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A New England Girl with Cowboy Dreams

Natalie, A New England Girl with Cowboy Dreams

Michael Arthur Taylor

Natalie, the two volume series, that captures the influence the western cowboy culture, that dominated television and movie theaters in the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s, had on a young woman. The first volume, set in New England, captures Natalie as she grows up against the backdrop of WWII and the popularity of dude ranches and rodeo life throughout the area. The second volume brings the adult Natalie and her young family to Florida, and details Florida’s natural world, cowboy culture, and life on a ranch. Both books tell the story of a strong, resilient woman who was able to live her dream while overcoming obstacles and unfathomable tragedies.

Book Excerpt or Article

         As soon as the steer cleared the chute and snapped the barrier rope, Smokey spurred the mare, but she hesitated and then took off with less speed than Natalie knew was demanded. At the same moment, Bill’s mount bolted with an enormous initial leap that put him out of the box and up next to the steer. Smokey’s cowpony lagged a stride behind. When Smokey’s spurs prompted the mare to give a burst of speed, Bill’s attempt to pull his gelding up resulted in the horse shying to the left into the steer’s path. The steer threw his head up and back to the left just as Smokey awkwardly slid from the saddle. His right arm bounced off the steer’s shoulders as his left hand overshot the steer’s left horn, which sliced into Smokey’s abdomen below his right rib cage. Natalie, used to seeing the graceful transfer of the cowboy from his horse to the steer and to the ground, knew from the awkward tangle of steer and cowboy, that something had gone terribly wrong. The disbelief on Bill’s face as he violently reined the bay to a sliding halt warned her of the danger before Smokey’s agonized cry confirmed his injury. The steer twisted his horn free of the cowboy and trotted slowly down the arena as Bill leaped from the saddle and ran to his partner’s side. Stumbling to his knees, Bill turned Smokey on his back, and his hand came away covered in blood. He clawed at his shirt, popping buttons off, as he ripped the denim off his back and wadded the cloth into a compress to stem Smokey’s bleeding. His hat tumbled into the dirt. The shock on his face alerted the timer, who spurred his mount across the arena and signaled for the medics to bring in the emergency truck. The timer dismounted, ran several strides, looked over Bill’s shoulder, and averted his face. 
         Bill yelled, “Medic! Get a doctor!”
         The silence that spread across the stands emphasized the mechanical grind of the emergency truck that kicked up dirt as the vehicle swung in an arc around the downed cowboys to point back towards the exit gate. As two medics tumbled out of the truck, the timer opened the rear door, grabbed the stretcher, and assisted Bill and the medics in sliding Smokey on to the stretcher and into the back of the truck. Bill crawled in beside the prone cowboy. The vehicle bounced out of the arena and on to a back road before Natalie could clamber out of the stands. In shock, she stood beside the arena fence, not sure which way to turn until she saw a well-dressed, middle-aged cowboy striding purposefully toward the two mounted timers who had ridden up the right side of the arena towards the announcer’s booth. 
         Natalie intercepted the cowboy by running in front of him and, as tears ran down her face, said, “Excuse me, but I’m a friend of the cowboy who was just injured. Do you know where they were taking him?”
         He stopped abruptly, reached out to hold her left arm, and replied, “Gosh, Miss, I’m sorry that boy got hurt. I’m Ed Townson, one of the committee members who coordinate the rodeo events. If the injury was serious, the medic would take him to the Glen Falls hospital.”
         Natalie looked right and then left as if the hospital might suddenly appear. She stared blankly into Ed’s face.
         “You look like you are in shock, Miss. I can find someone who can take you to the hospital, or I can take you myself. Are you going to be alright?”
         “I have the keys to Bill and Smokey’s truck. I can get there. Which way do I go?”

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I am now a retired English teacher, who taught for 39 years on the college, high school, and middle school levels. I earned National Board Certification in 2002 in Early Adolescence/English Language Arts, was a Fellow with the Tampa Bay Area Writing Project, and a summer Fellow with the Poynter Institute Writers Camp. I self-published a memoir in 2016, Growing Up Floridian. “One Gunshot's Long Echo," Chapter 19 of Growing Up Floridian, was originally published in the St. Petersburg Times newspaper in December of 2000 as a "Sunday Journal" story. This chapter is written in third person in contrast to the first person narratives of the other chapters. The text was edited and reduced to fit the word limitation requirement of the newspaper. What is offered in my memoir is the original version written during a 1996 Poynter Institute's Summer Writers Camp for teachers and students under the direction of Dr. Roy Peter Clark, Mary Osborne, and Janie Guilbault and became an inspirational beginning for Growing Up Floridian. I live in Gulfport, Florida and can be reached via email at

I have recently written two books that are largely set in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s in Reading and Great Barrington, MA and rural Florida during a time when dude ranches were popular and the western cowboy culture dominated television and movie theaters.

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