of the participating ranches are the Waggoner Ranch founded in 1851, the Pitchfork Land and Cattle Company established in 1883, the JA Ranch (1876,) the Tongue River Ranch (1898,) the Moorhouse Ranch (1900,) and the Spade Ranch. The area has a rich and storied ranch history that is imbedded in our way of life and we’re very proud of our heritage.
But, back to the Texas Ranch Roundup. Each event awards points for the top hands and they go toward a combined total at the end of the rodeo. The ranch with the most points at the end is declared the winner. No money is involved; simply braggin’ rights. But those cowboys are very serious about winning. They’ll risk life and limb just to be able to be called The Best.
The events are things cowboys normally would do around the ranch. There is no bull riding event because cowboys don’t generally ride bulls when they’re at work. Here are a list of the events of the Roundup:
Wild Cow Milking
Chuckwagon Cook Off
Arts and Crafts
* * * *
In GIVE ME A COWBOY, the new anthology I have coming out in February with Jodi Thomas, Phyliss Miranda, and DeWanna Pace, all our stories take place during rodeo week on the Fourth of July Independence Day celebration in 1890. All four stories are set in Kasota Springs, Texas and because they’re sort of interconnected they were challenging as all get-out to write. The heroine of mine is the mother of Phyliss’s heroine so you can imagine the difficulty of coordinating our stories.
My story, Texas Tempest, is a humorous adventure between a tough gritty gunslinger and a lovely widow who’s seriously husband-hunting. Tempest LeDoux simply has the worst luck in keeping a man. In rides McKenna Smith and they’re immediately thrown together because of the rodeo.
Of course, McKenna has no desire to become another notch on Tempest’s bedpost. He’s content with the freedom of single life.
But Tempest doesn’t play by anyone’s rules. Life has given her a raw deal and she’s fighting tooth and nail to get a husband that won’t up and die on her. She’s already buried five good men and that’s five too many. Now she’s looking for someone tough enough to become husband number six and stick around long enough to help her mend a broken heart!
When the tall lonesome gunslinger named McKenna Smith rides into town, Tempest knows he’s the one for her-if only she can rope him!
With their annual Fourth of July Rodeo about to start, she’s terrified he’ll get it in his stubborn head to sign up for the bronc riding since he has quite a reputation for taming the beasts. She’s terrified he’ll get killed before she has a chance to convince him to give up his dangerous ways. Fortunately, love and fate have a mind of their own. All it takes is a little Texas Tempest to get things going the right way toward a happy ending.
GIVE ME A COWBOY will arrive in bookstores in February. I know that’s months away, but I hope everyone will mark the release date on your calendar. It’s already available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s websites for pre-order.
So ladies, round up those doggies! Have you been to a rodeo? Do you have a favorite rodeo event? Do you like reading western romance books that have rodeo themes? Or maybe you have other events in your area that showcase your history and would like to tell us about it. I’m all ears. I’m giving away a copy of “Give Me a Texan” to one lucky winner.
And don’t forget to register for our Sizzlin’ Summer Stampede of Prizes that’s in full swing!! There’s a link on the left side of the screen.
I lived in Calgary for twelve years.In fact, Calgary, Alberta was my address until May 28th…when we moved all the way across the country, about a five-hour drive from where I grew up.But I’ve spent the bulk of my marriage in Calgary…we moved when we were married less than a year, had a small car, mostly hand-me down possessions, and no kids.
The first year we arrived too late for the Stampede, but just ahead of the beginning of hockey season. (Go Flames Go!)It was a heat wave, and we couldn’t believe how HOT it was.One of my first memories was going to a WalMart by where we lived, and seeing an oriental man, in a cowboy hat and boots, talking on a cell phone!
The second week of July, there are no hotel rooms to be had in Calgary.It’s Stampede Week, complete with Princesses, a parade, and free pancake breakfasts all over the city.We did make it to Stampede the next year, and I was pregnant with our first child…just pregnant, like about 8 weeks along and sick.It was hot and all these people were drinking cold beer in the stands and I was stuck with water.I had beef on a bun…red meat was a must while I was expecting, apparently…and laughed at the mutton bustin’ kids, admired the dexterity of barrel racing, and oohed and aahed over the broncs and bull riding.I still love the smell of mini-donuts and hate the crush of people on the C-Train.But I liked the Rodeo so much that I knew I had to have one in my second Romance, Marriage at Circle M.Complete with a sexy ex-bronc rider.
We fell in love with the mountains, being able to see them from the city (there’s a great view from the Calgary Tower if you get a haze-free day), driving to them, skiing in them, hiking…I always thought when we moved away what I’d miss most was the mountains.But I was wrong.
It’s the prairie.
It’s the wide open expanse.Because truth be told, those cowboys and girls that make it to Stampede don’t live in Calgary.They live in Longview, and Caroline, and Madden, and Wetaskawin, and all sorts of small towns that hardly appear on the map.They live on the land and farm it, raise their stock and travel around during rodeo season.Those towns mean something.And I fell in love with one of them – Sundre – a few years ago.
Sundre is a typical western town – a hotel, a grocery, a department store (I love browsing around the V&S!), a library, a few restaurants…the amenities you need, but still a bit of a drive to Red Deer and about an hour and 20 minutes to Calgary.When you take the highway in from Olds, you crest a hill and if you hit it at the right time, the sun is setting over the mountains and it’s spectacular.It’s ranch country. And maybe a little oil and gas country.And it’s beautiful.
