MY PERSONAL WEST
JACQUIE ROGERSSix-Gun Justice asked a posse of contemporary western scribes why it is they write about The West, and what qualities of history, culture, or geography inspire them to spin yarns set west of the 100th meridian.
Jacquie Rogers lives in the Seattle suburbs with her husband, who is more easily herded than her cat, which isn't saying much. She's a former programmer, deli clerk, campaign manager, and readaholic. She writes historical and contemporary western romance. Here is her answer...
******So many people and events shape our lives. Sometimes its hard to put my finger on why some things interest me and some things just don't. The Old West doesn't just interest me, it fascinates me. I'm a bit obsessed, actually.
To harken back (ahem, mumble-mumble) years to my childhood in Owyhee County, Idaho, where it was (and still is) a wonderful place for a kid to grow up. My parents owned a farm. We milked around 150 head of Holsteins and grew wheat, barley, sugar beets, silage corn, and alfalfa. I had a magic magnifying mind right from the get-go. Why couldn't we live on a ranch? Why couldn't we have spring roundups?
Ah, I wanted a horse in the worst way. Finally, the Christmas when I was six, my dad bought me a Shetland pony. Before that, I thought he loved me, but giving me a horse possessed of the very devil, well, I had my doubts. The pony's name was Smokey. He was what they call a proud gelding, a condition where the castration gets rid of all the baby-makins, but not the hormone factory.
You make the best of things, though, and Smokey grudgingly trudged all over every inch of Graveyard Point, a hill about a mile and a half from our place. My riding partner was my step-aunt (only two years older than me), and what a sight we made when she rode her thoroughbred named I-Pass with Smokey trotting along behind, me pulling leather. You see, Smokey was so fat the saddle, no matter how tightly cinched, rolled from side to side about 30º each way. It was all I could do to stay upright.
Smokey and I did have a few adventure. One time, the danged cows had wandered clear to the other end of the dairy herds pasture, which was a half mile long, right about milking time. It was my job to fetch them. I was probably about eight years old, when one day, I got this bright idea to drive them in on my trusty steed. I would be riding on the range just like my cousins. So I saddled up Smokey, and away we went
Two things: 1) The pasture was fenced with barbed wire (pronounced bob war) and it was electric; and 2) The pasture was being irrigated that day.
Those Holsteins simply werent impressed with Smokey and me. I yipped and hollered. I waved my rope. I rode Smokey right up, head to head. Not really, because those cows stood about a foot taller than my pony. Speaking of heads, not a one of them even raised her head. They just kept chomping along, ignoring us.
Back at the barn, Dad, helpful man that he was, saw my horse and I were having some difficulty, so he cupped his hands around his mouth and bellowed, sboss! Right then those evil cows finally stopped grazing, because they now knew it was dinner time, and they took off for the barn.
This was good, except by then, I'd given up and was riding back to the barn. When you see 150 critters bigger than you and the horse, it strikes fear in an eight-year-old's heart. I kicked old Smokey into a trot (easier said than done), but for some reason, those stupid cows started chasing my stupid horse. Smokey picked up to a gallop (probably the first time ever), tossing me from side to side on his roly-poly hide. He took off for the fence, running along it as fast as his stubby legs would go.
Remember that barbed wire? Just as Smokey got there, splashing water six feet in the air and soaking us both, the saddle slipped toward the fence side. I knew I was gonna die.
Smokey galloped along the fence about a sixteenth of an inch away. I was about to be cut to ribbons and electrocuted to boot. I had to fling my left leg over to the right and ride sidesaddle. Then the saddle slipped some more, racing by the sharp barbs about an inch from my nose.
I finally made it to the barn, the pony's sides heaving, me in dire need of a stiff shot of Jack Daniels. Dad laughed so hard, his eyes were teary. Smokey and I had failed Cowpunching 101.