Tuesday, April 29, 2014

a cowboy for a boyfriend-- or not?

Luck of the Draw is a story about the rodeo world that began so long ago I barely know why I wrote it. The first version was written when I was not much older than the twenty-one year old heroine. 

When I began bringing out the stories, which I'd written through the years, it was the only one that never made it onto a computer. It was in a box shoved under my bed. Unsure what I'd do with it, I pulled it out and scanned the pages. 


I am a much better writer today than when I originally wrote it, but the bones of the plot seemed solid. It was set during the Pendleton Roundup in 1974. Some of the books I wrote way back, I opted to bring up to date. 

I considered doing that but frankly I'd have had to totally research it again for how much rodeo changed in those forty years. I realized something more important. This is a coming of age story about two people, a nation and the rodeo world. It needed to stay 1974.

This was a time of change in our nation. The Vietnam War was winding down with Americans asking themselves what that had been about. So I brought the war into it along with a time of transition for rodeo. It was when the first athletic cowboys were coming into the rodeo world that had been kind of wild and woolly. They brought in a new ethos of training and not living only for the moment. This story gave me a chance to show both sides of that. 

Also my heroine had less going on in her life in the rough draft in that box. She needed to be looking for a purpose too. The hero and heroine could show two different ways of approaching life problems which made for an interesting rewrite. I like when philosophy can be in a story but subtly, of course, not like a lecture.

Snippet from Luck of the Draw:

After a breakfast she barely remembered tasting, Sara went out to her studio, determined to paint and not let upset over how it had ended with Billy ruin her day. She had arranged to have the day off from her father and was keeping that even though she would not be going to the rodeo. Definitely not. With so few customers he didn’t need her help and said he might even close early himself. She would make the most of her day with oils. She had done a few sketches which might work into something.

Mumbling to herself about irritating cowboys, she put a canvas on the easel, chose a few colors to start and began working with the brush but with no plan for her subject. Usually she had an idea or even a firm sketch but this was freewheeling with colors.

“How are you, honey?” her mother asked, knocking on the open doorjamb.

“Good.” She hoped she wasn’t letting her irritation at Billy show up in her tone of voice.

“May I come in?”
“Of course. I’m always happy when you come out here.” She put down her brush and turned to face her mother. This would be a good time to discuss something important.
“I wondered how last night had gone. You didn’t seem to want to talk after you got home. Was something wrong?”
“No problem. I was just tired, but I did have something I wanted to tell you.”
“About that young man?”
“No, about me. I need to move out.”
Her mother moved to a chair and sat down, her expression looking concerned. “I thought you were happy living with us, the studio, all of it. You can save your salary this way for the future. I...” Obviously this wasn’t what her mother wanted to hear. “Have we done something?”
“It’s not about you. It’s about me. I need to get out of the nest, get a little apartment.”
“Not to live with him, I hope?”
“Mother! I barely know him. No, this isn’t about him. It’s about me.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Are you familiar with the writer Henry Miller?”
“This seems a bit of a distraction; but yes, he’s the one who wrote Tropic of something or other, that obscene book.”
“Well he wrote other things. A few years ago I wrote down something of his but didn’t quite understand it. Last night I went digging to find it. I brought it out with me to tape to my easel.
She handed it to her mother, who read it aloud. “The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.” She stared at the paper a moment. “I don’t get it. Drunkenly? What does that mean? This is kind of a lot all at once, dear. You want more freedom, is that it? You can have that here.”
“Mom, I didn’t get it either about that part and I don’t think it means you have to be drunk but just live without the fear of doing the wrong thing and then not living at all.”
“And that requires moving out?”
“I think it does. It’s time for me to be building my own life, be responsible for myself. It’s not just about freedom as such. It’s about the next step in life. Fledglings have to leave the nest, you know.”
Her mother sighed. “Perhaps you can think about it?”
“I have thought about it.”
“For a long time?”
“Not so long but from the time I did, I knew it was what I had to do.”
“Was this his idea?”
“This isn’t about him.”
“Oh well, if it’s what you must, we will, of course, support you in any decision you make.” She sighed and looked at her wristwatch. “I wish I had more time to talk about this, but I promised to meet some friends for lunch—on the other side of town to avoid the noise of the rodeo and all. Want to join us?”
Her mother was a practical minded woman, and Sara appreciated that more than ever right now. It would be okay with her and her parents and maybe better once she was out than it had been. “I appreciate the offer but need to work on this painting.”
Her mother looked around the studio but didn’t say anything about the canvases against the walls. Sara had never asked her what she thought of her work because she had been afraid what she’d hear. Her mother helped other artists get started but hadn’t seemed to have much interest in Sara’s work.
Finally she could stand it no longer. “See anything you like?” she asked.
Her mother turned to look at Sara. “What do you mean?”
“Do you like any of the paintings? Any at all?”
“Well they’re fine, dear.” Her tone said she was not taking a risk to go further in her analysis.
“I won’t get angry. Just what do you think? Am I really a bad painter, Mom, or is it you just don’t want me to be one?”
Her mother started for the door. “I am sorry I don’t have time for this conversation now. We can discuss it tonight.”
“I might be out tonight. Don’t worry if it’s late.” She didn’t know why she said that. She was not going to the rodeo. She would not see him. Except…
“You have a date with him?” The emphasis on him said it all.
“Nothing definite, but I do have other friends in town, you know. Just don’t wait up if I am out when you come home. I am twenty-one. I will use good judgment regarding what I do.”
Her mother sucked in a breath and left without answering.  This was pretty typical for how their conversations had always gone. No direct confrontations. Well that was good as far as Sara was concerned for now. She finally saw at least one direction for herself, and so long as her parents didn’t try to block her, she could handle not having their approval right now. She felt she would get it eventually if she proved she was right.
She set about getting the colors she wanted. She would paint and that was what she knew. The rest, well that was the iffy part. She’d start looking for a small studio apartment as soon as the rodeo was over. She would not go to the rodeo. She would stay away from Billy Stempleton. She was totally certain about the last. If she saw him again, he’d change her life, upset her shaky handle on her plans. She didn’t want that… or did she?
 


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