Head Fake

KDBarnRight now in the rodeo world, there’s a big kerfluffle about a special event designed and hosted by Jerry Jones of Dallas Cowboys fame. It’s sort of a western cage match between the top ten in the pro ranks in each of the standard rodeo events and five others who’ve fought their way through several rounds of all comers qualifying rodeos.

So far, so good. The big finale will be held at AT&T Stadium, where the Cowboys play football. There’s a ton of money to be won and a lot of publicity, which is good for the competitors and the sport in general. Yay for everybody.

Except they couldn’t help but mess with it. First off, they gave a free pass to a handful of super special contestants. Legends like Charmayne James and Dan Mortenson just get to show up, no qualification required, based on their past performance. And I’m still okay with that.

But then they had to mess with it some more. Rather than just giving a free pass in the team roping, they gathered up three former superstars and had a match roping. Fastest time on four steers to see who got to go. I watched the whole thing. Jake Barnes kicked ass. Whoo hoo, we’re headed to the big show.

Then tonight I found out they decided to let all three compete in the finale.

Now, I’m pissed. Not because I don’t think all three guys deserve to rope for the big money. Of course they do. But we had a deal, dammit. I invested myself in that match. Believed them when they said it mattered. And then they said, “Hah. Just kidding.”

Leave it to Dallas. It’s Bobby showing up alive in the shower all over again.

Sometimes, this happens in books and movies, too. And sometimes to the best of writers. In order to create a compelling story, we have to put our characters at odds. Give them obstacles to overcome. The bigger and the hairier the better. But then, Oh crap! I got them into this, but how in the heck am I going to get them out?

The temptation to create an escape hatch is strong. The heroine is outnumbered, out-gunned, teetering on the edge of a cliff, when suddenly her arch-nemesis reveals that all this time he was really her brother and only pretending to be a murdering despot in order to infiltrate the enemy camp. Hallelujah! She is saved!

And you just heaved the book at the wall, because you’ve fought side by side with this ninny for two hundred pages and you want to see her triumph, not be handed her salvation on a platter.

Imagine the original Star Wars movie if, at the end, instead of Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star, Darth Vader had a change of heart and handed over the keys. Sorry about that son. I didn’t mean to cut your arm off. 

Yeah. That would’ve sucked.

So, moral of the story? Mostly that I’m easily irritated right now because we’re calving and I’m the family insomniac so I get the 2 a.m. cow check, and still get to go the desk job every day, which really messes with my afternoon nap.

But also that any time you set up a conflict, you’re making a promise to your readers or viewers. We’re going to fight this out, may the best man or woman win.

And no, dammit, I am not going to be happy if you call it a draw.


Kari Lynn Dell – Montana for Real 

Oh, yeah. In case you’re interested in watching, The American rodeo is this weekend. TV information is here:  http://www.rfdtv.com/story/23228599/theamerican