Celebrating a Cowboy’s Birthday

Dad, Grandma & Grandpa

Dad, Grandma & Grandpa

My dad, Don Neil Gasser, was born November 9, 1924. He would’ve been 89 today.

He grew up in the Cut Bank/Sunburst area in Montana (often known nationally as the coldest spot in the nation in the winter). His mother, my grandmother, was the rodeo-riding cowgirl I’ve written about in my novels Cowgirl Dreams, Follow the Dream, and the newest, Dare to Dream, scheduled to be released May 6, 2014.

Dad was an only child and the little family moved many times over the years, following the grass for their Percheron crossbred herd. He was six years old when they trailed 100 head of horses from Cut Bank to Salmon Idaho in the early 1930s to find grass, after drought and grasshoppers left Montana tabletop bare. He remembered that adventure vividly and that became one of the pivotal events in Follow the Dream.

I remember my 6’4″ dad as a quiet, soft-spoken man, an avid reader and student, although he

Dad & I in his rebuilt Model T

Dad & I in his rebuilt Model T

never attended college. He taught himself to read at least three languages, memorized passages of the Bible while driving tractor, and passed on the love of books and music to me and my brother Mark. Dad was, out of necessity, an inventor, a mechanic, a veterinarian for his own and neighbors’ cows. Anything that needed done, my dad could do. And he was a real cowboy–when he was astride his horse, he rode so smoothly you could hardly tell where the man ended and the horse began.

Dad passed away in 2003,  much-loved and well-respected by all who knew him. Happy Birthday, Dad!

Cowboy Wisdom for Today

I am sharing these pearls of cowboy wisdom, courtesy of fellow western author, Ron Scheer, who blogs at Buddies in the Saddle and The Real West

  • Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.
  • Don’t expect mules and cooks to share your sense of humor.
  • Your buckle don’t shine in the dirt. Get up.
  • Don’t let your yearnings get ahead of your earnings.
  • Don’t wake a sleepin’ rattler.
  • Ride it like you stole it.
  • Size does matter. The bigger your buckle the better.
  • Cattle know why they stampede, but they ain’t a-talkin’.
  • The fastest way to move cattle is slowly.
  • If you’re gonna drive cattle thru town, do it on Sunday. There’s little traffic and people are less disposed to cuss at ya.
  • A hat brim breaks a spider web before your face does.
  • When somebody outdraws you, smile and walk away. There’s plenty of time to look tough when you’re out of sight.
  • Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction.
  • You cannot unsay a cruel word.
Published in: on December 15, 2011 at 1:13 am  Comments (1)  
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Rope Your Dream

My guest today is Monte Alkire, author of the inspirational book, Rope Your Dream, which I enjoyed reading very much. I think this book is an excellent basic blueprint for anyone who is looking to define a goal and pursue a dream.

The back cover synopsis describes the book well: “Success is up to the individual. No one cares whether we succeed or fail; it’s up to us. Each individual defines success for himself or herself. Don’t let others influence your opinion of your success. You know what you want, you set the goal, and you assess the results….This is a story about passion and love for the game—in this case the sport is team roping, but the message and missions are universal…”

Welcome, Monte. Tell us how the idea for this book came about.

The book is a direct byproduct of learning to rope. I discovered that I had to learn the technical aspects of roping as well as how to compete. I greatly underestimated the time and effort to accomplish my goals. As I struggled I began to read and study everything I could get my hands on about accomplishing goals and competing. I was especially interested in professional athletes and very successful business people. I started clipping and keeping articles and making notes on 3X5 cards. I kept these cards in my truck and would review them preparing for competition. Often my traveling partner and I would be discussing a topic on the way to a roping or rodeo and I would say:  “Dig out the stack of cards, look for the one on … (“obstacles,” for example), does that help”?  Eventually I had over 125 cards and they were unwieldy. Someone said, “You should put this in a book.” I scoffed at the idea at the time, but eventually, that is how I got the book started.

What made you decide to take up team roping in your mid-fifties?

I wanted to rope all my life. I got my first horse when I was five, a Welch pony.  I cannot remember any time when I did not want to learn to rope. Other normal priorities kept it on the back burner… there were few cowboys in Michigan where I grew up. Then there was college, marriage, children, Army, children, job, children, college for children, job and so on. Finally, my wife and I were home alone. I met a new friend with an arena, some steers and no roping partner. I was off and running.

How did you overcome your age and lack of experience to become a top hand?

In a word: Work! I am not yet a top hand, still hope to be one some day.  My goal to this day is to become the best cowboy I possibly can with the time I have available. For my roping, I study, practice, get professional help, practice, set goals, practice, ride my horses, practice develop my horse’s skills, practice, and constantly look for new approaches to learn.

Have you always been a writer?

No, Heidi, I have not always been a writer. I took the required English courses in school and college and that was about the extent of it. My strengths were math and science so the writing was a challenge. I wrote the book over a period of five years, much of it trying to condense and simplify what I had to say. A wonderful editor cleaned it up for me and did not modify one thought.

