Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Prairie Dog Cowboy

Buddy wanted to be a Cowboy, one that rode a horse, not herd cows by foot. When the neighboring rancher, Caleb Hyman, told the boy he would be hired once he could lasso prairie dogs, Buddy worked and practiced for years to be able to catch one. The day he finally roped one of the quick rodents, two of his older brother's friends watched from the road and ridiculed Buddy, calling him a prairie dog cowboy. Facing the hard life of homesteading in the late 1890s and early 1900s, Buddy didn't have an easy life, made worse by a mother who didn't love him or accept him. However, with the help of the Hymans, he developed into a strong, decent person who struggled to find his place in his world.

And so ... this is the story of Prairie Dog Cowboy, a historical fiction novel for young teens by V. Gilbert Zabel -- also known as Vivian -- my wonderful publisher at 4RV Publishing. I'm pleased to introduce this book and recently I asked Vivian a few questions about Prairie Dog Cowboy ...

Rena -- What is the basis of Prairie Dog Cowboy?
Vivian -- Buddy dreamed of being a cowboy as he herded his family's few cows, and sometimes calves, in the pasture. He wanted to be a cowboy who rode a horse, not ran after cattle on foot. A neighboring rancher befriended him and promised to hire the boy once he could lasso a prairie dog. Buddy grew up during a difficult time, made harder for him because of a dysfunctional family. He was his mother's "whipping boy," but he kept trying to please her and earn her love. His struggle to survive the frontier life and become a man is the basis of the novel.

Rena -- What inspired you to write this story?
Vivian -- My husband worked his family's farm, cowboyed for local ranchers, and broke horses. His stories made me want to find a way to include his experiences.

Rena -- Who is this book geared toward and for what age?
Vivian -- Technically, Prairie Dog Cowboy is written for young teens, especially reluctant readers, but I've had elementary students, older teens, and adults read and enjoy the book.

Rena -- Are there any illustrations in the book?
Vivian -- The book contains pen and ink drawings, created by artist Jordan M. Vinyard. As I stated, I wrote so that reluctant readers could enjoy the book. Long pages of nothing but words actually scare some people. Breaking up the vast array of words with an occasional illustration helps.

Rena -- Why did you choose prairie dogs as part of the story?
Vivian -- I wanted a goal for Buddy, something that he could attain by the time he was old enough to work on a ranch. Prairie dogs are a bane in the Oklahoma Panhandle. What could make a better challenge for a young boy that to learn to rope one of the quick, easily found animals?

I'm pleased to share this book with you today. You can order Prairie Dog Cowboy at 4RV Publishing as well as Amazon. As a special treat for this blog tour, Vivian is having a drawing for a free tote bag. Simply leave a valid email with your comment and you'll be eligible for the drawing. Also, I have a second entry on my Multiply blog, which is different than this one. Click here to read it. To see what's in store for Buddy next and to follow the rest of the tour, click here. And finally, please join me in wishing Vivian and her husband Robert a happy anniversary. Today is their 47th wedding anniversary -- now that's something to to be proud of. Congratulations!


  1. My Dad was raised on a pig ranch - wouldn't make as pretty of a picture book.

    Love horses - pigs not so much.

  2. I like that the story takes something that's a pain in the butt for most ranch folks - the prairie dog - and makes it something significant for Buddy. :o)

  3. Thanks for inviting me today, Mrs.Jones.

    Everyone is sure saying nice things. Thank you. Caleb and Mary would be very upset with me if I didn't tell people how much I appreciate that.

    Telling my author congratulations is a friendly thing to do. I know she will be saying thanks for that herself.

  4. lol - Good posting, Rena. I learned yet something else about the book. I didn't know the tidbit about the prairie dogs. Thanks for hosting Vivian today. Also, stop by my blog - and check out another take on this historical novel.

    See you all in the postings - E :)

  5. I'm looking forward to reading the book to my boys. I also know a lot of kids here in Montana might be able to relate, as we have a lot of farms and ranches around. And believe it or not, people DO dress like cowboys up here! It's nice to see, especially after having to look at the gangster-Raiders look for so long in SoCA.

    Thanks for stopping by everyone!

  6. Happy anniversary, Vivian and Robert. Prairie Dog Cowboy is a wonderful way to tell children the story of their heritage.


  7. What a great interview - and it sounds like an awesome book! Thanks.

    And happy anniversary - wow, 47 years of marriage... and to the same fella! That is an accomplishment. :) All the best.

  8. Another great post, Vivian. Your book sounds so intriguing!

  9. Again, more good information. This book is a reminder of the hardships of the new Oklahoma territory written in a way that young adults can actually identify with Buddy. A reminder that hopes, dreams and goals can be realized with a lot of determination and a little bit of luck.

  10. Thanks Rena. Living in Wyoming where people still dress as cowboys as well, I think kids here could relate to that book. I'm sure my 13 year old would love it.

    Happy Anniversary Vivian!


  11. Nice interview, Rena. I enjoy books about ranch life and hope to read this one soon.


  12. Sounds like an interesting book and a great way to learn about frontier life.
    Nice interview!

  13. How cool!! I look forward to reading the book and checking out the rest of the artwork.

    Hope you have a good day! :)

  14. When I taught third grade, I used to do a Wild West theme. This sounds like a good chapter book to read aloud to them each day!
    I love the names Caleb and Buddy for cowboys!

  15. Very nice interview, Rena! What a coincidence, too, as one thing leads to another!

    Thank you for stopping by my blog today. Your visit lead me to your home site where I enjoyed your photos very much. From there I found this site and the first post I read was this one.

    As it turns out, a blogging friend of mine, Malcolm Campbell, also did a post yesterday on Vivian and Prairie Dog Cowboy on his Wordpress blog. I thought you might be interested in it and I will e-mail you a link to it!


  16. What a neat book. I live in Oklahoma, and I've rarely seen any on the panhandle. Thanks for sharing!