When I wrote Hired By The Cowboy, it was a natural choice for the setting, and so Windover Ranch was born, and featured again in Marriage at Circle M.I was a little homesick after that so I wrote The Soldier’s Homecoming and set it in my east-coast hometown of Fredericton, New Brunswick.But I wasn’t done with the characters or the setting from my first 2 books yet, and so that became Falling For Mr. Dark and Dangerous.
I went slightly south of Sundre to the community of Bergen for this story, where the main feature is the General Store.I’d e-mailed for some info, and one weekend when we were camping in Elkton Valley, we popped in and I introduced myself.It was so much fun…I got to see the store, drive the roads…and knew exactly where Maggie and Nate would park in the parking lot!
Falling for Mr. Dark and Dangerous is out this month with Harlequin Romance, and in some ways it takes me back to my other “home” where I can see for miles and feel the blustery warmth of a Chinook on my face.
Is there a place that calls to you?Have you moved, and what part of that home stayed with you the most?
I’ll select one person from the comments after the weekend to win a copy of FALLING FOR MR. DARK AND DANGEROUS…guess what I’m doing this weekend?I get to witness a real-life love story.My mum, who is 75, is getting MARRIED.Seems genetics might have played a part in my romantic heart!!!
It hits close for me because we have a rodeo in the next town down the road called the Hoot Gibson Memorial Rodeo in Tekamah, Nebraska. And we’ve got neighbors who are big time into rodeo, entering and competing when the rodeo is in the area, although they don’t follow the circuit.
So today I’m including a little history, a quick look at events and some great, great pictures all about rodeo.
Fun Fact: Rodeo is the official state sport of Wyoming and Texas, and the iconic silhouette image of a Bucking Horse and Rider is a federal and state registered trademark of the State of Wyoming.
Rodeo Quote: I can remember sittin’ in a cafe when I first started in rodeo, and waitin’ until somebody got done so I could finish what they left.
Chris LeDoux(1948-2005) Real life cowboy and Country western singer of Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy among many great hits.
Barrel racing is an exclusively women’s sport. In a barrel race, horse and rider gallop around a cloverleaf pattern of barrels, making agile turns without knocking the barrels over. Look at that picture on the left. Really notice how low the horse is, almost on it’s side.
A calf is roped around the neck by a lariat, the horse stops and sets back on the rope while the cowboy dismounts, runs to the calf, throws it to the ground and ties three feet together. (If the horse throws the calf, the cowboy must lose time waiting for the calf to get back to its feet so that the cowboy can do the work. The job of the horse is to hold the calf steady on the rope) This activity is still practiced on modern working ranches for branding, medical treatment, and so on.
In spite of popular myth, most modern “broncs” are not in fact wild horses, but are more commonly spoiled riding horses or horses bred specifically as bucking stock. Rough stock events also use well-trained riding horses ridden by “pick up men” (or women), of whom there are usually at least two, tasked with assisting fallen riders and helping successful riders get safely off the bucking animal.
There are two divisions in rodeo, bareback bronc riding, where the rider is only allowed to hang onto a bucking horse with a type of surcingle called a “rigging,” and saddle bronc riding, where the rider is allowed a specialized western saddle without a horn (for safety) and may hang onto a heavy lead rope, called a bronc rein, which is attached to a halter on the horse.
An event where the cowboys ride full-grown bulls instead of horses. Although skills and equipment similar to those needed for bareback bronc riding are required, the event differs considerably from horse riding competition due to the danger involved. Because bulls are unpredictable and may attack a fallen rider, Rodeo clowns, now known as Bullfighters, work during bull riding competition to help prevent injury to competitors.
Some interesting rodeo facts: Rodeo stresses its western folk hero image and its being a genuinely American creation. But in fact it grew out of the practices of Spanish ranchers and their Mexican ranch hands (vaqueros), a mixture of cattle wrangling and bull fighting that dates back to the sixteenth-century conquistadors. But you know…what does American mean if not a melting pot from all over the world?
There would probably be no steer wrestling at all in American rodeo were it not for a black cowboy from Texas named Bill Pickettwho devised his own unique method of bulldogging steers. He jumped from his horse to a steer’s back, bit its upper lip, and threw it to the ground by grabbing its horns. He performed at local central Texas fairs and rodeos and was discovered by an agent, who signed him on a tour of the West with his brothers. He received sensational national publicity with his bulldogging exhibition at the 1904 Cheyenne Frontier Days. This brought him a contract with the famous 101 Ranch in Oklahoma and its traveling Wild West exhibitions, where he spent many years performing in the United States and abroad. I’ve seen bull riding competitions and it’s a mean sport. I don’t care for it. But the crowd goes wild.
I remember a few years ago some company was selling ‘Great Rodeo Moments’ on TV and they’d run these awful clips, over and over, of riders getting gored by a bull or trampled by a horse. I went and looked at YouTube but honestly the clips there are pretty hard to watch. So I’m not sending you there. Go at your own risk.
Some Great Rodeo Movies—it seems like they always have them riding the bulls.
8 Seconds-starring Luke Perry
Electric Horseman – starring Robert Redford
Pure Country – Starring George Strait
My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys – Starring Scott Glenn.
If you want to see some more really cool rodeo photos by Erik Stenbakken who took the picture at the top of this that I’m calling Mud Soaked Cowboy go here: http://www.stenbakken.com/ Click on Portfolios and then Rodeos. Very talented guy.
Any rodeo fans here today?
Seriously, have you ever been to the rodeo?
Have you got a favorite rodeo movie or rodeo cowboy I didn’t mention? What’s a cowboy got in him that makes him climb on that bull? There are cowgirls out there, too, and they’re pretty tough. Let’s hear rodeo memories, opinions or just tell me Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy……