• A Continuing Montana Love Story
  • Montana Cowboys
  • Franklin Jarvis' hands
  • Hereford
  • Cowhorse
  • cowboys on round-up

Insider Secrets

Each novel I write has places in it where a there’s a lot of subtle or not-so-subtle significance.  I’m going to go ahead and expose some of them for those who are curious.  I know I always am when I find an author who will do something similar for their novels that’s like the director’s commentary found on some movies.  In here you’ll find humor, tongue-in-cheek “stuff”, and all sorts of insights, I suppose, into just how a warped writer’s mind works. Have fun and don’t take it all too seriously.  I don’t. 😀

Insights into Through Better & Worse

Through Better & Worse novel cover, 3/4 viewIn Chapter One, the second scene (Jake’s first scene), Marty is responding to Jake’s Uncle Rick, and says:

“That’s the truth,” Marty agreed.  “Claims if you know it, then you should’a done somethin’ to stop it.”

One of the very deep-rooted ethos of the Western culture is this sense of right and wrong and of doing something

  • to right a wrong,
  • stop a wrong from being committed,
  • and fight a wrong.  

This goes hand-in-hand and in seeming opposition to another deep-rooted cultural ethos, that of minding one’s own business.  

Later in the book, this minding one’s own business comes strongly into conversations and confrontations between Jake and his grandfather.  What’s humorous to me and, yet, very much a truism is that the whole minding one’s own business flies right out the window as soon as “minding someone else’s business” is the “right thing to do.”  And that’s actually the ethos–sticking to what’s ‘right’ rather than allowing or doing ‘wrong’.  So, in essence, it’s none of your business what somebody else does or doesn’t do…as long as what they’re doing isn’t wrong or harmful.


In Chapter Two:

…Dree called Larry Carter once she had cell phone signal.

Despite Verizon and anyone else’s claim, cell phone reception in many rural areas of Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado…and just about anywhere Rural, USA, is not available except in or near towns.  Get two blinks outside of town, and zip, no reception.  It makes the devices all but useless, except as an alarm clock, camera, and small flashlight. 😀

Larry, looking more white-faced than ever without his summer tan….

The white skin and tendency for ears to turn red in temper that runs on the Carter side of Dree’s family–her maternal side–is important.  Throughout the books where people from Dree’s mom’s side of the family show up, even if not labeled as a Carter, this feature about them is a reader clue that, yep, danger, danger, it’s one of the Carter kin, again.

The eldest looked like a caricature out of a movie with his jean-clad, bandy legs, his beat-up hat, and his plaid, flannel shirt.

This is, in fact, the way a lot of old cowboys look.  It’s not a caricature.  It’s very real.  Injuries and long years in the saddle does this.  But they remain strong, wiry, and able, despite all that…as long as they keep moving, which they usually do. These folks are not apt to waste away their end years sitting in a rocking chair or wheelchair.  They’ll die with their boots on unless they’re caught in somebody else’s bed and wind up shot by the jealous husband. 😀

The other was a weathered fifty-something, broad-shouldered and tall, with hard, gold-brown eyes, a scar running down the right side of his face.  

Watch the eye-color <–hint

He wore a very expensive Stetson, a clean shirt and jeans, and nice boots. 

Despite Franklin Jarvis wearing clean clothes, good boots, and an expensive Stetson hat, in the next scene, he gets in the pen to wrangle calves. That’s a demonstration of the type of man he is…and most of them are–not afraid to jump in and work, getting “good” clothes dirty.  It’s little things like these that most will miss, but I put them in, anyway, and don’t point them out with any nudges.

And he immediately intimidated her.  He was set-jawed with a dead-reckoning eye and no-nonsense look to him.  Not good for Larry, was Dree’s thought.

Dree recognizes a man who, in contrast to Larry, isn’t full of “bullshit” and who is apt to call it out when he sees or hears it.

she parked her pickup and trailer where the elderly man indicated, his stained, battered hat pushed back on his head… 

Cowboys, especially seasoned ones, will often push their hats back on their head.  If they do it in your presence or when speaking with you, that’s a good thing.  It’s done during moments of good humor, genuine friendliness, and, also, occasionally, when they’re working out a solution to a problem.  

…he made her maneuver back and forth until he was finally satisfied.  “That should do you,” he said, opening the passenger-side door to poke his head in.  His sharp blue eyes sparkled with good-natured humor.

