When it comes to characters, I don’t have to look too far for inspiration. My brother’s a cowboy, my other brother is a farrier (horseshoer) and my sister-in-law was a barrel racer/rodeo queen that grew up on cattle ranches in northern Arizona, one being on a Navajo reservation. She has always reminded me of my favorite heroine, Mattie Ross (True Grit). I was at the ranch this past weekend, flipping through old Arizona Highways magazines, and came across an entire spread on “Working Cowboys,” in which her father was featured over thirty years ago. The ranch house is like that — filled with Arizona artifacts, history, books and art, all with rich stories.
In regards to the cowboy world, I’m mostly on the outside looking in, but any romantic notions I had harbored have long been extinguished after seeing work that never ends, or the guys that come and go, looking for working ranches. I do, however, have a profound fascination with the drive it takes to cowboy and the type of person it attracts. There are so many characters that have wandered through our ranch, and I relied heavily on them in my first book. My brother embraces them all. That is the cowboy way.
I was riding on the flats with my sister-in-law last Saturday and came across the tale of “The Goat Who Ran Away with the Cows.” Apparently this goat left headquarters to be with this small herd, shading themselves under the tree. They have either welcomed, or accepted him begrudgingly. Any attempts to bring him back will be thwarted. In his mind, he is a cow. He seemed to know we were laughing at him on our horses, or maybe he was afraid we would attempt to take him back with us. Right away, I thought he’d make a brilliant character in a children’s book.
Regardless of the harsh realities of hard work and little pay, many cowboys are dreamers. It’s easy to see why, living and working in a room without a roof. The vision of endless sky and land, and the quiet and solitude that follows only activates the imagination. There is little need for possessions when you are afforded this daily view. In fact, possessions seem extraneous in the extravagance of nature.
Here are some photos I took around the ranch with an iPhone . . .
My nephew is a bulldogger for the high school rodeo. But I think I took a photo of the one who got a away . . .
We are constantly surrounded by inspiration; it just depends on the days in which we choose to see it.
Have a great week.