With: Leslie P. Garcia
On Christmas and Easter mornings, long before I could read, I would slip downstairs in the silence and sit looking at the respective treasures as long as I could before I rushed them, digging through my stocking or looking through my basket to find what I most wanted—cowboys.
Well, okay, that’s not exactly true. What I most wanted were a cowboy’s tools—more precisely—horses. Models or cheap plastic replicas, I’d dig through, finding as many as I could. And almost always, my stocking or basket, which we never saw in advance, could be identified by the coloring book sticking out—Roy Rogers and Trigger. The Lone Ranger and Silver, Jim and Fury. Jim might not have been a cowboy, but he had a wild black stallion, so he passed that all-important test: horsemen with iron-clad codes of conduct, cute (lucky) kids, and usually—good looks. The good looks were, at that time, the least important of all considerations.
Our only close neighbors in that rural town were a couple of good-old-boys to be, the Hester twins. In blue jeans and white tee-shirts, I never had a lot of interest in them, and they weren’t particularly adventurous, but they’d watch my sister and I gallop around trying to rope the family cows and pretend they thought cowboys were cool, too. Much later, we figured out we might have held the twins interest a little more if we let them be the cowboys and we were dance hall girls, but, oh well.
Ironically, a move to Texas trampled my love affair with cowboys. Tough teenage years, a job on a dude ranch that got me disowned, and bills, children, and the years can make you discard everything you believe are just silly childhood passions.
Childhood passions like writing. About cowboys. No mattered how hard I tried, from the novel I wrote for John Wayne and Dean Martin during chemistry class to the story I started about star-crossed lovers gunned down by vigilantes on an international bridge, my stories had horses. And cowboys.
Mind you, the first real cowboy I ever met, Noe, wouldn’t have appeared on the cover of today’s cowboy stories. He dressed in a snap-front checkered shirts with holes in the elbows, wore jeans, boots, and a hat, and wrangled dudes—because, as he told me, ranches and cowboys were disappearing and he didn’t want to be anything but a cowboy. Quiet and bone thin, but strong enough to move hay, control 20 horses at feeding time, and boost hefty tourists into saddles, he inspired confidence. He tipped his hat, and he was unfailingly polite, even to guests I would have loved seen thrown over the corral fence into the pig’s pen.
He was a cowboy.
And there are other cowboys out there, more mechanized, perhaps, than before—but still bound to horses, to a sense of chivalry evolved, I like to think, from medieval knights, and still working livestock, breaking horses, dancing across wooden floors in honkytonks. Still igniting young girls’ dreams and the passions of women who find them irresistible.
Recently, watching The Mask of Zorro, it occurred to me that part of our fascination with cowboys is that while they might share certain values, like independence and honesty, one of the attractions is diversity among cowboys. Jesse James, who fascinated me through much of my childhood? A cowboy gone wrong. Zorro, the legend, a cowboy masquerading as a folk hero disguising himself as a rich man. But a cowboy.
While Noe remains in my mind an unshakably good, and truly a cowboy, he never made a Hollywood blockbuster, won a rodeo buckle, or appeared in boots and chaps on someone’s romance novel. What he, and other working cowboys do, is give us the reality of the cowboy presence in the world. As ranches (and horses) have dwindled in many areas, you might find a cowboy strolling in a New York park, or disguised as a firefighter, or a law enforcement officer, greeting you with a tip of a hat or cap, then rushing out to rescue a cat or a child, or face down a corrupt city government. Not all cowboys understand why they behave as they do, they just have to, which is what separates real cowboys from the fictional cowboy?
Body parts, mainly. Those bare torsos that make you stop and stare. A body photographed from the chest down dressed only in chaps and boots. Hats in all the right places. And like their real counterparts, these perfect cowboys in all their glory are essential to the survival of the species. Because somehow along the way from children to adult readers, we found that horses are beautiful, but we’re a lot more interested in the men who still ride them. The books we read refuel our dreams, keep the respect and passion for the cowboy life alive, and encourage our sons and daughters to value the ideas of integrity, compassion, hard work and resilience. But you might not buy a book with Noe on the cover and rekindle your dreams of a cowboy connection. That’s what covers are for.
To find your cowboy, please check out the Crimson Romance Crazy for Cowboys Bundle and Cowboy Up, a collection of cowboy novellas, both releasing on September 8th—and guaranteed to be way more than 8 second rides! Tim McGraw sings about “the cowboy in us all”—what would you like to share about your cowboy connection?
***Leslie loves hearing from readers. Please visit Return to Rio for updates, guest author appearances, and a good time!
Leslie will be giving away 1 digital copy each of Wildflower Redemption and His Temporary Wife to two lucky winners leaving a comment or email entry.
Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Sept. 5th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email maureen@JustContemporaryRomance.com with a subject title of JCR GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.