Shannon Taylor Vannatter – Romantic Destination – Part 2 of 3

Take a tour of the Fort Worth Stockyards. Comment on any post dated Oct 10 – 14 for a chance to win a copy of my latest release, Rodeo Dust. Deadline: Oct 15, 11:59 pm central time.

I set my rodeo series in and around The Fort Worth Stockyards, but I’d never been there. Last Spring break, we made the trip for research. My husband’s step mom lives in San Antonio, so she trekked up to get some family visiting in, along with her friend who lives in Dallas.

My husband and son tackled The Cattlepen Maze first thing. This is a human sized maze modeled after cattlepens with rubber rats strategically placed. It didn’t take them long. My son wanted me to do it. I walked and turned, and walked and turned, getting more and more lost as I went. Smart aleck signs ask, “Are you lost?” or “Haven’t I seen you before?” while family members on the observation deck try to help you out and often get you even more lost.

You have to find punch machines in the shape of each letter of the word maze. It took forever. It seemed like forever anyway. It was hot and there’s no breeze in the maze. I found all the letters and punched my card, but I couldn’t find the exit. I found the entrance 3 times, but not the exit.

Finally, I found my son and said, “If I find the entrance again, I’m taking it.” A few minutes later, we found it again and we took it. If it hadn’t been 88 degrees, it would have been fun. My characters had fun in it.

We walked the brick streets lined with copper engraved plaques that make up the Trail of Fame honoring those who earned their spurs contributing to the heritage of the old west. I learned that the over ten million bricks paved the original 2600 cattlepens. The brick gave the Longhorns steady footing and kept them clean for their final trip to the meet processing plants. Poor doomed critters.

I guess that made us hungry. We searched out The Cattleman’s Steak House since I wanted some of my characters to eat there. My husband said the steak was awesome. My grilled shrimp was yummy. After our meal, we witnessed a cattle drive right down the middle of the street. Texas Longhorns are much bigger in person and their horns are huge, up to a six feet span.

I expected the drive to be like the running of the bulls and was kind of nervous standing on the sidewalk. But they don’t run. The Longhorns meander along their familiar path, never straying, as if they have all the time in the world. That’s the way it was back in the Chisolm Trail days too. Why? Longhorns can’t run long, they might stampede, and if they ran, the owners would have lost money because they’d have ran meat off.

The ladies and I toured the Stockyard Station Gallery and The Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, where everyone from George Strait to Lane Frost is honored. I spoke to Julia Buswold, Executive Assistant there and learned how to get a cowboy inducted into the hall of fame. I thought that might come in handy for book 2. My husband and son shopped and witnessed a staged gunfight, but I missed it.

The other ladies headed back to the hotel and I went to the Cowtown Coliseum for a meeting with Director of Sales, Dee Dee Barker-Wix who’d agreed to help me out with the facts about The Stockyards Rodeo. Cowtown housed the first indoor rodeo in 1918 and introduced bull riding in 1934. I took numerous pictures of the arena and The Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame, then pummeled Dee Dee with questions.

My husband and son met me for our first family rodeo. The patriotism impressed us with Lee Greenwood’s rendition of God Bless the USA as a cowgirl carrying an American flag rode a white horse around and around the arena, faster and faster as the music reached a crescendo. We laughed at the calf scramble where kids from the audience are invited to try and get the ribbon off a calf’s tail. A sheep faces the same fate in the sheep scramble.

Calf roping, steer roping, team roping, and finally. . . I definitely felt a connection with my heroine in Rodeo Dust. I cringed through every bull ride and worried when the cowboys fell off. My son asked if he could be a bull rider when he grows up. I cringed.

The Stockyards offers a rip-roaring good time. We didn’t have time to do half the things I wanted to do like the cstage coach ride and the train ride. They even have hotels in the Stockyards. The Stockyards Hotel at $319 for a standard room, Hyatt Place at $142.00, Miss Molly’s Hotel at $125.00. We stayed at the Best Western five miles away.

I got lots of fodder for my rodeo series and searched through all my pictures numerous times while writing the books. All of the bull riding pictures I took were too far away, but then I found that great shot of the bull rider. Wow, how did I take that shot? Then I remembered, it’s a poster in the coliseum lobby.

About the book: Rodeo Dust

Ad exec, Rayna Landers meets bull rider, Clay Warren at the State Fair of Texas. While Rayna thinks she’s content solo, Clay longs for marriage and family. Though poised to win his third world championship, his ranch is in a slump. Clay convinces his publicist to hire her advertising firm in a last-ditch effort to keep his employees and lasso her heart.

Soon the city girl is on the ride of her life, until the rodeo unearths buried memories from her past. Clay sees her through the trauma, but an injury and his stubborn determination to get back in the hypothetical saddle threatens their budding relationship. Can they rely on God to find their common ground or will they draw a line in the rodeo dust that neither will cross?

Come back Oct 14th for an excerpt from Rodeo Dust.


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