Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kathleen O'Brien - Oh, The Cowboys I Never Knew

I have a confession to make. 

I’ve never actually known a real-life cowboy.

I’m strictly a suburban girl with parents who loved books and poetry and antique cut glass, and whose outdoor playtime involved things like sailing and tennis.  I’m a native Floridian.  Beach sand, traffic jams and unruly Irish setters…yes.  I live with these problems.  Mud, mountains, rattlesnakes and wild horses?  Not really.

So why do I love writing about the West, and about cowboys?

Well, for the easy answer, check out Gray Harper on the cover of BETTING ON THE COWBOY, my July Superromance.  Good grief…is that sexy or what? 

But there’s more to my fascination with these rugged men than their beauty.  Seriously.  I promise. J

My interest in cowboys goes way, way back.  Before I became a romance writer.  Even before that boy from Texas, with his drawl and his stories about his hound dog, moved into my subdivision and swept me off my feet and onto his bicycle handlebars.

The cowboy thing goes all the way back to when my parents watched a TV show called Have Gun Will Travel. Richard Boone wore a black hat, and I fell inexplicably in love with his craggy face.  He was far too old for me.  (Okay, I was a pre-schooler, so technically everyone was too old for me.)  Still, I thought he was absolutely swoony, and when I announced I loved him more than Gene Autry, my family howled with laughter.

Later, we watched Bonanza, and I fell in love all over again.  I understood that I was supposed to like Little Joe, but my heart belonged to Adam, the older brother.  Why?  I have no idea.  It was love.  There’s nothing logical about love.

After that, I met James Dean in Giant.  And Butch Cassidy.  The Sundance Kid.  Shane. Maverick. The Virginian.  I don’t remember the order in which I met them.  I don’t even remember whether I saw them in the original shows, or in reruns, or in college film classes or at midnight showings of camp movie classics.  All I remember is that I was endlessly enchanted by their clothes, their hats, their horses, their twinkling eyes, their old-fashioned courtesy, their courage, and their quiet strength.
So when I’m dreaming up a hero, my imagination often returns to those men. I’ve never met a real life cowboy…but I’ve loved some amazing ones in my imagination.

How about you? I hope you’ll share your cowboy stories!  I’ll be giving away signed copies of BETTING ON THE COWBOY to three posters here today.  So tell me, who are your favorite screen cowboys?  Do you know any real ones?  Do they live up to their fictional counterparts? 

One request, though.  If they don’t…please break it to me gently.

***Kathleen's winners are Emily Baucom, Mary Anne Landers, and Yvonne Simpkins!  Please email with your mailing details!***


girlygirlhoosier52 said...

Well, I know people with horses, but they aren't cowboys.. But I can't believe you didn't watch Roy Rogers or Sky King?

Anonymous said...

Oh, Girlygirl, of course I did! But I felt I had to choose sides between Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, and I chose Autry. :) We had an old copy of him singing some Christmas carol, and apparently my love of a gorgeous voice goes way back, too. :) And Sky King! Wow, I hadn't thought about him in years, but wasn't he wonderful? He was so good to his daughter...was her name Penny?

You've given me such a smile! Thanks!!!

Laurie G said...

Unfortunately I don't know any real life cowboys.

I grew up with TV cowboys:

Lee Majors- Heath Barclay in the Big Valley and Ty Hardin in Cheyenne as Bronco Lane

Robert Redford was a very handsome cowboy!

I also like Sam Elliott and Tom Selleck.

Anonymous said...

Laurie, those are such awesome suggestions! I have to agree...Robert Redford is a very handsome anything! :) And Sam Elliott really has something special. He may not be the sleekest or more glamorous of the names you mentioned, but his particular brand of earthy charm and sensuality really speaks to me! /swoon!

Pat Cochran said...

We're Texans, so cowboys have always been in
our lives. We go back to the Sky King and Roy
and Dale years. When Honey and the neighbor-
hood kids got together to play, he had to be
Roy or he refused to play. His older brother
actually did "rodeo" in local events in his
teens & early 20s. In high school, our drill
corps uniforms were western with white hats
and boots. We ushered at the Houston Rodeo
my senior year & I got to meet the show's
stars, Cisco Kid and Pancho. Among my first
adult reads, were books by Zane Grey and
Louis L'Amour, borrowed from my Dad. We
have watched just about every TV cowboy
show produced including all 19 years of
Gunsmoke! Favorite cowboys are Dale & Roy,
Gene Autry, James Arness, John Wayne, Ro-
bert Redford and Paul Newman as Sundance
& Butch,and my sister's favorite, Tom
Selleck. Cowboys all through our lives!

Anonymous said...

Pat, that's awesome! You're the Real Deal! :) The Louis L'Amour books are just wonderful, aren't they? And I have to say I was shocked one time when I watched Stagecoach and saw how adorable John Wayne was when he was young!

But you didn't say...are "real" cowboys as charming and uber-cool as the fictional ones?

Pat Cochran said...

My "cowboy" is!!!

Pat C.

