April 29, 2010

MAYBE YOU WEREN'T BORN 100 YEARS TOO LATE

Stephen Bly

A 10-year-old boy. Six old cowboys. A ’49 Plymouth with open trunk. And a lady in distress. Here’s the fixings for adventure in Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon in 1954 Albuquerque.

Little Brother listens to Old West tales and cowboy romps by his granddaddy and pals. They delight in this captive audience. Meanwhile, a drama brews in the lobby of the Old Matador Hotel that propels them into one last cowboy stand that includes Little Brother himself.

Told from the boy’s point-of-view, years later as an adult, he learned many lessons that rainy summer’s day. He gets a graduate degree in cowboy philosophy. The old cowboys range in age from 70s to 90s. The eldest was born during the Civil War. All of them rode the range from the late 1880s until the 1940s. They tell first-hand stories of what the West was truly like.They even knew the infamous Stuart Brannon, “the toughest sober man” who never flinched in a fierce gunfight.

Experienced cowboys can be highly skilled laborers. College degrees not required, but it took years to attain a level of crucial expertise to work cattle and read brands. Those qualities meant the difference between a cattleman’s profit and loss.

There’s no telling how many times these cowboys told their stories and they don’t tell them the same each time. That’s the beauty of oral history. It’s not a photograph of the past, but a monologue that’s sifted through the mind and heart of the one who lived it. A photo is static. A story’s alive, so you can experience it for yourself.

They’ve got no place to go, nothing to do. No motivation nudges them to tell a story quick. In fact, the longer the better. And there’s some sadness and a bit of regret with these men. Pop is the only one of the crew who married. They loved the life they lived, but paid a huge price for the freedom they enjoyed. They can’t help ponder at times what might have been.

By the time most cowboys realized that the independent life can get mighty lonely, it was too late. The companionship of a loving wife is life’s greatest blessing for any man. None of them planned to spend their last years in a downtown hotel. However, they find comfort and purpose in being together.

When the last of the old cowboys died, the Matador Hotel lost its reason for existence. You might say no building exists merely because of its tenants. Not so. If we no longer had presidents, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would just be a huge, ugly, white building that slowly decays. Yep, the cowboys brought meaning to the Matador.

Some say history is distorted in the minds of the teller. The stories are slanted, even fabricated, to portray the West as the author wants it remembered. The same critique could be used of modern historians. The difference? The old-timers were there. They lived it. The wildest thing many modern historians have done: order a triple-shot for their espressos.

For Granddaddy and his cowboy pals, History was real.
You could see it in their cowboy eyes.
You could hear it in their stories.
You could touch it when you brushed against their Colts or Winchesters, chaps or Stetsons.
You could taste history’s fine dust ever’ time a dirt devil swirled off the hills and down Central Avenue.
And on that day in 1954, I could smell history in the 2nd story hallway of the Matador Hotel.
from Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon

All history is filtered through the eyes of the beholder. That’s one of the joys of being a fiction writer. . .creating story through the lens of your own worldview. Every novelist does it.

Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon is a reminiscent account of real cowboy lives, much the same as Andy Adams’ book, The Log of a Cowboy, written in the early 1900s. Author’s suggestion: this book is best read aloud, as though around a campfire, by someone with the rhythm of the language. Then, the old men will start to feel like part of the family.

A 10-year-old boy in 1954 hears first-hand stories from the men who were there. Maybe it’s not that long ago when the West was wild.

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Order Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon (Center Point Publishers, hardback) from www.Amazon.com or www.BlyBooks.com or from your local public library.

A brand new blog to check out: “On A Western Trail” http://www.BlyBooks.blogspot.com/

Follow Stephen and Janet Bly on Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/BlyBooks

ENTER A COMMENT BELOW AND SATURDAY NIGHT WE'LL DRAW A WINNER FOR A FREE COPY OF COWBOY FOR A RAINY AFTERNOON (hardback, released June lst)....

25 comments:

I Love It !! Gifts & Home Decor said...

It's so true that "All history is filtered through the eyes of the beholder." Consider differing accounts of the same accident by many witnesses.

Consider also the books of the Bible, where some of the same stories are told by different authors; each with his own slant. Recollections brought on by his own memories of the circumstances, coupled with how his own individual history influences his take on what happened; the same story, yet different.

When you read them all, the same stories by different authors, it gives you a sense of having been there. You get a more complete and rounded view of what went on in the past.
~Kris

Molly Noble Bull said...

Interesting article, as always. I would like to win a book.
Molly
www dot mollynoblebull dot com

Duane said...

Better 100 years too late than 100 years too soon, as my mom always said I was!

Anonymous said...

very good story I like westerns
and would love to get this book
free

Jo Huddleston said...

interesting website. And Cowboy for A Rainy Afternoon sounds like a book I'd enjoy reading.
Jo
www dot johuddleston dot com
johudd@bellsouth.net

Heidiwriter said...

