Kate was born on August 7, 1943, attending her first rodeo with her parents when she was just 7 days old. |
Eventually moving from her small home town at the young age of twenty-one, she returned each summer to enjoy the annual rodeo event. It was something she'd looked forward to while growing up in Eastern Washington. The hometown rodeo generally coincided with her birthday, and as if by tradition, her birthday gifts usually included a western outfit to wear for the occasion.
The second weekend in August each year the carnival came to town and the Indians set up their tipi's at the rodeo grounds. Kate's grandfather's stock arrived at the rodeo arena followed by eager young cowboys from many parts of the country. They descended upon the small town coming in groups crammed into old pickup trucks sharing expenses and hoping to win the prize money being offered.
Rodeo participants came from faraway places like Texas, Oklahoma, California, Oregon, or Montana. Some of the more successful cowboys flew into town to perform at the rodeo.
The dare devils seemed to be bigger than life. Kate found the handsome cowboys to be athletic and friendly; and, she was disappointed when the show was over. The young cowboys were immediately off to another town, another girl, and another ride. Her mother warned that cowboys were drifters and thrill seekers, show offs who sought their short moment of fame by hanging on for an 8 second ride. She cautioned her young daughter to stay away from cowboys.
She grew older and forgetting her mother's warnings she hooked up with a steer wrestler for a summer rodeo season.
Her weekends that summer were spent following a cowboy from rodeo to rodeo, sometimes arriving just in time to see him head out for another show. Kate noticed that he regularly popped little white pills which he claimed kept him awake and alert enough to get to the next rodeo. Wising up as that rodeo season came to an end she realized that chasing a cowboy was like chasing the wind.
The first Stampede was held in her home town in the late 1920's on the high school football field was put on by her grandfather and his cowboy friends. It was questionable at the time whether the idea was born out of boredom, or wisdom, but with a few head of horses and a handful of crazy cowboys, they started an annual tradition that has lived on for over 75 years.
Kate's grandfather, Leo, was a real cowboy who'd held a great love for animals, especially horses. His life as a stock contractor began at a young age and it's rumored that in the 1930's he'd driven a herd of rodeo stock, on horseback, across the United States from Washington State to New York City for a rodeo performance in the Madison Square Garden.
Over time, Grandpa Leo became a well-known and loved cowboy and stock contractor. His friends came from all over the country and from all walks of life. Leo and his wife always made the traveling cowboys feel welcome opening their hearts and home to them. It seemed to Kate like there were always handsome cowboys hanging out at her grandparent's ranch.
Although she wasn't raised on a ranch, she remembered many weekends and family outings at her grandpa's ranch. At a young age being a cowgirl was not important to her, however, she was proud of her cowboy heritage and she enjoyed watching Grandpa Leo work with his rodeo stock.
When it was time for the annual rodeo being Leo's granddaughter came with special privileges. It meant hanging out behind the chutes before the rodeo began and getting up close and personal with the young cowboys as she'd listened to them tell their tall tales.
It also meant a front row seat when the Suicide Race began and the riders and horses broke over the hill tumbling down the sandy runway into the deep river below. The anticipation thrilled her as she waited to see who'd make it into the arena to claim the prize money. Her grandfather bragged that the suicide race had originally been his idea and Kate felt a great sense of pride knowing that she was related to a very smart man.
Most of the suicide riders were Native American Indians; however, occasionally a crazy white cowboy would take the challenge and enter the race. She often feared that a rider would drown in the swollen river or that a horse might lose its life. The treacherous race continued each year following every rodeo performance of the Stampede, receiving worldwide publicity and occasional attention from animal rights activists.
Kate was a rambunctious child, rather obnoxious and wild at times, yet always independent and capable of holding her own in most situations.
As a young girl, and later in life, the bull riding events at the rodeos were always her favorite. She didn't leave her seat when the bulls were bucking. She remembered how her grandfather worked with the bulls; how he'd amongst them in the holding pens forever treating them with respect and getting their respect in return.
She was certain that her grandfather encountered many challenges with his bucking bulls during his long career as a stock contractor. His rodeo stock was well-known across many state lines and his bucking bulls, and bucking horses were some of the finest in the world.
Kate's mother and her seven siblings obviously each had a great respect for their father. She cherished the many pictures she discovered in old family albums of her cowgirl mother at a young age. The pictures led her to believe that any child of Leo's would have had to have been comfortable on a horse.
She'd rarely ridden a horse when she was young, although she had many opportunities. Many weekends were spent at her Aunt Sadie's ranch hanging out with her eight cousins who always had horses to ride.
Kate's favorite cousin was Shirley, a mischievous little wench; and, although she knew better, she'd occasionally ride double with her on a horse. Shirley would run the horse as fast as it would go giving little concern to the fact that Kate would inevitably fall off or get knocked off by the branches of the apple trees in the orchards they'd galloped through.
When she was eight years old she fed a beautiful frisky white stallion at Aunt Sadie's ranch one day, only to be rewarded by the horse taking a huge bite out of her small leg as she tried to escape the pen. Horses and horse bites are something she's intentionally avoided since that fateful day.
As years went by and Kate grew up leaving her small home town, friends and close family ties behind; the rodeos, bulls, horses, cowboys and her young way of life became relatively distant from her mind. However, she continued to occasionally attend a county fair or a rodeo and most always returned to attend the annual hometown rodeo.
She never lost her appreciation and admiration for a good-looking rodeo cowboy. From time to time, as years went by, she turned a few cowboys' heads. Dancing with many good-looking cowboys at rodeo dances, she always remembered her mother's caution not to get involved with a rodeo cowboy.
Kate's travels, adventures and lifestyle, took her far away from the cowboy way of life, however, she never lost the admiration and respect she felt for Grandpa Leo and his cowboy heritage.
About the Author: Farewell to Freedom is Anita Waggoner's first novel which was released in December 2011. She has written a collection of short stories, and recently wrote a screenplay based on the novel Farewell to Freedom. Anita spent much of her childhood visiting her grandfather's ranch. She's had a love for cowboys and story telling for as long as she can remember. Anita is a free lance writer who worked as a paralegal for several years. She owned a large ranch and raised rodeo bulls in Oklahoma prior to writing her first novel Farewell to Freedom.
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