Anonymous said...

Hurray, Pat! :) My faith in cowboys remains unharmed!

Yvonne Simpkins said...

I don't know why I like you have always loved cowboys, but I do. I watched Rawhide, Wagon Train, Have Gun Will Travel, The Virginian, Death Valley, Gunsmoke, I loved all the westerns when I was growing up, I guess because that's what my dad watched and we watched what he did...LOL. Still I love me a cowboy story over all others. I think that's why I love Diana Palmer books, she always has a cowboy in her books. I look forward to reading your book too. Thank you for the giveaway.

Anonymous said...

Yvonne, the minute I read your post I could hear the theme song to Rawhide, so we must have watched that one, too! :) And yes, Diana Palmer's cowboys are shivery good!

Thanks for stopping by to share the fun. I'll be humming Raw-hide!!! all night!

Mary Anne Landers said...

Thank you for your post, Kathleen. My favorite TV cowboy is Dusty Farnum, played by the Adonis-like Jared Martin on "Dallas". Remember "Who shot J.R?" Dusty was a prime suspect. Why? He was having an affair with J.R.'s wife Sue Ellen. I sure wished I'd been in her shoes!

Anonymous said...

Mary Anne, I had forgotten which one Dusty was, so I went and looked him up. Wow...he WAS a cutie! :) Sue Ellen had all the luck!!! He definitely embodies all the classic cowboy charms, right down to that darling smile and those sad blue eyes. Great choice!

Laney4 said...

Blogger ate my answer, so my apologies if a somewhat similar reply pops up later....
Enjoyed Dan Blocker/Hoss on Bonanza, James Garner/Bret Maverick on Maverick (the newer series in the eighties, as I was too young for the original series in the sixties), Lee Majors/Heath on Big Valley, and Dub Taylor (a character actor in many westerns).
Don't know any "real" cowboys so must settle for the "fictional" ones. A girl can dream....

Anonymous said...

Hi, Laney! Yes, dreaming is one of my all-time favorite activities! :) I loved Hoss, too. Wasn't there an endearing sweetness about him? Loved that. And James Garner is very close to the top of my list. I just adored him in The Rockford Files!

Mary Preston said...

I grew up watching all the westerns with my Father. John Wayne especially so it seems. I always liked watching Audie Murphy. He made a great cowboy & he was a real hero.

Anonymous said...

Mary, I never knew Audie Murphy, but now I plan to check him out! And isn't it interesting how many of us discovered westerns with our parents? Guess that means the heyday for all those marvelous cowboys really was sometime in the past. Too bad. :-/

Unknown said...

I unfortunately have never met a real life cowboy but if I ever do I sure hope they are like what they are portrayed in books and television. My favorite cowboy on TV would have to be John Wayne.

Anonymous said...

Emily, I join you in that hope! It's nice to think such men really do exist! And John Wayne has definitely done some unforgettable westerns! Love that drawl! :)

Kaelee said...

I know I'm late but I just have to comment that Adam, Pernell Roberts, was my favorite cowboy ever.

I'm from Calgary and yes I know some cowboys. Just like in any profession there are good ones and some not so good ones. My mother's sister married a rancher and he was a real good one.

Recently we had a lot of floods here in Alberta. High River flooded just when a rodeo was going on there and quite a few of the cowboys helped out rescuing people.

Jo's Daughter said...

I must admit that besides not knowing any real cowboys, I did not watch them on tv either. My first introduction to cowboys was a romance novel I inherited. Much time has passed since reading the story & the author or cowboy himself have slipped my mind. But I do remember liking a romance hero in jeans, instead of a tuxedo or something else fancy. The rich hero was fun, but the more down to earth guy/cowboy with a big heart & good values was perhaps even better. Now I often read cowboy stories and enjoy them a lot.

Anonymous said...

Kaelee, I'm so with you on Pernell Roberts! Wasn't he dreamy? And hurray that there are really some cowboy heroes! Your aunt sounds like a very lucky lady!

Kathleen O'Brien said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Jo's Daughter, that is so awesome! How incredibly cool that a romance novel turned you onto cowboys even though TV and real life never had! Three cheers for the power of good fiction! Too bad you don't remember the author's name, because I bet hearing this would absolutely make her day!

Anonymous said...

Girlygirl, you're one of the three winners of BETTING ON THE COWBOY! If you'll send your snail mail address to me at, I'll get it right out to you! Thanks so much for stopping by and chatting cowboys!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Laney! You're one of the three winners of BETTING ON THE COWBOY! If you'll send me your snail mail address at, I'll get it right out to you! Thanks so much for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Emily! You're one of the three winners of BETTING ON THE COWBOY! If you'll send me your snail mail address at, I'll get it right out to you! Thanks so much for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

The randomly chosen winners of my BETTING ON THE COWBOY contest are GirlygirlHoosier52, Laney4 and Emily Baucom! Thanks for everyone who stopped by, helping to make the conversation such fun! You guys came up with some fantastic suggestions, and you filled my day with dreamy cowboys!