Please welcome guest author Andrea Downing to my blog!!
EIGHT SECONDS OF GLORY
Rodeo revolves around several events that are timed at eight seconds. Why eight seconds?
Brought by Spaniard colonists to what is now the southwest and California, rodeo originally referred to what we presently call ‘round-up’—the gathering and sorting of cattle. But at those gatherings, cowboys did compete—show off might be a better expression. The term ‘rodeo’ itself did not have its current meaning until as late as 1929. Prior to that, cowboy sports were not standardized, and gatherings of cowboys to compete had names like ‘Frontier Days’ or ‘Stampede’ or even plain ol’ ‘Cowboy Contests.’ Those contests included trick roping, trick riding, and racing, but one of the feats displayed at the round-ups was breaking a bronco—a wild horse.
A bronco will buck hard for about eight seconds; after that, its adrenaline decreases, and it becomes winded. A rider showing his skill would have ridden that animal to the ‘breaking point,’ hence broke the horse. To ensure that the bronco continues to buck at reasonable speed and height at the next arena, the first organization to set standards—the Cowboy Turtle Association (because they were slow to organize and stuck their necks out to do so)—set bronc riding in competition at eight seconds. This keeps the stock from being stressed and enables them to be spirited and in condition to compete. Obviously, stock growers don’t want their competition animals to become tame.
Today, in the rodeo event of bareback bronc riding, both the rider and the horse are judged. The rider stays on by holding his rigging with one hand only—this looks like a suitcase handle on a broad leather cinch. There is also a flank strap, which encourages the horse to kick out straight and wide. This strap is not painful to the animal and, indeed, is covered in sheepskin or neoprene to protect his body. The rider’s free hand may not touch either the horse or himself. As the bronc and cowboy fly out of the chute, the cowboy’s spurs must be touching the horse’s shoulders until the horse’s feet touch the ground after the first move. This is called ‘marking out,’ and if the cowboy fails to do this, he is disqualified. The rider earns his points by upper body control and moving his feet, toes turned out, in a rhythmic motion of spurring the horse and straightening again in readiness for the next buck. He pulls his knees up, rolling his spurs up the horse’s shoulders, and then returns them for that next jump.
Bareback bronc riding takes an immense toll on a cowboy’s body, and the men suffer many injuries and long-term damage. The swift action and turns of the animal stretch muscles, pull and pound joints, and strain and yank ligaments. It may be one helluva way to make a living, but it sure is exciting entertainment. And a bareback bronc rider makes for an excellent romantic hero….
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CITY BOY, COUNTRY HEART by Andrea Downing
Trading horses for subways for two years seemed like a good idea to cowboy Chay Ridgway, but can city girl K.C. Daniels keep a rein on his country heart?
Late that night, with the bedroom door locked against whatever demons might lurk outside, exhausted from another bad night of serving to taxing patrons, Chay pulled the covers up and mustered K.C. into his arms.
“Adnan’s leaving. Going back to Pakistan at the end of this semester.”
“I know.” K.C. peered up into Chay’s face, assessing him.
“You knew? How long? Why didn’t you tell me?”
She shuffled to sit up, releasing herself from his embrace to face him. “I thought you knew, of course. When you didn’t say anything I just assumed….”
“What? What did you assume?” Anger rose like bile in Chay as he whipped around to face her.
“Why are you so angry? I assumed you knew, is all. You seem to see more of him than I do. I sometimes pass him on the street on campus and stuff, but you run with him and see him more socially than I.”
“When did he tell you?”
“Geesh, Chay, don’t bust a gut over it. Yesterday, I think. Am I supposed to tell you everything the minute I hear? You were still steaming over the meal with my parents and I was just trying to sidestep anything that would further upset you. You came home from work in a mood—”
“I didn’t come home from work in a mood.”
“Well, you’re certainly in one now.”
They stared at each other, Chay trying to feel less like his blood was boiling, but it wasn’t working. Without prompting, he blurted out, “And I’m not taking that damn high school test. It’s idiotic, a waste of my time—”
“A waste of your time? Why? Because you prefer going to the gym and running and heading to museums and reading?”
“What the hell is the matter with that? It’s more educational than those stupid questions.” He jumped out of bed and grabbed one of the books in a pile in the corner. Flicking through the pages, he found a sample to give her. “Here, look at this. Look at this crap, K.C. Do you think this is the sort of thing that can hold my interest? That I’m happy doing?”
She flicked a quick glance over the question about basketball players. “It wasn’t supposed to make you happy, Chay. The idea was to give you a high school diploma so you could—”
“Yeah, yeah, so I could go on to college. I’m not going to college, K.C. Once and for all, now hear this….” He put his hands to his mouth as if it were a megaphone. “I, Chay Ridgway, am not going to college.”
“Don’t be an idiot, Chay; at some point you’ll want this and you’ll be sorry if you don’t finish.”
“The only thing I’m going to be sorry about….”
But he left the sentence unfinished, slipped back into bed, and stared at the ceiling.
K.C. rested on one elbow staring at him for a time before she, too, lay down.
Then he rolled to his side to face her and gathered her back into his arms. They had enough to deal with, and he didn’t want the tensions escalating.
If he could help it.
A native New Yorker, Andrea Downing currently divides her time between the canyons of city streets and the wide-open spaces of Wyoming. Her background in publishing and English Language teaching has transferred into fiction writing, and her love of horses, ranches, rodeo, and just about anything else western, is reflected in her award-winning historical and contemporary western romances.
She has been a finalist in the RONE Awards for Best American Historical Romance twice, placed in the International Digital Awards twice, and won ‘Favorite Hero’ along with Honorable Mentions for Favorite Heroine, Short Story and Novel in the Maple Leaf Awards. Her book, Dearest Darling, has also won The Golden Quill Award for Best Novella and been on the short list for winning The Chanticleer Award for Best Short or Novella.
You can find Andrea at