Day Three – Friends & Ranching

One of my friends pointed out that blogging exclusively about publishing might bore him.  Let it not be said I do not listen to my friends.  Therefore, Jack, this blog is for you.

I believe I mentioned previously that I am writing my novels about a ranching family in West Texas.  What do I know about ranching?  A bit.  I know there are cows, calves, heifers, steers, bulls, horses and depending on the rancher, dogs.  Every rancher seems to have a different month of the year they like the calves to drop in, but it is mainly springtime.  Any calf dropping in July or later is a late season calf, and there are major issues to watch for.  Every single year some factory (cow) decides that they don’t want to be bothered with a calf, causing a rancher to raise the calf by hand.  Come fall, you have a lot of mad cows as you cut the calves and cows.  Oh, and if you are my father-in-law (who is not a rancher) you use a temporary corral that can easily be broken out of and start a stampede.

I know ranches out here in the west are large.  I know that they are in the middle of nowhere, and close to town.  Ranchers are easily distinguished from farmers.  Farmers are talking about rain and crops.  Ranchers are talking about rain, crops and calves.  Ranchers seem to be less likely to wear overalls.  They wear boots of all different types.  The lines around their eyes show the stress and joy they’ve lived.

I know that supposedly at the La Junta, Colorado auction house black steers with white faces sell better than anything else.  Once more, that information is from my non-rancher father-in-law.  I know my father-in-law insists on calling his place a ranch.  I’ll give him that they run cattle.  Last I checked, the cattle operation was significantly less than the farming operation.  So, anything I say is advice from my father-in-law is advice from a man who makes his living on a John Deere tractor, not an ATV or horse working cattle.

Obviously, I have little to no idea what I am talking about when it comes to ranching.  I mean, there’s Holsteins, Brahma, the mixed breeds most of the West does, Longhorns, Limousines (which are not a vehicle), and a ton more.  Don’t forget to add buffalo to the ranching breeds now.  Ranching is not easy.  Riding the rodeo circuit is not easy.  Farming is not easy.

Oh, and while I listen to Western Underground, my husband has found what I like to term “Farmer’s Underground”, that doesn’t mean I have a clue what I am talking about.  Our playlists are crazy.  Mine is Don Edwards, Wattie Mitchell, Chris LeDoux, Michael Martin Murphey add some Shooter Jennings and Lynard Skynard and I am happy.  (Alright, throw in some Jessie James, Clint Black, Brooks & Dunn, Montgomery Gentry, Josh Abbott Band, Eric Church, Merle Haggard, Waylon, Willie and Johnny Cash, and some Kris Kristofferson and I will be happy.)  My husband has Chris LeDoux, JP Riemens & The Barflies and Joe Walsh.  (Yes, I made a Chris LeDoux lover of my husband.)  Oh, and some oldies.  We both like the classics; Bach & Beethoven.

The funny thing is that unlike the Luke Bryan song “Rain is a Good Thing”, rain is not always a good thing to a farmer or rancher.  I know this because rain is the main topic discussed anywhere in a small town.  Back in Lamar there is “The Horseshoe of Wisdom”.  If you’re from a small town you will recognize what The Horseshoe of Wisdom is.  It is not an actual horseshoe that you pick up and are suddenly knowledgeable.  At the truck stop on the edge of town the section by the short order cook area looks like a horseshoe.  All of the old guys gather there in the morning.  And yes, I mean old.  These are the farmers and ranchers who have sons who have sons farming.  If you sit at The Horseshoe of Wisdom you quickly learn rain is a daily topic.  It either needs to rain or needs to quit raining.  This talk is not limited to just The Horseshoe of Wisdom.  Go over to BJ’s at lunch or around midafternoon when the guys are coming in to town to run errands and you hear the same talk.  And, if your friends are anything like my friends (Howdy Leslie) all you talk about some days is the lack of rain or too much rain.  If it doesn’t rain at the right time the crop dies.  If it rains at the wrong time you can’t harvest.  Rain=moisture.  Moisture=mold.  Mold=spoiled grain/hay/cotton/nuts.  Now, you’d think this doesn’t matter to our friendly rancher.  After all, who cares if the farmer brings in that milo or hay?  Except, that milo and hay is food for horses and cattle.  If the crop is bad, the price of feed goes up.  Everyone, I don’t care who you are, has to have winter feed in the West.  Down in West Texas you are worried about not having enough vegetation to feed your herd.  From about Albuquerque up through Canada one blizzard without feed will ruin you.

Ranchers and farmers are a tough lot.  They seem to rarely ask for help.  I know this because I don’t think I’ve seen my Texan father or my father-in-law ever ask for help.  But, if you need something, they will give you the shirt off their backs without it looking like a handout.  Some of my best friends have come from country backgrounds.  Actually, most of my best friends have.  Some of the hardest workers I know have been country.  It was these qualities I based the characters in my book off.  I tried to give them the best – and the worse – qualities in my closest friends, family and me.

So, there you go, Jack.  A post not on my attempts to find a publisher.  I try to please.  Okay, only every now and then and only for certain people.

A quick update on where I am with finding an agent: I am still waiting to hear back from the first agent I queried.  I doubt I will, since I sent a horrible letter.  That’s why I bought a book on how to query an agent.

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As always, thanks for reading and coming on this journey with me.

-Amanda Nicole


3 thoughts on “Day Three – Friends & Ranching

  1. Well if you don’t ever hear back from the first publisher, then there is always a second try. As I was always told, “If at first you don’t succeed, then try, try, try again, til you do succeed. Great information.

    • Oh, I’ve got the next query letter and summary sitting in my bookcase/file case waiting to be sent out Monday. Thanks for the vote of confidence. I’m hoping that now that I have cleaned up my query letter I get a better response.

      • I never knew you knew so much about cows! You will hear from an agent this I know.

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