Most people who know me are not surprised to find that one of my novels has a rodeo backdrop. Since High School I’ve been fascinated with the sport. I used to sneak off to Woodburn and practice on the ‘canner horses’ before they were butchered and converted to dog food. My buddy Dobe Harding and I slipped over the mountain several times for me to compete in several of the rodeo’s held in Central Oregon. I’ve often asked myself why. Why is that sport so appealing?
The answer is size. The size of a man/woman is critical in Football, basketball, and most other team sports. In individual sports like swimming, boxing, and rodeo, size is not the determining factor. When I was a senior in high school, I weighed 140 pounds and stood five foot eight. I was a realist. My track got me a college scholarship but back then there was no professional future in track or even my golf. However, my 140 pound frame was just right for bareback and saddle bronc riding; also for bull riding but I didn’t like them. We had a hate/hate relationship since I was a youngster. (more on that later). I met Richard Rollins shortly after high School. He was a horse trader in Sisters, Oregon. He was also a full partner in SOMBRERO. This was a rodeo stock contracting company that not only furnished the stock but also produced ‘jackpot rodeo’s’ all around the west. The lead partner was a man named Mert Hunking. Mert and Richard owned a shade over 100 bucking horses and 30 bulls. Not to mention the numbers of roping steers and calves. Later in my early adult life I was able to become a minor partner. Bob Jacobson and I furnished some bucking stock and paid a few expenses. It wasn’t for business purposes; it was the ability to follow the circuit and participate. Jacobson was a roper. I was a rider. In those early years, I rubbed shoulders with Larry Mahan, John Quintana, Dean Oliver, Tommye Flinnigen and a number of other greats…
I was good enough to enjoy the sport but not dedicated enough to commit and ignore my education. I never went professional but I’ve been a fan most of my adult life.
Rich Rollins and I are still good friends. He is still a mentor to most of the rodeo cowboys in the west. Many choose to live in Central Oregon because of the ‘rodeo atmosphere’ originally created by Rich Rollins and Mert Hunking. John Hammack, Clint Corey, the Knowles brothers, Lonnie Davis, just to name a few.
If you look at the current world standings, Bobby Mote, Austin Foss and Jason Havens show up in the top 20 of the bareback event alone. Other Oregon cowboys; Treavor Knowles, Blake Knowles, Casey McMillen, Charly Crawford. Howdy McGinn and Cody Campbell are all on the top 25 of their respective events. This is not a coincidence. Sponsors breed sponsors. These rodeo stars are a product of training, mentors, and opportunity. Its small wonder that in this new generation of rodeo performers hail from central Oregon. Bill Justus, Russel Cardoza, Jordan Weaver, Sam Ellis, Shane Erickson, Stephen Peebles, and Wyatt Bloom.
Goldie began to cry. Weeping at first, then as she glanced at Tony, she began to bawl. Deep hurtful sobs. Goldie could really cry, and it was never a fake cry. She wore her feelings on her sleeve. Once started, she could cry for a week. Her despair was Harp’s fault. He knew better than to challenge her hollow threats.
Most women would go to their lover for consolation. Goldie came to Harp. She threw her arms around his neck and cried hard. Harp felt his mettle melt. He couldn’t leave with her in this condition, besides she was dripping tears on his starched shirt.
“Mom, listen to me. I’m sorry, but you know how I am. No man is gonna boss me around; especially someone like Tony. Come with me this weekend. Get away from him for a while. You haven’t seen me ride in almost a year. C’mon,” he pleaded.
Goldie shuddered in his arms, taking a deep breath to abate the sobs. She looked at Tony in the back seat of his dilapidated Volvo. He was okay, just awaiting sympathy. Sympathy she was reluctant to give. Suddenly, Tony was pitiful; whimpering and looking forlorn. Her mind wouldn’t behave. She vacillated. Memories of all her men flooded her comportment. Tony wasn’t any good for her. He was too serious; like a coronary arrest. She never laughed anymore. Harp’s dad was a jocular soul; kind, understanding, and funny. Larry was serious only when he was competing, and the only thing Buck enjoyed more than a meal was to tell a funny story. His delivery was comical; even after he got fat. Goldie realized how morose she’d become, so she switched her allegiance. Instantly. She canceled most of her feelings for the Volvo man on the spot. Goldie decided she wanted a man that acted like a man. She’d had four wimps in the past two years--four too many.
“Tony, you go on home!” she said through the open window. “I’m going to the Pendleton Roundup with Harp and his friends. Don’t bother with those vegetables, at least not on my account!”
Which other sport other than NASCAR allows a little guy like Will Lowe, at 130 pounds to compete against five-foot-eleven, 165 pound Bobby Mote. Head to head. They have both been World champion bareback riders several years in their careers. They’re still competing and making six to seven figures each year.
So, when I wrote about Harp Hancock, his mom, Goldie, and all the zany characters, I can say I know these people… they’re part of my heritage and experience.
I also wrote about something I heard plotted, years ago. Top hands thinking about a wobble…all turning out at the same event. It never came about because of the independent mentality of cowboys. I fleshed out the idea and included it as the core plot point of the novel.
As to the crystal part? I’ve been over the mountain and across the creek. Everywhere I turned there was a ‘New Age’ chick spouting her beliefs. It’s not hard to learn the lingo when exposed on a 24/7 basis. One of my effective conversation starters was: “I noticed your crown chakra is closed. Is that because of me?”
I can’t help it. These ‘true believers’ will abandon their crystal packin’ beliefs in a heartbeat if a rich guy makes a play for them or if they find another ‘true cause’. I make fun of them in most of my novels. I probably shouldn’t but the good thing about being an INDIE, is…?? I decide!!
CRYSTAL COWBOY IS AVAILABE FOR FREE… TOMORROW, JUNE 9TH.