karoo Heart, the soon to be released publication by popular bucolic storyteller, Rick Steber, tells the story of Herman and Betty Vowel.
The author emphasizes that Buckaroo Heart is a kind of cowboy love story but at the same time, there's a lot of buckarooing and good old fashioned rugged western living going on, too.
Set in the 40's it opens with a flashback to the last moments of the heroine's life as she lay dying of breast cancer in the arms of her beloved, some 20 years later.
Steber indicated that the reason he chose to set the pace of the book by using such a dramatic episode was to give the reader an idea of the depth of the love this couple shared.
The gritty true-to-life story revolves around ranch life in a remote eastern Oregon region. The Vowells live entirely without the amenities we are afforded today, and still seem to enjoy their lives together. Through thick and thin, the couple only grow closer together as they confront the challenges of life.
Steber explains that growing up near where the Vowell brothers worked a ranch during the 60's in Klamath county afforded him many opportunities to hear colorful tales about rugged ranch life first hand.
"I remember looking across the field watching them out there in the corral working horses," Steber said reminiscently. "They'd haul wild horses out off the tableland and off the Devil's Garden country, bring them in, break and then sell them."
When not buckarooing, the brothers would pass time telling stories about the old west they knew so well, which inspired Steber to begin recording their history and adventures, a task that actively began about five years ago.
It was years into the process before Herman Vowell revealed the tender story about the special relationship which existed between him and his first wife Betty, the story that forms the core of `Buckaroo Heart'.
"That Herman, being this buckaroo that drifted from place to place and Betty, being a city girl could get together and form such a lasting bond seemed rather extraordinary. But, the two of them did fall in love and somehow successfully meshed their lives together," he explains adding that Betty in turn, fell in love with the wide open spaces and the cowboy way of life.
"These two shared that enduring kind of love that no matter what kind of hardships they encountered the two of them are able to make it work."
Steber doesn't recall actually ever speaking to Betty Vowell as a young man, but a large part of the book is her very personal perspectives on the events the couple encountered during their 20-plus years together.
"Women think differently from men, that's for sure," he said. "A lot of that information I got from Herman. I'd go over a particular scene with him and even after all these years, he'd be able to give me the gist of what was going on."
A full length love story is something new to this highly successful author, and it's something he's been able to accomplish with finesse. "In some ways it's different from anything I've ever done, and in other ways it's very similar. This is the kind of story for anybody who lives out west or likes horses, or enjoys a good story. I only hope I told it well, because I know the story is good."
Steber said that while he's busy promoting this latest release, he's also busy working on the next projects, at least one of particular local interest.
"One story I'm working on is the killing of Philip Brooks _ the cowboy killed five or six years ago in the Mitchell area," he explained.
As he spoke, it became evident that this is one modern day cowboy mystery that Steber has already sunk his teeth into.
"I've probably put in 3000 hours or more of research on that one," he explains. 'There's somebody out there that has a clue, and knows what really happened. I'd like to talk that person."
After so many hours of research, Steber has begun to develop his own theories on this modern day drama. "There's two things that could have happened. Either it was a complete accident, and only one person knows, and they were up there and fired the shot _ or it was a cold blooded killing. I'm interested in the story. I'm interested in finding out two things. Who did it and why."
Passion for a good story is a trademark of this gifted author, and one that will undoubtedly fuel Steber's stories for years to come.
Steber will be autographing copies of Buckaroo Heart on Sun., Dec. 5 at the Robin's Nest from noon to 2 p.m. and on Saturday, Dec. 8 at Bowman Museum from 10 a.m. to noon.
His books may be ordered online by visiting www.ricksteber.com, or by calling 447-3115.