Rodeo cowboys and cowgirls often travel in packs to cut expenses and share the driving duties. Theoretically, they can drive pretty much non-stop aside from pee breaks, fueling and eating, which are often combined. Hauling horses makes it a little more difficult. Some horses refuse to pee in a trailer, for instance. Odd, but it happens.
Since Cody roped mostly locally, hauling wasn’t a problem. There are several ropings within 40 miles every weekend.
Hauling to the junior and high school rodeos was another situation. High school rodeos were all in state unless you were headed to the nationals.
We usually took Brandon the first years. There was another Odessa boy who traveled with us much of the time. Aaron’s family never attended a show that I know of. Whether they couldn’t, disapproved of rodeo or simply didn’t care I never knew.
Aaron was a good kid. It was obvious he didn’t have much money and rodeo was a big sacrifice for him. He wasn’t naturally talented like some, but he paid his dues and took his beatings without complaint. For that, I respected him. He had a lot of heart and try.
We normally fed him while he was with us and sometimes, if we found something he could use, we picked it up for him. I’m a pawn shop junkie, but it’s amazing what you can find if your timing is just right.
The High Plains Association was a little more complicated because there was more traveling.
At the High Plains Junior Rodeo Association finals the first year, Brandon won Reserve Champion Bronc rider. Since there weren’t many saddle bronc riders, they lumped the bares and saddle broncs together. Aaron didn’t place in the top three, but he did win something, a clothes bag or rigging bag, I think. I whooped and hollered for him as loud as I did for my own, which embarrassed Brandon to his toes, but tickled Aaron to no end.
At some point in time, Aaron bought a truck. Brandon refused to travel with him as he had a certain sense of pride. Cody, on the other hand, was in his glory, but he has always been one of those people who would wahoo all the way into disaster.
Aaron and Cody decided to go to a winter bullriding in Aaron’s truck.
Here, unlike in fiction where you describe your characters as they are introduced, is where I give a few details. Brandon is a carbon copy of his father even though he looks like me. They both wear solid color, long sleeve western shirts with buttons, not snaps, starched crisp as pressed autumn leaves. Dark blue Wranglers must be starched so heavy they can stand by themselves, of course.
In Brandon’s younger years and through high school, he wore some southwest pattern shirts, mainly because I had all their shirts made and the boys picked out the material they liked.
Cody is, and always has been, a neon sign in the desert night. The brighter, gaudier and more outrageous, the better. His concession to good taste was keeping his hair short and well trimmed and no tattoos. Not that I have anything against tattoos; they just aren’t my thing.
Aaron and Cody were soulmates in style, which wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Aaron’s pants might be pretty thin or patched, but he did enjoy bright, blindingly bright, shirts.
So, Aaron and Cody embarked on their trip against my advice. It was winter. I wouldn’t trust Aaron’s truck to get across town. Plus, neither one of them had the sense God gave a goose at times.
“Cody, think we can make it through that flooded underpass?”
“Sure, just gun it.”
In unison, “Wahoo!”
Yeah, I had misgivings about this trip. I sent along some extra food just in case and wrote down my phone number and name and made both of them put it in their wallets.
Sometimes you just have to trust God and that bedraggled, wild-eyed guardian angel frantically clutching the grill of the pickup.
They called me after the bullriding. Both of them bucked off. They’d be home in two hours.
Three hours went by and no word. They probably stopped to get something to eat.
Four hours. They ran into friends.
Five hours. They had truck problems. Even worse, winter storm warnings were out. The norther had blown in and there was snow and ice everywhere they would be. Up north, people know how to drive in this weather. In Odessa, people just hole up as much as possible and wait till it passes.
I called Lubbock. They would be coming through there on the way home. The very patient and calm dispatcher took the description of the boys. Cody, 5’ 9” 129 pounds, red hair, green eyes, silverbelly hat, western shirt purple, teal, white, burgundy, rose southwest pattern cape style. Aaron, 5’6”, 135 pounds, dark blonde hair, blue eyes. Hawaiian pattern western shirt with big blue flowers.
Vehicle. “Not sure of the year model, but it’s old. The right door is blue, left door is silver, body is kind of red, but the right front fender is just primer. Oh, the left side of the bed is caved in and the tailgate is black, kind of. It’s pretty rusty.”
There was a pause on the end of the line. I gave him time to catch up writing down the description.
So I thought. He was actually calling some other officers to listen in.
“Anything else, ma’am?”
“Yes, he has some running lights under the running boards and some yellow lights across the top of the windshield.”
Snickering in the background.
“Anything else, ma’am?”
“Yes, he has a longhorn skull wired to the front grill of the pickup.” It was sort of like One Piece At A Time
Uncontrolled guffawing, not only in the background, but also from the dispatcher.
“I don’t really think this is funny. I have two boys out there who may be stranded in this storm.”
“Ma’am,” he paused. I was sure he was wiping the tears from his eyes and trying to control himself just a bit. “I assure you, if anyone had seen that pickup, we would all know about it.”
“Do you understand how concerned I am?”
“Yes, ma’am. I think we would have heard if there were an accident or this pickup was found, but I’ll call the other towns around here and ask.”
“Thank you.” True to his word, he called several little towns and gave them the description of the two lost cowboys and their…unusual pickup. No one had seen it.
Somewhere along midnight I got a call. Cody and Aaron stayed for the dance and were going to bunk with some friends since the roads were so bad.
Through clenched teeth I suggested they might have called earlier so I wouldn’t worry. “Every highway patrol from here to there is on the lookout for your truck.”
It wasn’t quite so cool the next day when they got stopped several times and told to call home. I’m not sure if the highway patrols were that dedicated or they just really wanted to see if this truck was for real.
Now you knew I was going to hook this into writing somehow, didn’t you?
I was watching a discussion on Twitter the other day and the people were discussing how to get noticed if you’re a new writer.
In rodeo, the only thing that matters is what you do in the arena. You have a few seconds to take home the money and maybe a buckle or walk away with nothing. It doesn’t matter what kind of rig you drove to the rodeo or what kind of clothes you wear as long as you meet the rules. They don’t care if your chaps cost $1,000 or your shirt is a designer original or a Salvation Army clearance.
The only thing that matters is performance.
So it goes with writing.
You can chum up with all the agents and editors on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter. You can stalk an agent at every single conference, workshop and public appearance they make. They don’t care if you hired Thomas Kincaid to do a cover for you. That might be especially frightening. The stalking part probably won’t impress them much either. They aren’t politicians or rock stars who live to be idolized.
You only have one thing they want…a great manuscript. They want a storyteller.
Go to the conferences to learn.
Go to retreats to get fired up and practice.
Go to workshops and hone your skills.
But, in the end, it boils down to one thing. Can you draw readers into your unique world and keep them spellbound?