Sunday, February 12, 2012

Florida Has Cattle, Too

Fourth-generation cattleman Ty Parker looks into his childless future and wonders what will become of the ranch he’s worked so hard to preserve. His answer might be a five-year-old boy abandoned on DCF’s doorstep, but only if the rancher convinces a jaded social worker that he’s good father material on a two-week cattle drive through Florida’s version of the Old West.

I have to admit that my story about a cattle drive set in Florida raised some eyebrows when I first pitched the idea as a Harlequin American Romance. Cattle? In Florida? A state more known for its orange groves and theme parks didn’t seem like the best setting for a story about a fourth-generation rancher. And yet, it’s more fitting than a lot of people might guess.

Cattle ranching has been a staple of Florida’s economy for a long, long time. I think it’s fair to blame Ponce de Leon for that. He brought seven head of Andalusian cows with him on his second visit in 1521. People have been ranching here ever since.

Did you know that today Florida is the third-largest beef-producing state east of the Mississippi? Or that 1.1 million head of cattle graze its pastures?

We use term “Florida Cracker” when we’re talking about someone who was born and raised in the state. The term harkens back to the days when cowboys would snap long, braided whips over the heads of the cattle they were herding. “Crack!”

The cattle drive in Rancher’s Son, my December release for Harlequin American Romance is pattered after an old-fashioned drive that takes place across the state each spring. Over the next few months, we’ll talk more about Rancher’s Son and why Florida makes the perfect setting for a book about ranching.


Marin Thomas said...

Leigh...I knew there was cattle in Florida but didn't know it was the 3rd largest beef producing state! Sounds like a great setting for an American Romance book...can't wait to learn more!

Leigh Duncan said...

Thanks, Marin! This book has been soooo much fun to write. In part because it brings back so many memories of herding the cattle on my grandmother's farm.

Marin Thomas said...

You herded cattle??? That makes you a real cowgirl, lol!

linda s said...

How fascinating. I never associated cattle ranching with Florida. Since I have never been to Florida I think palm trees and beaches and 90 degrees while I'm freezing in the cold of winter.

Leigh Duncan said...


Well, we do have palm trees and beaches. And warm weather winters are our specialty. There's plenty of other things to do and see, too. The Kennedy Space Center, theme parks, lots of fresh and salt water fishing...and ranches!

kris said...

I know it's wrong, but I can't help but picture all those bovine beasties wearing Mickey ears.