And that is the book in a nutshell. Readers follow along as Luke, his brother Casey, best friend Travis Cadwell, and a colleague Marc Jensen crisscross the West to compete at dozens of rodeos.
The steer wrestling itself and the competition get almost as much attention as the long-distance rig driving, poker playing, carousing, beer drinking, junk food eating, gambling, pot smoking, cell-phone talking, and the idle conversations, story telling, boredom, practical joking, raillery, tomfoolery, and high jinks that fill the time between rodeos and rides.
|Luke Branquinho, National Rodeo Finals, 2004|
The book is an honest effort to recreate the experience of being on the road with this fraternity of men in their twenties and thirties. Living out dreams of rodeo glory, they pit skill against luck in the arena. Meanwhile they struggle with disappointments and deal with physical ailments that range from colossal hangovers to serious injuries. Theirs is also a story of building friendships that qualify as a rough-and-ready kind of male bonding.
You won't find much padding – no history of steer wrestling, no side-trips and detours into related subjects, and very little character study or analysis of the sport itself. It's pretty much play-by-play – whether behind the scenes or out in front of the crowd.
The book ends in a 40-page account of the ten-day Finals in Las Vegas. It's a quick read, with a 16-page section of great action photos and thumbnail portraits of the cowboys featured in the book. All told, it fills in those long gaps between those rides into the arena to throw oneself bodily at a four-legged moving target.
Blacktop Cowboys is available at amazon and Abebooks.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Coming up: Baxter Black, Hey, Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky?