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Joanne Kennedy | How Tough is “Cowboy Tough?”

February 28, 2013

If you look at the cover of my new book, you might think being “Cowboy Tough” was all about muscles. Or you might think it meant sticking to the back of a bucking horse for eight seconds.

Joanne KennedyCOWBOY TOUGH

But being “cowboy tough” means something quite different here in the West. It’s not about physical strength; it’s about the strength of your mind and your heart. It’s about dedication, determination, and fighting against the odds. I’ll give you a few examples.

If you’ve ever watched steer wrestling, you know it’s one of the most physically challenging events in rodeo. The contestant bursts out of a chute on horseback and chases a grown steer down the arena, then leaps from his horse onto the back of the steer, using momentum and skill to halt the steer’s run and bring the animal to the ground. You couldn’t possibly pay me enough money to even try to do that—but in February, World Champion Stan Williamson showed the crowds at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo that you’re never too old to compete. Williamson won his first buckle in 1979, his second in ’82, but at 65 years of age, he still managed to halt his steer in under four heart-stopping seconds, putting him near the top of the competition.

Joyce Sterkel is no ordinary rancher, and The Ranch for Kids in Eureka, Montana is no ordinary ranch. After working as a midwife in Russia, Sterkel adopted several children from Russian orphanages. Her success with these troubled children prompted other adoptive parents to ask for her help, so she started The Ranch for Kids, where children suffering from attachment disorder, fetal alcohol syndrome, and behavioral issues learn cooperation and basic life skills. These aren’t just rebellious teenagers or troubled children; these are kids whose broken pasts make them prone to violent or even criminal behavior.

Recently Sterkel has had to fight some big battles with the state of Montana and even with Russian officials, but the battles she fights every day to win the hearts and minds of these children make her as tough as any cowboy in my book.

Another example of what it means to be “Cowboy Tough” is champion bareback rider Bobby Mote. In 2011, he was headed for a possible fifth gold buckle in bareback riding at the National Finals rodeo when his mount at a rodeo slammed him against the chute. Hard. He rode through the pain, scoring a respectable 76. The pain increased as the day wore into night, but he refused treatment, electing to fly to Seattle with his traveling pals, a group of friends so tightly knit they’re known as “The Pride.”

As it turned out, Mote had a broken pelvis and a bunch of broken ribs. But he knew that if he went for treatment, his friends would stand by him and miss their chance to score at the upcoming rodeo. So, as cowboys have done for generations, he toughed it out—not for himself, but for the sake of his friends.

So there are a few different examples of what “Cowboy Tough” really means. It’s not about roping and riding; it’s about making sacrifices for the people you love, doing a hard job and doing it right, and taking care of those who need you—your land, your animals, and your children. It’s about being tough enough to hold onto the traditions that built the West, and keeping them alive for coming generations.

No wonder we love those cowboys.


She’s hardly a cowgirl…

Cat Crendall left a successful advertising job in New York to teach art workshops in the wild west.  The Boyd Ranch is hardly her dream destination, but if the outing’s a success, the company will send her to more exotic locations.

But once a cowboy…

Mack Boyd was in the middle of the best bronc-riding season of his life when his mother asked for help with an artists’ retreat at the ranch.  Mack might be able to ride a wild stallion to a standstill but he can’t say no to his family.

Cat and Mack are complete opposites…but when the ranch is threatened financially, can they set aside their differences and work together?


Joanne Kennedy‘s lifelong fascination with Wyoming’s unique blend of past and present inspires her to write contemporary Western romances with traditional ranch settings. In 2010 she was nominated for a RITA award for One Fine Cowboy. At various times, Joanne has dabbled in horse training, chicken farming, and bridezilla wrangling at a department store wedding registry. Her fascination with literature led to careers in bookselling and writing. She lives with two dogs and a retired fighter pilot in Cheyenne, Wyoming. For more information, please visit and on Facebook.

To Purchase COWBOY TOUGH | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book-a-Million | IndieBound | Chapters/Indigo | Discover a New Love | Sourcebooks

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