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5 Unforgettable Rodeo Heroes by Joanne Kennedy
I love writing about rodeo. The excitement and adrenaline of this all-American sport provide the perfect place for love to grow and flourish—if the strong-willed cowboys and cowgirls are willing to give it a chance. I never tire of the bulls and the broncs, the cowboys in their chaps and spurs, or the contrast between the bright lights and glittering rodeo queens and the down-and-dirty contest between man and beast.
My newest romance, How to Kiss a Cowboy, features bronc buster Brady Caine, a charismatic cowboy whose carefree life is changed forever by a night of unexpected passion with barrel racer Suze Carlyle. Brady is charming, strong, and determined—the traits found in many rodeo heroes. Below is a list of real life people who demonstrated the courage and spirit that defines rodeo. Every one of them proves you can change the world from the back of a bucking horse or bull.
1. Native American Jackson Sundown’s third-place finish in the saddle bronc finals at the 1911 Pendleton Roundup sparked a controversy that continues to this day. He was persuaded to try again in 1916, and won the all-around aboard a twisting, leaping bronc named Angel. His striking appearance and wild riding style made him a symbol of courage and determination.
2. Lane Frost is a legend in my hometown of Cheyenne. He’s honored by a larger-than-life statue outside the rodeo grounds, and his tragic death in the arena at our Frontier Days Rodeo is a haunting memory for those who witnessed it. His life story was told in the movie 8 Seconds, but his most enduring legacy may be the many lives he saved by inspiring the almost universal adoption of protective vests for rodeo cowboys.
3. Chris LeDoux sings about rodeo from the perspective of a true champion. He started out selling albums from the back of his pickup to pay his expenses at small-town rodeos, but in 1976 he won the World Bareback Riding Championship. Luckily for us, he retired a few years later to make music his life. He died far too young, but left a legacy of songs that include Whatcha Gonna Do with a Cowboy, Hooked on an 8-Second Ride, and my all-time favorite toe-tapping rodeo song, Cadillac Cowboy.
4. Freckles Brown’s 1967 spin on Tornado is possibly the most famous eight seconds in rodeo history. What made the ride unique was the fact that the quiet, unassuming Brown was 46 years old the day he rode the bull to the buzzer. Tornado had thrown over 200 cowboys, but Brown proved that age is just a number if you have the grit, determination, and skill to ride like a champion.
(For Suze’s sake, we had to throw a cowgirl into the mix. So here’s a rodeo heroine for you!)
5. Fannie Sperry Steele was one of the few women of her time to ride bucking horses without the stirrups tied up under their bellies. She won the world championship for women’s bronc riding in 1912, but achieved true fame with her successful ride on Red Wing, a notoriously rank bronc who had stomped a cowboy to death only days before. Steele rode in exhibitions well into her fifties, and finally retired from riding at the age of 87.
Who are your rodeo heroes or heroines, and why?
Series: Cowboys of Decker Ranch #2
Page Count: 480 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca (February 3, 2015)
Between rodeo wins and endorsement deals, Saddle Bronc Champion Brady Caine is living a charmed life. But when he causes an accident that could end a promising barrel racer’s career, he decides that he’s done with loose women and wild rides. All he wants to do is erase his mistake by getting Suze Carlyle back in the saddle.
The last person barrel racer Suze wants to see on her doorstep is the man who ended her rodeo career, but she can’t help admire Brady’s persistence. Sparks fly between them, but when her barn is sabotaged she wonders if he’s really the straight shooter he seems to be…
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