Writing Along With Risk: Big Rigs, Big Money, & Cowboys

My son is a trucker. The job might not sound dangerous hauling goods from point A to point B, but I am privy to the stories. His newest venture leads him to transport cattle in Missouri, the second largest producer of cattle in the United States. My son, the big-rig cowboy, says, “Cattlemen are a whole different breed,” and I would add a culture unto themselves. As an example, did you know cattle are paid for by the pound and sweat during transport losing weight? It is important to deliver cattle ASAP. “Outlaw Cattle Hauling” is a term used for the way truckers arrive at their destinations in record time.

My son loves risk. The adrenalin of man facing beast exhilarates him, and the money isn’t bad. According to my eldest, some of the unspoken cattlemen rules are: cussing is frowned upon, button-down shirts show respect in the sale barn, learn how to cattle whisper or sound like a horse, in case of an emergency, carry a cell phone in the stock yards, independence means going it alone while loading and unloading stock, don’t get trapped in a corner with three bulls blocking the exit, whooee, those beasts are big, and overalls ain’t pretty, but neither is being covered in cow manure.

I use my curiosity and risk-taking tendencies in my writing to examine my life and develop my characters. Complicated characters take work, and readers don’t always like them. I can’t help myself–primal urges and what motivates humankind to behave and react interests me. While in law enforcement, I met many different kinds of people, but the subcultures with true power kept a low profile and were rarely investigated.

By their nature subcultures grow outside of our cultural norms, beyond our peripheral vision and perusal. People who don’t fit in to categories make us think about the uncomfortable proposition of being different and being shunned. As a society, we tend to look away.

In the case of cattlemen, I think their hidden power lies in their ability to blend into a culture that avoids direct contact, but tolerate them as part of a way of life. As a result, cattlemen quietly acquire vast fortunes while investing in conservative values and politicians. With the addition of a disregard that extends to hatred for everyone who is not Anglo Saxon, the militia or white supremacy group in my manuscript, WELL OF RAGE, operates in a similar fashion.

Although Atlanta is my home, I hail from the “Show-Me” state of Missouri. It puzzles me I don’t remember meeting a rancher. However, I recognize their “Midwestern work ethic,” a respect for others, and a belief in the possibility of peace and justice abiding in my bones and grounding me, but I do wonder what is underneath our species’ daily greetings and smiles. I dare to ask questions and write the answers down.

My mother, bless her soul, called me “a maverick.”

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