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Sunday, June 13, 2010

I love Cowboys

As if you didn’t know from reading any of my blogs, I love the American West. The West, along with the American Revolution are part of the defining characteristics of the United States.

While I’m still writing historicals set in the West, I also trying my hand at a contemporary story, set of course in the west, and the hero is a rodeo cowboy.

The modern day rodeo, with it prize money, electronic timers, and PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) had its roots in the everyday work and life of the historic cowboy.

The word rodeo (row – di – o) comes from the Spanish word rodeo (row-day-o) with just a different accent on the syllables, derived from the Spanish verb ‘to surround’ or round up. Naturally the cowboy who was the best at his job had the respect of the other cowboys. And, being competitive, the idea of having a competition to see who was the best at a certain skill was a foregone conclusion. Thus, the rodeo.

Original rodeos were unofficial and often held at the end of a spring or fall roundup. The skills need for the round up were the skills tested in the rodeo. Such skills riding a ‘green broke’ horse that were often used to start a round up cutting a cow out of the herd, or roping cattle for branding.

Today the events are bronc riding, both with a saddle and bareback, calf roping, and team roping (where one cowboy ropes the head and the other cowboy the heels of the cow).

Did you know that the actor Ben Johnson, who appeared in many western movies from the 40s to the 70s had been the Steer Roping Champion in 1953?

As the rodeo became more organized and profession events were added that were not actually part of the working cowboys repertoire.

Really, how many cowboy actually jumped off a horse to grab a steer by the horns and wrestle him to the ground (what did they think that rope was for?). Bulldogging, or steer wrestling was ‘invented’ by Bill Pickett, a black cowboy.

Another invented event is bull riding. I can’t help but think one cowboy said to another, ‘yeah, you can ride a bronc, but could you ride a bull?’

One of my bucket list items it to attend the Calgary Stampede or the Cheyenne Frontier Days. Yes, there is nothing like a long, lean man in levis, boots and a cowboy hat. (Sigh)

How about you, are cowboy one of your favorites?


R. Ann Siracusa said...

Hi Terri,
I've been to one rodeo and it was pretty crazy, but fun. P.S. I loved the way you handled that guy at the Strawberry Festival. Very smooth.
Ann Siracusa

Liz Flaherty said...

Hi, Terri:

You named my favorite. Ben Johnson was my favorite part of nearly every movie he was in, and there were sure a lot of them.

Merline said...

Hi, Terri - As an Easterner married to a OK man and transplanted to the heart of Quarter horse and cattle country, I've loved discovering cowboy history, too! The Western Heritage Museum here in Oklahoma City is fantastic! And the smaller, local rodeos - like the one we went to in tiny Seiling, OK - are great fun!!! Come visit and I'll take you around...

Terry Blain said...

more strawberries!!

Terry Blain said...

yeah, always liked Ben Johnson. He first started in movies as a wrangler who supplied the horses to John Ford films.

My favorite scene is in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, when John Wayne (Captain Brittles) and Ben Johnson (Sgt. Tyree) ride into the Indian camp and are surrounded by shouting Indians with guns.

Capt. Brittles: You ever been afraid, Sgt. Tyree?

Sgt.Tyree: upto and including now.

Terry Blain said...


I,too, married an Oklahoma boy, but he wasn't a cowboy, but a sailor.

Been to the Western Heritage and the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Would love to go again.

Diane J said...

Hi Terri,
I grew up in New Mexico and have been to many rodeos. My husband was one of those "crazy" bull riders, and the stories he and his buddies have of traveling to rodeos and the adventures (read trouble) they got into are pretty wild. His career ended with massive injuries from a bull. He still loves to watch bull riding and every so often talks about getting into a Senior's riding event. You can't take the "try" out of a cowboy!

Terry Blain said...


Hope you dh is Ok. My brother did some bulldogging in his younger days, but now rides in the Senior division of motocross.

Diane J said...

He's fine, just old and creaky.
His rodeo career ended with two broken legs and a messed up back and neck, but fortunately he was able to recover fully.