This request for someone to maneuver their rig back and forth is kind of characteristic. And, while these men do tend toward finicky about some things, it’s actually more of a character test of your patience, tolerance, and, yes, a measure of the respect you have for them and theirs.  Do you respect them enough to do it the way they want on their property? Getting frustrated, angry or quitting doesn’t cut it in this culture.  Not at all.

The dogs wagged—unusual—and popped up to beg strokes.  The man obliged, rubbing fingers over happy ears, and got licks on the mouth and face from both Chip and Laddie for his troubles.  

Australian Shepherds, Blue Heelers, and, in fact, most herding dogs, are not friendly toward strangers or even people they see regularly, but who aren’t their owners.  Open the door to “their truck”, “their house”, or “their (or their owner’s) territory”, and you’re apt to get bitten, or “bit”, as we say here.  Cattlemen know this, yet Old Man Jarvis does it anyway.  Why?  Because he knows he’s a good guy and a “dog man”, and he trusts that Dree can control her dogs.  

The dogs’ reactions are typical when they smell/sense a “good” guy.  Later in the book, when Jake approaches Dree to apologize, you’ll see her dogs simply sit by and not even bother to give her a signal of standing up or uttering a small, grumbled growl of warning.  That’s because they recognize Jake as more than “okay.”  Yet, even later in the book, they actually attack Jake.  Why?  I’ll tell you later…when we get there.

He laughed and wiped his mouth with his sleeve, a broad grin showing slightly yellowed, slightly crooked teeth. 

This is typical.  These men don’t mind dog licks to the mouth.  However, they don’t much like being nuzzled, hugged, or kissed by people with whom they don’t share a very, very close interpersonal relationship. And, even with those they share a close relationship, they’d rather you didn’t, except in private and only when they’re in the mood.  The young ones do enjoy a good-looking woman fawning over them, but mostly only when they’re in the mood or when they want other guys to notice. 


Continuing in Chapter Two:

Dree glanced toward Mike who seemed to be trying to hide under his hat, head down, eyes on his boots. She wished she was wearing her hat.

Franklin Jarvis’s eyes caught her….  She quivered a smile and dropped her head away.

Mike Guthrie ducked his head, fingers toying with one of the straps on his chaps like it needed adjustment.

Both Mike Guthrie and Dree are embarrassed and uncomfortable with what Larry says to the Jarvises about crimping versus cutting, then later when he demands to know where the calf tables are.  But neither of them step up to counter what he’s saying.  Honesty and forthrightness in this instance would be seen as interfering.  If the Jarvises can’t see through Larry’s B.S., then “Let the buyer beware.”  But both Mike and Dree demonstrate their discomfort quite strongly through body language, which is permitted, even respected, and that, in itself, is enough.  More respect is given for remaining silent, but demonstrating discomfort.

Dree was careful not to work any quicker than Larry or Mike after that.

Dree, more practiced at the job of castrating, is avoiding embarrassing the men and creating hard feelings by purposely not showing them up.  This is something Western women, and probably women everywhere do, but especially when doing a ‘man’s’ job.

Later in the field, this comes up again, and, again.

Last for this entry, and I couldn’t decide whether to include it or not, then voted to go ahead.

“What’s that spray?” Franklin Jarvis asked her, startling her as he came up to stand just out of reaching distance.

“A quick-acting topical anesthetic I get from my vet.  It helps when I have to do the job alone—”  She stopped, knowing she shouldn’t have said it, and, again, felt herself go red in the face.

His face stayed deadpan.  “That happen often?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

He watched her and his eyes changed, got browner. …Didn’t say a word.  Then, after what was for Dree a long, tense moment, he turned on his heel and walked off.

First off, Dree inherited the tendency from her mom’s side of the family–the Carters–to flush red in the face.  For her, it isn’t just her ears, but a more normal blush many of us suffer.

Second, Franklin’s staying just out of reach is done to give her space, so she doesn’t feel threatened by his proximity.  Franklin has already assessed that Dree is timid and retiring, even self-subjugating around men.  That’s also why he doesn’t react at all to her outright lie, something that normally would make him think less of her.

Notice his eyes changing color.  Occasionally throughout the book, you’ll see circumstances where Franklin’s eyes change and you have to infer its significance and his corresponding mood from the scene circumstances.

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