What in your background prepared you for your career as a roper and then later as an author?

I always wanted to be a cowboy and to rope.  Horses have been special to me all my life.  My parents taught me values, respect, and created in me a strong work ethic.  I believe those are key factors enabling me to learn to rope.  My fundamentals in English were a big asset, yet left me woefully unprepared to write in “good English.” I bought some books to study English again. One of my schoolmates, third grade through college, had written a book and he too was a big asset. Of course, my wife Harriet was and still is a constant source of encouragement and help. She would always read and critique, no matter how many times I asked her.

You define the word “courage” in your book. Why does it take courage to pursue a dream?

Courage is necessary to overcome FEAR; that is the Fear Of Failure. Most of us cannot or will not even acknowledge our fear. It is subtle, often subliminal and if permitted, it will completely stifle our initiative. For many it is easier to sit on the sideline, and not risk defeat or failure. The risk and fears come in play when writing a book. Will I finish it?  How will I publish? Will anybody buy it? Will I be able to recover the publishing cost?  These are unknowns for most authors. Still, think of the all the great books you have read. We have to face the fear and manage it. John Wayne put it this way.  “Courage is being scared as h___ and saddling up anyway.” I like that; that is why it takes courage to pursue a dream.

You also talk about “passion.” Do you think that is a must-have ingredient in working toward success in any endeavor?

I don’t think it is essential, but it sure makes the journey much more enjoyable and satisfying. I successfully completed many assignments and goals that just had to be done. The goals and assignments I really had a passion for were enjoyable and very satisfying. These goals, where passion is “in play,” bounce you out of bed in the morning and put a spring in your step as you leave the house. They cause you to whistle, smile and greet people in a friendly way. These goals cause us to walk straight and tall, study late at night or early in the morning, and just plain enjoy life. These are the goals we live for.

“Focus” and “Persistence” are also two components in this journey toward success. Why do you believe that is true?

Life is full of distractions. It is usually difficult to make the time available to accomplish a specific goal. Focus is important to staying on track. I believe if you’re not improving, you are regressing with respect to others in your area of endeavor. Many around us are going all out to improve. Focus can keep us in the forefront of our activity. That is where I want to be.

Persistence is crucial, because sooner or later as we go along, we will fail. This may be a large or small element of our goal, but it will happen. It takes persistence to overcome these setbacks and keep trying. Think of a baseball player and how often he strikes out, yet goes on to succeed. We need similar persistence. We must mentally acknowledge that things will most likely go wrong in our journey, and be prepared to react in whatever way is necessary. In team roping, typically 40% of the teams are eliminated in the first round. Most events are 3 or 4 rounds. We must learn to come back just as hard or harder at the next event. It is the same with trying to master a new technique. It can take a year. Developing a good roping horse takes several years. Persistence will test the passion, but offers great rewards.

What does success mean to you?

Success at this time is continuing to improve. My goal is to offset, or balance for a while, the aging process. My three major approaches are to improve my roping skills, keep physically fit and strong, and improve my horses. The horse is the enabler in roping events. The better he is; the better I can be. I truly love developing horses for all ranch work, so here comes my passion into the equation of success again. Today was a good example, I rode for four hours on two horses with three friends. The common denominator: we all love our horses and want to improve our roping. I roped well and my horses worked well. Today was a very successful day for me.

Are you working on other writing projects?

I have no new writing projects at this time. I have collected several more important additions to sections of “Rope Your Dream” which I use for my own reference, but have no plans to publish at this time.

Do you still participate in team roping?

Yes I still rope several times a week. Had an injury this summer, broke and cut a finger roping at a ranch rodeo. Back to practicing on a regular basis now and first roping event this coming Labor Day Weekend.

Congratulations on pursuing your dream in roping and on publishing your book! Thanks for joining me.

Monte’s book is available through his website,  from BookSurge and Amazon.com

National Day of the Cowboy (and Cowgirl)

July 23 celebrates our western heritage.

Western writer J.R. Sanders has organized an event, “Read ’em Cowboy!” at the Barnes and Noble in Redlands, CA. Even if you can’t attend the event, you can support western writers and a worthy cause

By using vouchers found on the Facebook page, a percentage of your purchase at ANY Barnes and Noble store will go to the Western Writers of America‘s Homestead Foundation, which promotes the literary preservation of Western culture, history and traditions. If you buy online at Barnes and Noble  just enter the Bookfair ID# (10510444) when prompted at checkout.

And they like National Day of the Cowboy so much, they’re extending it for 5 days! You can make purchases in-store or online anytime from July 23rd through July 28th and B&N will honor the vouchers/Bookfair ID# .

Here’s a perfect excuse to add to your Western library (books, music, movies all count), get your Christmas shopping in early, and support Western culture to boot.

Leave a comment on this blog about what “cowboy” or “cowgirl” means to you or a favorite anecdote, and I will enter you into a drawing for your choice of a copy of Cowgirl Dreams or Follow the Dream.

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