LAS VEGAS – Terri Powers thinks there are more pertinent story lines about the Western lifestyle than most books written on the subject portray.
“When I decided to write books for the rodeo crowd, I saw that most cowboy books out there are either historical, old-timey stuff or Western romance novels,” said Powers, an author from Albuquerque, N.M. “Instead, I want to do entertaining books that are more relevant to today’s cowboy.”
She’s done it so far. Powers wrote Gold Buckles Don’t Lie, the Untold Tale of Fred Whitfield, which was released in 2013. It’s been quite a success, especially among rodeo fans that have followed the career of Whitfield, an eight-time world champion calf roper and pro rodeo’s most decorated African-American cowboy.
This December, Powers releases “Cowboy Tails, Good Ol’ Gals Tell All,” a collection of short stories from women who have loved cowboys “to varying degrees of success.” She will be in Las Vegas from Dec. 5-14 for signings and appearances during the upcoming National Finals Rodeo.
“The book is based on my decision at 8 years old to never marry a cowboy,” Powers said. “I remember being quite certain, even as a little kid, that I didn’t want to end up with a cowboy.”
It’s something she never thought about again until writing Whitfield’s story.
“It was then that I realized there are some really awesome women out there who would not have anything but a cowboy,” she said. “I wondered what they knew that I didn’t, and Cowboy Tails was born. Regardless of the specifics, I figured the women’s stories would be a good time, and they are.”
Rodeo life is nothing new to Powers, whose father designed and built rodeo equipment during the 1960s. Her older brother was a tie-down roper, and her son is a team roper. Having seen the heartbreak rodeo can bring, she was never interested in it herself.
“I have always loved horses and still do,” she said.
Though she wanted to remain tied to cowboys and the rodeo way of life, Powers wanted her second book to be as far removed from her first as she could get.
“Gold Buckles was about somebody; Cowboy Tails is about everybody,” Powers said. “I started with my friends, women that I knew had been with cowboys. Very early, I knew I was on to something, so I next took it to the cyber crowd and talked to woman all over the country. I listened to them tell of the perks and perils of life with a cowboy, then, at the end, I analyzed my decision based on their stories.”
And, oh, what stories.
“There are 43 chapters,” Powers said. “The majority of them are one woman telling one story in one chapter, however, there are three or four women with stories throughout the book, which is structured to follow the course of a woman’s life: The first ones, the last ones and all the ones in between.”
Powers interviewed every woman, most of whom remain anonymous.
“The only common thread among the woman was that they had loved a cowboy, so their stories are all over the map,” she said. “I heard stories about stereotypical ornery, rotten rodeo cowboys, as well as stories of men who made me proud to me an American. They were very funny, but also very heart-warming.”
There are stories from women through the generations.
“One of my favorite stories is from a woman whose father was a cowboy, but her mother was a city girl from San Diego who fell for all of his outlandish stories,” Powers said. “He once told her that cockleburs were porcupine embryos, and if you put them into the oven, they would hatch. She believed him.”
Bull riders really took a hit in this book, and Powers said there were some wild stories about them. While she wasn’t too surprised about the bull riders, Powers said she was surprised to hear about another side of often chauvinist cowboys.
“Many women talked about how their cowboys pushed them to do more than they ever thought they could,” she said. “I found that paradox interesting. These supposed chauvinists often had more faith in their women’s abilities than the women themselves had, and pushed them far beyond their comfort zone.”
Updated information on Las Vegas signings and appearances will be made on the book’s website, www.CowboyTails.com. Some of the storytellers will be with her periodically during the NFR.
So why is this the best time to release the book?
“I wanted to get the biggest start I could,” she said. “I think it will make an awesome Christmas gift. This book is angled toward women, but in the end, I think it appeals to everybody.”
She also will begin investigating her next book while in Las Vegas.
“The women have had their turn, but I think my next book will allow the cowboys to have their say,” Powers said. “I’ll be talking to as many cowboys as I can during this year’s NFR and have Cowboy Tails II ready to release at next year’s NFR.”
When the National Finals Rodeo heads to Las Vegas every December, 119 contestants will battle for the top prize money in the game. They bring with them hundreds of thousands of fans to the Nevada desert looking for stories of cowboys, cowgirls and the Western lifestyle.
Terri Powers has found a perfect niche with rodeo fans and plans to stay there for years to come.