General, Location, Musings, Research

Why write about hot Montana cowboys?

I love doing research, and that means traveling to Montana to see the land and meet the people.

J Bar C cabin, book 5

J Bar C cabin, book 5

While I finished my first Bride Train book (Barefoot Bride for Three) before I set foot in Montana, I did a lot of research before writing it. I had to decide where to set my series, when it should take place, and the reasons why.

I could have set my novels in many places, but I choose Montana. The area was past the end of the railway, into mountains steep and unforgiving. The gold rush that hit Alder Creek 150 years ago brought in a wide variety of crooks, miners, politicians, whores, ranchers, businessmen, and more.

What sets Montana apart was that women could, and did, take on jobs usually held only by men, even becoming muleskinners. This wild land was different than the settled East and women with intelligence and determination could take charge of their lives.

It was 1869 when the territory of Wyoming passed the first Suffrage Law. Women began sitting on juries the following year. In 1893 Colorado granted women the right to vote. Others followed, almost all in the West . It was 1920 before the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granted this right.

With such a mindset, it made sense that the women in the Bride Train series would be the sort of heroine readers want to read about. The men they met are strong-minded (even arrogant), but the women stand up to them and make their points known. Considering there were a couple hundred men for every available woman, and divorce could be easily given, the men learned to shape up without losing their masculinity.

Early morning, Tanner's Ford Valley

Early morning, Tanner’s Ford Valley

I fell in love with Montana’s land in 2010 when I spent a week driving the area, researching the history. I drove from Dillon to Bannack City, then west to Wise River, north to Missoula, then southwest to Butte and Bozeman.

But I fell in love with the people during June 2012 when I worked on three different ranches located between Absarokee and Big Timber. Living and working with ranch families gave me a far better idea of what was involved in Montana ranching. I rode hellbent-for-leather on a giant horse, chasing a cow-calf pair during spring roundup. It was a dang cold day as the wind swept over the snowpack on the mountains and blasted us.

I watched (safe inside) as a rancher jammed a kitchen pot on his head to protect himself from the large hail and ran to help animals get to shelter. That day a neighbor lost all his cattle when baseball-size hail sent them stampeding over a cliff. You will read a variation of this in one of my Bride Train novels, only the heroine helps save the cattle from certain death.

Preparing the sweat lodge

Preparing the sweat lodge

I was invited to participate in a Crow sweat ceremony, from creating the lodge (see photo) through to the end (though I’m a wimp I survived the heat and humidity).

All these experiences, along with interviews, and Internet and book research, helps me make my characters come alive.

Cowboys are rough, tough, hard-working, uncomplaining, men who work with their hands as well as their minds. They have to make life-or-death decisions in a moment. Their place of work is sometimes in a home office, but they spend most of their time on a horse, an ATV, pickup, tractor, motorbike, helicopter, airplane, or on foot.

Living so close to the land, living or dying by the whim of Mother Nature, makes a certain type of person. Male or female, to survive as a rancher you have to be tough, inside and out. You have to know what you are doing, or figure it out pretty dang quick. You learn to make do with what you have, to work long hours when necessary, and dance up a storm when the job’s over.

Having seen it, I can state that there still are hot cowboys in Montana. They all work dang hard, most can dance up a storm when it’s done, and some enjoy a bit of beer or whiskey while partying. Their women are the same.

I hope you enjoy reading about the characters in Tanner’s Ford and Climax, Montana as much as I enjoy researching and creating them. One female Montana rancher said that cowboys aren’t romantic in the least. I told her that was why I write fiction. In my books the heroes and the heroine, though flawed from their pasts, learn from each other and eventually live happily ever after.

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4 Responses to “Why write about hot Montana cowboys?”

  1. On July 31, 2014 at 5:57 pm zakk76 responded with... #

    Get in touch !!

  2. On July 31, 2014 at 5:57 pm zakk76 responded with... #

    Hi,, this message is for Reece butler.. This is zach from Montana… Me and Ira had a great time showing you around.. I’d like to know about the book I my have been in. And catch up!!

  3. On July 5, 2013 at 8:53 pm Maggie responded with... #

    Fascinating! What a great place!

    • On July 17, 2013 at 8:28 am Reece Butler responded with... #

      Montana is not only beautiful, it has a fascinating history due to how it was settled, and by whom. Now that I’m working on the contemporary Climax, Montana series, I’m looking forward to revealing how that past has led to today’s conflicts, and to showing that cowboys are still working in the American West.