I blogged about agents and horse sales a while ago and it got me to thinking about horses that have been special to me.

I’ve owned a lot of horses through the years, but there are some who have touched my heart deeply. Cowboy was one of them.

I went to the ranch to visit my mother and her new husband. They convinced me to stay and help since it was summer and they were busy with working cattle, fencing and farming. I agreed to stay for a couple of months since I had quit my job at the stockyards and hadn’t really looked for anything else.

One of my jobs at the ranch was to check the A.I. pasture. This is the pasture where we kept the cows that were going to be artificially inseminated. I got up in the morning long before dawn, fed the horses, grabbed a couple of biscuits and a glass of milk and then went to get a horse to go check cows.

Since the cows started going to the brush as soon as it got hot, I wanted to be at the pasture about sunup to check them. If one of them was coming in heat, I made a note of which one and left her until the next check. I checked twice a day so if they showed signs in the morning I left them until the night check to bring them in and vice versa. My step dad believed heat was contagious so he wanted to leave them there for a bit to trigger another cow who might be close to cycling.

On my way to the pasture I went past a hay pasture where Bud, my step dad, had three horses kicked out. One was a tall, Thoroughbred-looking sorrel horse and two of them were draft horses. The sorrel threw his head up and ran like a deer every time I got close. He was wilder than a march hare, but he always watched me.

I finally asked Bud about him and we made a deal. I would work on the ranch for six months for free in exchange for the horse.

We brought him in and put him in the hay corral behind the bunkhouse and my initial assessment of him was absolutely right. He was exactly like a deer or perhaps more like an antelope. He had an insatiable curiosity, but he was definitely wild. I went out every morning and fed him grain. During the day, when I wasn’t working, I took a book out to the corral and just sat down at the bottom of a haystack and read. Sometimes I read to him. He wouldn’t get close to me, but he watched. Eventually, curiosity overcame fear and he let me scratch him. Later, he could hear me when I first started stirring around in the morning and he nickered until I came out and fed him and brushed him. He loved to be brushed.

The horse I had been riding was lame one morning so I caught Cowboy and saddled him. He was a pure pleasure to ride. Yep, we were partners.

Bud asked me why I had ridden Cowboy when he saw me returning with some cows later. I told him Sonny was lame. He asked me if I had any problems. The truth outs. The reason Cowboy was in the pasture was they had tried to break him and had, but he had a very bad habit of waiting until the rider was not paying attention to him and dumping the rider. Bud and his brothers broke a lot of horses for ranchers all over that area when they were younger so they knew how to ride bad horses. Cowboy could be a rank bucking horse when he felt like it and he felt like it just about any time someone rode him.

He never bucked with me, but I did get to see him in action once when the Heeler bit him. Thankfully, I wasn’t on the horse because that sucker could kick a hole in the sky.

If I came in from riding and left him outside to go in the house, he reminded me if he thought I was staying too long. He came up in the garage and pawed at the screen door until I came out. One day Mother caught him trying to open the door with his teeth and screamed at me to go get my horse before he came in. Not that animals were banned from the house. Pail calves frequently came in looking for supper if Mother was late feeding them. We had a pet pig named Alvin who learned how to root against the bottom of the door just right to get it open. He then came in and crawled up in his rocking chair and rocked himself to sleep. But that’s another story. A 16 ½-hand horse in the house was not acceptable.

Cowboy was completely accepting of me. He liked it when I sang to him and I sang a lot while I was riding. He didn’t even mind me plunking on the guitar as I tried to teach myself how to play. He loved me to read to him. More than anything, he just loved being around me, nearly as much as I loved him.

I got a rodeo scholarship with Cowboy, since I had been training him to barrel race and I had been goat tying with him. If I could convince either of my parents to sign papers saying they would not be supporting me in college, I had grants and scholarships offered from two different schools.

I took Cowboy to a rodeo to give him some practice around crowds and we brought him home after the last performance. Bud was drunk, as usual, and insisted on unloading him even though I told him I would. He was in a hurry to get into the house and pass out, so he didn’t want me fooling around unloading the horse carefully in the dark. Bud ran him backwards and Cowboy stepped in a hole and broke his leg in two places. The horse was screaming. I was screaming and Bud kept waving his hat in the air because he thought Cowboy was just acting stupid.

We put him down the next day after the vet confirmed there was nothing that could be done.

I stayed the remainder of the six months and finished paying for my dead horse and then left.

So, what does this have to do with writing?

I said a while back I looked at the agent process akin to going to a horse sale. I still believe that is true. I believe it works the other way also. Jennifer Jackson blogged about what she looks for. It’s an intangible something that simply reaches out to her.

This intangible is why I am not worried about getting an agent. I believe with all my heart Paladin will reach out to the right agent. It will connect with them on some level and they will do an “aha!”

Will there be rejections? You bet. It’s part of the business. To me, it just means it wasn’t meant for that agent, not that I am a terrible writer.

(Yes, I will come back and edit this later. Have to go to work early today and all I really want to do is go back to bed.)


  1. Oh, man — what a heartbreaking story!

    And you’re right, even if we didn’t have the evidence of Paladin before us: we have the evidence of posts like this to assure us, yes, that you’ll find an agent who loves your work.

  2. I got a form rejection today, but I was actually relieved that it was from an agent I didn’t care too much about anyway. I’m with you. Hopefully an agent will connect with my writing, not just a marketable story.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. John, yes, I loved that horse with all my heart and I believe the feeling was mutual. I’ve heard some people say horses aren’t emotional, but they are dead wrong.

    I do believe I will find an agent if I put the work I need to into the book and get it polished correctly.

    Even so, I thank you for your kind thoughts.

  4. Jessica, I understand the dilemma. I used to think just get an agent even if they aren’t the right fit. It isn’t worth it.

    Stay true to yourself and your writing and find someone who loves your voice.

  5. What a story. What a horse.

    Everything we do makes us better writers. Every experience we have teaches us something if we’re smart enough to learn it. Cowboy will live in everything you write.

    Hugs from a fellow equestrian. Of course, that ranch stuff was not for me. I’m what is unfortunately known as a DQ. -grin- Haven’t ridden in years – not since my beloved dressage horse dropped dead of a ruptured stomach.

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