Wait a minute. “Florida’s version of the Old West?” Did I hear that correctly? Why yes, yes you did. While Florida is better known for its orange groves and theme parks, as a setting for a cattle drive, 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. We should blame Ponce de Leon for that. He brought seven head of Andalusian cows with him on his second visit in 1521. And, despite the mosquitoes and the floods and the heat, 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 nickname harkens back to the days when cowboys would snap long, braided whips over the heads of the cattle they were herding. “Crack!”
In 2006, over 500 riders took part in the Great Florida Cattle Drive, taking more than 500 head of cattle on a mid-winter drive through the middle of the state. That drive became the inspiration for my December release, Rancher’s Son.
Of course, a story about a cattle drive wouldn't be very romantic by itself. For this romance, I needed a heroine. And there stood Sarah Magarity, the social worker who'd appeared in two of my earlier books (The Daddy Catch and Rodeo Daughter). She was just waiting to find the man of her dreams.
Not that Ty Parker looked like Sarah’s ideal hero. Especially not when the cowboy flatly denied fathering the five-year-old she’d taken under her wing. And since Ty bailed on the last two foster children she’d placed in his care, Sarah has no choice but to go along on Ty’s mid-winter round-up while they wait for the results of a paternity test.