|Randy Severe of Severe Bros. Saddlery.
I've added my photo of one of the highest profile people whom I interviewed last year, Randy Severe. He is a custom saddlemaker who works out of Pendleton, OR. I had the privilege of meeting him in September during the Pendleton Roundup, the Super Bowl of rodeos. He's been in the saddlemaking business since he was in his early 20s. He is 60 now and makes saddles that go for as much as $40,000 or more. No exaggeration. His saddles are trophies. Heirlooms. A product of a family lineage and a Western aesthetic that runs deep in eastern Oregon.
Really, Randy and his ilk, and there are plenty like him in the West, keep the cowboy way alive. They ranch and wrangle cattle, build fences and go on epic horseback treks. In his case, he also keeps up a lodging house for cowboys who travel on the professional rodeo circuit. The locals have dubbed his bunkhouse the Hotel de Cowpunch. He doesn't charge for a night's stay. He and his wife, Rosemary, and brother Robin, run their workshop and "hotel" and live a life often glamorized by Hollywood. His uncle, Duff, who taught him a few things about saddlemaking, is memorialized in the Smithsonian.
It's not a stretch to say the cowboy life informs my fiction writing. I don't write Westerns, but I see similarities between my Musketeer characters (courtesy Dumas) and the American cowboy. They both practice unique skills; they respect weaponry; they ride horses; they live with bravado, if only in legend. Could Musketeers be considered the French version of cowboys? I don't see why not.