I love the cowboy/cowgirl legacy! And I enjoyed your comment"The wildest thing many modern historians have done: order a triple-shot for their espressos." Amen!

Heidi

David Meigs said...

As I read this, my thoughts kept turning to my grandpa (Pop). He was a real cowboy. Before Pop died in 1961 of TB, I used to love to sit by his bed and listen to his stories. He was born in 1883, in Oklahoma. He spent his whole life as a working cowboy, competing in rodeos, and worked with stock right up to the end of his life. Back then, if someone had a horse or cow that needed doctoring, they came to Pop instead of a veterinarian.
I hope Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon is a huge success. I know I look forward to reading it.

Happy trails. :-)

Stephen Bly said...

Molly: Thanks for the note. Got you in the drawing.
www.Blybooks.blogspot.com

MSGWife said...

As I read the blog I kept thinking how sad it is that there are stories that will never be told again by the cowboys that we idolize today. So many of these untold stories are gone and yet they should be told. I remember my Uncle Russ telling me how he used to cowboy in Colorado before WWll. He told me how he road the fence line and fixin' whatever needed to be fixed that day. He told me about his favorite horse, a bay gelding, and how well that horse worked cattle.

What really saddens me is how I listened so carefully to Uncle Russ's stories, I never even thought to write them down. Now I don't remember enough of them to get the information on paper. I just don't remember anymore. These stories of my Uncle Russ are lost forever. He didn't have any of his own kids, so there isn't a single soul who know of these stories.

I'm so glad that there are people like Stephen Bly who write down the stories of the old west. It may be fiction, but there's enough history in the lines to help us to know of the American West before it became what it is today.

Anonymous said...

When I was a young girl I had the dream life of riding and befriending horses. I always used to dream of being in the old west. Your stories send me back in time - like a young girl who gets to go back in old west time. Thanks! God has really blessed you with an amazing gift!
Betsy Hansen

Cindy W. said...

I have always been a fan of the Old West. When I lived in California I use to go to Knotts Berry Farm's Ghost Town and walk the streets with my imagination going crazy with 'what ifs?'. My favorite shows on TV were always the Westerns. Am I the only one who misses the Westerns on TV?

Please enter me in your giveaway. I would love to win your book.

Blessings,
Cindy W.

countrybear52[at]yahoo[dot]com

brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Great post! I have Andy Adams book. I bought it many years ago. It's wonderful.

EJ said...

I thot about my Grandpa as I read this - he started as a 16 year old rancher/cowboy in AZ when the State was new to the Union. He died when I was 8 yrs. old so I've had to learn many of his stories 2nd hand from my older cousins.

Stephen Bly said...

Thanks, everyone, for all your interesting notes. You're all in the drawing. Will pull a winner out of the hat sometime late Saturday.

Trinity Rose said...

Great book. Would love to read it. Please enter me.
Have a blessed day,
Trinity Rose

wandaelaine at gmail dot com

Janalyn Voigt (WaySinger) said...

What a picture you paint, Steve! I'd love to get to know these cowboys and their stories.

Another great Old West Hotel that's been in continuous service since it opened is the Wolf Hotel in Sarasota, Wyoming. Can you believe that, when I stayed there, the manager had to field complaints from other residents because there was no television and telephone? That's what I liked about it.

Liz's Random Thoughts said...

Sounds like a great book!:) Can't wait till I am able to read it...

Anonymous said...

Love this line: That’s the beauty of oral history. It’s not a photograph of the past, but a monologue that’s sifted through the mind and heart of the one who lived it. A photo is static. A story’s alive, so you can experience it for yourself.

A good novel should be like that, and I'm sure yours is. Would love to win a copy!

Danie Marie said...

Love the line: That’s the beauty of oral history. It’s not a photograph of the past, but a monologue that’s sifted through the mind and heart of the one who lived it. A photo is static. A story’s alive, so you can experience it for yourself.

A good novel reads that way, which I'm sure yours does. Would love to win a copy!

BookJunkee00 said...

Sounds Like a Great Book To Read :)

Katherine said...

I stopped reading your books when I came down sick with lyme disease in 2001. Don't know if I won a copy if I could read it now. But, looking forward to when my reading skills return and I am able to read your books again. I have a lot of catching up to do. :)

csthankful said...

All of these posts remind me that we all have stories to share amd memories to not let get lost. We may not all be writers like Steve and Janet, but we can talk and share all the of our past so it doesn't get lost when we are gone. Blessings, Connie Sue

Stephen Bly said...

We did the drawing for the free book...and the winner is: MOLLY NOBLE BULL. Send us your mailing address, Molly, and you'll get a copy of Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon as soon as it's released (about June 1st).
On the trail,
Steve
stephenandjanetbly(at)connectwireless(dot)us

csthankful said...

Congratulations Molly. I know everyone who posted would have loved to win....so all of us will buy a copy and all will enjoy reading the book! Blessings, Connie Sue

Deb said...

Really interesting post! Thank you.