"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Monday, January 14, 2013

Creating characters is fun

For my new mystery, I decided to add in a little romance. Having never juggled two boyfriends before, I started out with just one cowboy, although now I'm thinking he'll have a little competition. His name is Tyler Ransome. I'm not going to tell you his whole story because as I wrote his journal, I found a surprising subplot.

Here's part of what Tyler had to say:

I don’t even know how my life turned out so wrong when I thought I was doing everything right. I followed my dad’s example. He was a good man who always played by the rules. Honorable. Hard working. He built our ranch in Wyoming from nothing to a respectable cattle and cowhorse operation. Mom was a rodeo queen he met at the Calgary Stampede. She was beautiful, smart, and as much in love with Dad as he was with her.

People used to stare at them when they first married. They were an odd-looking couple. John (my dad) was a small wiry guy who packed plenty of muscle in that short frame. His folks were mostly from England. My mom’s people were from Norway. Ingrid was tall and blonde and towered over Dad by a bunch of inches.

They raised two sons and three daughters together, worked the ranch all day long in all weather, and still held hands when they went to church on Sundays.

My brother Jacob was the oldest. It naturally fell to him to take over Dad’s business. The rest of us kids didn’t mind. Jake loved the ranch and loved working it. My sister Katy went off to college and became a vet, which left her no time to take care of a ranch. Sarah married a cowboy up in Canada and is building his business with him and their three kids. Maggie’s the baby—she’s still drifting around trying to figure out what she wants to do when she grows up. We all hope she finds out someday. In the meantime, Jake and his wife, Elle, pay her to help out with their kids and the house while Elle helps out in the field. Saves them from hiring one more ranch hand.

Even as a kid, I had a knack for horses. Just got along with them, could figure out how to make them do what I wanted instead of what they wanted. Any time Dad got an ornery colt or a stubborn filly in, he’d just hand the lead rope over to me and say, “They’re all yours, Ty. Work your magic.”

 Some folks say I got the best of my parents. I’m tall, like my mom, and have her blue eyes and her inability to sit down and relax. I got my dad’s strong jaw and stubbornness. Ever since grade school, the girls would giggle and call me Tyler Handsome. I guess I could have used that to my advantage and gotten all big-headed about it, but lucky for me, I had a family around me to put me down a peg or twelve when I needed it. Jake’s two years older than me and about six inches shorter, but he can still kick my ass. And my sisters were always quick to point out when my hair was stuck up all lop-sided, or if I had something in my teeth or a pimple on my nose.

Trust me, I never thought I was God’s gift. No one gave me that privilege.

I was twenty-two when I graduated from the University of Wyoming with a degree in business. I had already decided I was going to be a horse trainer. I tried my hand in Wyoming, but it’s a hard land with a lot of miles between neighbors. Soon, I went down to Texas and found work with a couple of trainers, assisting them and learning how to deal with clients and the business end as well as the horses. Horses I could manage. People are tougher.

I finally moved to a stable in Arizona and set up my own shingle. Thought about making up some fancy name, but decided to keep it simple. “Tyler Ransome Training.” I only had a couple of clients with pretty rank horses. It was okay. I was building a business.

It took me five years, but I finally had ten steady clients and a QH stud, Sonny, of my own. When I started, I took anyone who wanted to train their horse to do anything. Now I had clients who competed in reining. Reining is a good event, mostly because the shows pay money to the winners. It’s so much better than just a blue ribbon.

I was living as cheaply as I could and saving as much money as possible, which is hard to do when you’re also trying to keep your horse shod and vaccinated and competing. The stable’s board fees kept going up, too, threatening my clients. Horses are a luxury, and when times get tough, the first thing to go is the training, then the horse. I knew I needed my own place if I was to ever control costs.

I talked it over with my family and they agreed to lend me the money for down payment on a ranch. I found a nice twenty-acre place on the outskirts of Scottsdale, not far from the stable. It needed a lot of work, which I was willing to do.

A few years later, I was doing all right. I leased part of my place to a Western trainer, had ten nice clients, and took them all to the best shows. That’s when I met Melissa. She was beautiful and outgoing. She rode horses and had competed in AQHYA events. I confess I saw a little of my mom in her, with those blue eyes and blonde hair. I thought I had found what my dad had.

I was wrong. Melissa may have had some of my mom’s beauty, but she wasn't much on the inside. She “let” me handle most everything on the ranch, unless it was her own horse, which she took care of. The household work was left mostly to the housecleaner I had before I married. Melissa was spoiled, but I loved her and was unable to see her as anything but lively and outgoing. Her family had money and knew a lot of people. She got me going out to parties and introduced me to those wealthy folks. Soon, I had another level of clientele—the kind who could spend hundreds of thousands on a good horse.

I was mostly happy, until we had our two boys, Zachary and Seth. I loved being a dad and had all these notions about raising my sons the way I was raised. I had such happy memories of working the ranch all day with my dad, then coming in to the smell of something good on the stove that my mom cooked for dinner.

Melissa had other ideas. She nagged at me to get a nanny for the boys so she could continue to go shopping and lolling around with her girlfriends. It was the first time I ever said no, and I was surprised and angry when she went to her daddy, got the money, and hired the nanny anyway.

Seemed like that was the beginning of the end for us. The unhappier I got, the more time she spent away from the house. She started to come home late, drunk. I was worried that she’d cause an accident, or get killed in one. When I tried to talk to her about it, she’d say I was old-fashioned and needed to lighten up. Even two DUIs didn’t stop her.

I’ll never forget our last evening together. We went to a party at her friend’s house. It was a birthday party for their daughter, who was turning six and a friend of Zach’s. I didn’t exactly want to go, but I knew the couple and knew there would be adult beverages. I wanted to be there, to be the designated driver.

Let's just say that night changed my life.

There was a year-long nightmare of court appearances, where I fought my wife for control of my ranch, custody of my remaining son, everything. After a year and a half, I had had enough. I was on the verge every day, on the verge of either killing myself or killing her. Neither of those options were healthy. I sat down at my desk and signed all the papers. The divorce papers, the custody papers, the settlement agreements, everything that gave her everything I owned. All she allowed me to keep was my truck and trailer, and my stud horse.
She only let me keep my stud because she thought he had laminitis. Seems like the vet gave her some false information, and I wasn't in the mood to correct her. Okay, so it wasn't my finest moment, but I needed that horse.

After that, I wrote a letter to my clients, giving them notice. Bless their hearts, they had believed in me and stuck with me through the whole ordeal. Melissa thought I would continue to train on the ranch—my ranch that she owned. Somehow she would continue to punish me for her sins.

Well, I’m no Jesus.

I wrote a letter to Zach and sent it to my brother to give to my son. I hoped he would be able to see his nephew.

Then I loaded Sonny in the trailer and drove.

Texas might have made more sense, but I went west instead and ended up in southern California. I guess I wanted to get lost in a crowd of people. I also guess I thought people in California tend to be a little more understanding about a fella who lost it all.

It’s been three years now, and I’m building a new business, renting space at an equestrian center. I’ve got five clients. Only one of them does reining. The rest do pleasure events—horsemanship and trail and showmanship. And four of them have Quarter horses. The fifth has a Paint. I’m going to smaller shows and doing different things, but I’m surviving.

I miss Zach until it aches sometimes. And I wish that ex-wife of mine would die. Does that sound harsh?
Stay tuned to meet more of the cast.

1 comment:

Tameri Etherton said...

What? That's all we get? You are such a tease, Gayle Carline!

This is great. I'm in. Totally in.

Who's next? I need to meet more of these fine folks.

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