Cowboy Crushes

Why do I write western romances? Even more telling—why do I read western romances? There are many reasons, but the most compelling one is simple. I do it for the cowboys.

Those rugged, hard-working men, so capable, so honorable, so devoted to the women who capture their hearts. I can see the silhouette of a man on horseback, sitting straight in the saddle, and my heart starts fluttering before I even see his face. Crazy, huh? But the image stirs the romantic in me like nothing else. After all, if you’re going to ride off into the sunset with a hunky hero, he needs to have a horse.

It probably started back in my early teen years. I’d outgrown Saturday morning cartoons, so I turned instead to the Saturday westerns. It was the 80’s, the decade that introduced MTV and video games. Westerns were the last thing on anyone’s mind. Well, except for me. I found channels that aired re-runs of wonderful shows like Bonanza, Wagon Train, and The Big Valley. I couldn’t get enough. I started daydreaming my own episodes, writing myself into the script so that I could win the heart of the cowboys I fancied. I had desperate crushes on Adam Cartwright (Pernell Roberts, at left) from Bonanza and Cooper Smith (Robert Fuller, at right) from Wagon Train. I guess I have a thing for dark-haired men in black hats.

That theme continued into the 90’s when the western made a slight comeback in the television world with shows like Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, The Young Riders, and The Magnificent Seven. I’ve been re-watching The Young Riders on Netflix with my 13 year-old daughter. We both agree that Josh Brolin makes a very dreamy Jimmy Hickok. Although I think the beautiful Palomino he rode played a role in the attraction, too. I haven’t introduced her to Eric Close in The Magnificent Seven yet, but he was another cowboy who made my heart pitter-patter.

                          

Then we could talk about those cowboys from down under. Tom Selleck is now a western icon, but I first discovered him in chaps and hat in Quigley Down Under. I had never been that impressed with him when he was driving around Hawaii in a red sports car, but give him a western makeover and stick him atop a horse, and I couldn’t resist. A man that impresses me in any setting is Hugh Jackman. And he made me sigh mightily when he donned western garb for the movie Australia. Hugh proved to me that you’re never too old for a new cowboy crush.                  

                        

And of course, with the release of Cowboys and Aliens, I would be remiss if I failed to mention my latest crush. Daniel Craig makes a fabulous James Bond, but there’s no comparing 007 to Jake Lonergan to my way of thinking. The cowboy’s gonna win every time.

So what about you?

Who are some of your cowboy crushes?

Deadwood and Forgiving

Deadwood was on several years ago and I didn’t watch, but we discovered Season 1 because we watch a lot of On Demand series and, well, I put the first epi on just to see Tim Olyphant. Yes, I’m that shallow. I became a huge Olyphant fan from watching Justified.

By the way, Justified isn’t family viewing, but Deadwood has it beat by a country mile on the curse per minutes ratio. If you don’t like profanity, stay far, far away. I don’t mind it and even so it is pretty over the top. It isn’t sprinkled with it, it’s SATURATED.

BUT I love it just the same. It has complex characters who aren’t completely good and aren’t completely bad either. It is very wild west, dirty, corrupt, resilient, generous…

Part of the reason why I am so taken with it is because I began watching with a built-in…well, knowledge doesn’t sound quite right but maybe “impression” fits because of a very different fictional accounting of the town – the novel FORGIVING by LaVyrle Spencer.

I can’t imagine LaVyrle would have soaked her prose in f-bombs, but there are things she had in common with the series.

1) Painting a picture of a rough, lawless town where the only women were the whores in the brothels.

2) One man who stands out as the good guy, yum yum! (And yes, I mean Tim as Seth Bullock)

3) A spunky, well-spoken, classy heroine. While Deadwood is populated with several characters and storylines, Alma Garrett (Molly Parker) truly stands out.

4) The addition of the story of Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane. I love this part. Jane was such a rough character with such a big heart.

5) The addition of a small pox outbreak and pestilence tents

6) A good, upright man in love with a prostitute.

If you haven’t read Forgiving, see if you can find a copy. It’s a wonderful read. Especially a particular scene at midnight on Christmas Eve. Deadwood’s coarseness might not be for everyone, but Forgiving is a beautiful story that will still manage to give you the flavour of this gold rush town.

 

And if you can’t find Forgiving, my newest release, A Family For The Rugged Rancher, is out in the UK this month. You can find out more on my website: http://www.donnaalward.com .

The OTHER Stars Of Bonanza

One of the great TV Westerns of the 60s, perhaps of all time, was Bonanza.  I remember it being a must-see at our house on Sunday evenings.  And my parents enjoyed it as much as me and my siblings.  I learned a lot over the years about the stars who played those larger-than-life Cartwright men, but it was only recently, when I stumbled across an article on the topic, that I learned about the other, less celebrated stars – namely the horses.  I thought I’d share some of what I learned with you all.

First of all, none of the actors owned their horses – at least not while the show was filming.  They weren’t owned by the studio either.  They were owned by Fat Jones Stables, an operation that had a long history – all the way back to 1912! –  of providing horses to movie and television productions.

Because Bonanza was the first TV Western to be filmed in color, the mounts for the Cartwright family were chosen with an eye to how they would stand out in this new medium.  But each actor also had considerable input into the selection of his horse.

Let’s take the horses in the order of their rider’s family position:

Ben Cartwright:  His horse was named Buck, logical since he was a Buckskin.  The horse was 12 years old at the start of the series, weighed in at about 1100 pounds and stood a little over 15 hands tall.   It was said that Lorne Greene did not care much for horses, but when the series ended its 14 year run, he purchased Buck from the stable because he was concerned with what might happen to the animal otherwise.  That same year, Lorne turned around and donated Buck to a therapeutic riding facility that worked with mentally and physically challenged children and youth.  Buck spent his remaining years there and by all accounts was a big hit.  Buck lived to the ripe old age of 45.

Adam Cartwright:  Adam’s horse in the show was named Scout.  But Scout was not the original horse selected for the role.  In fact the first two horses, Candy and Beauty, both proved to be fractious in front of the cameras and had to be sent back to the stables as not right for the part.  When Scout was brought in, he proved to be not only well behaved but a good match for actor Pernell Roberts.  Scout was a gelded 7/8 thoroughbred who weighed in at 1100 pounds.  Roberts rode Scout for three seasons.  Near the close of that third season, Scout and Dan Blocker’s horse  got mired in the mud during filming, causing an accident.  Whether related to the accident or not, within a month Scout was acting up, tossing his head around and generally refusing to behave during filming as he had before.  By the start of the fourth season, Scout had been sent back to the stables and replaced with a horse that was almost identical in appearance.  The only difference was that the new horse had four white socks as opposed to the three sported by the original Scout.

Hoss Cartwright:  I had trouble finding much information on Chub, the horse Dan Blocker rode.  Chub was a half quarter horse, half thoroughbred horse who was selected not only for his temperament but for his ability to carry a man of Dan Blocker’s imposing size.  Chub stood 15.3 hands tall and weighed a sturdy 1250 pounds.  The horse’s most distinctive feature was the crooked blaze down his face.   Chub remained with the series during its entire run and outlived Blocker.

Joe Cartwright:  Michael Landon selected a Paint named Tomahawk to be his mount on the show.  The horse’s ‘character name’ was Cochise.  Standing 15.3 hands tall and weighing in at 1150 pounds, it was second in size only to Hoss’s mount.  Tomahawk was with the show for more than five seasons.  During the sixth season tragedy struck in a truly terrible incident.  A demented intruder broke into the Fat Jones Stables and stabbed several of the horses, among them Tomahawk.  The vet was able to save some of the victims but several of the injured animals had to be euthanized, including Tomahawk.  Landon was both saddened and outraged by what happened and offered a sizable reward for the capture of the responsible party, but the perpetrator was never identified.  In subsequent episodes a number of Paints were used to play the role of Joe’s horse Cochise.

 

So there you have it – some trivia about the four horses who carried the Cartwrights.  Did any of this surprise you?  Do you have any particular memories of the show and did you have a favorite from among the animals?

Kelly Boyce – and A Long Love of the Old West

I have always loved westerns. As a kid, I can remember lying shoulder to shoulder on the TV room floor with my older brother as we watched Clint Eastwood shoot and snarl and glare his way through a host of spaghetti westerns. I thought he was the coolest thing on earth and couldn’t decide if I wanted to marry him, or grow up to be just like him. My mother suggested neither was a viable possibility, given the age gap and the fact that she would ground me forever if I even considered shooting my way through life. But those dire warnings did nothing to curb my love of the Old West.

My weekend viewing consisted reruns of Bonanza and The Big Valley. I then graduated to Little House on the Prairie. When they made a mini-series of Lonesome Dove, I was in heaven. Even the television series that followed staring Eric MacCormack and Scott Bairstow was must see TV for me, although it wasn’t really until they reformatted the program in the second year to “The Outlaw Years” that it really got interesting. I even watched Young Guns. If that doesn’t show my dedication to the genre, I don’t know what does.

Even now, my DVD shelf is riddled with westerns. Unforgiven, 3:10 to Yuma, Deadwood. The latest version of True Grit was probably one of my favourite movies of 2010 and I can’t wait to add that to the shelves.

My brother was no help with my addiction at all. If anything he was my number one enabler. With his Time Life Old West series and love of the great Indian chiefs, he became my go-to source for information and bedtime stories. And my brother, great storyteller that he is, had plenty of tales to tell. Sitting Bull, Custer’s Last Stand, all things Comanche. Even now, his Time-Life Old West series are my first stop for research. Thankfully big brother only lives a few streets over and is willing to lend the books out for an extended period with no late fee being charged.

I can’t say there is any one thing about the western genre that draws me, but rather a plethora of things. The way of life was gritty and harsh, the justice meted out with an immediacy that didn’t always allow for fairness or rebuttal, the landscape was harsh and uncompromising. But there was an honesty about it as well, a sense that they were building something new and important and were willing to risk what they needed to and work themselves to the bone to get it.

With all of that going for it, who wouldn’t want to write a story set in the Old West? When I started writing romance, it was even a question for me. It didn`t matter how many people told me westerns were a hard sell. I knew I loved reading them and surely I couldn`t be alone in that. Turned out I was right and THE OUTLAW BRIDE found a home at Carina Press. It seems only fitting that my dream of becoming a published author would be brought to fruition by a story set in a period that is near and dear to my heart – the Old West.

To say thanks to all of those who love the genre and keeping it alive, I`m giving a copy of my new release, THE OUTLAW BRIDE away. Just leave a comment to be entered into the drawing.