Arizona Guest Ranch Trail Ride

The Art of The Journey: Why I’m Writing A Novel (Plus a Sample From Chapter 1)

When I was 22 I left Oregon in my little red Honda Civic and drove 21 hours to Wickenburg, Arizona to work on a guest ranch. I was a little lost in school, a lot lost in life. I won’t romanticize the ranch, it was hard work. The owners had high expectations and the manager was not a very nice person. But the desert was exactly what I needed. And I met the most amazing man there, who I now get to call my husband. I didn’t know when I met him that I would fall in love with him. He actually had a girlfriend at a different ranch when we met. But we became fast friends because of our mutual love of movies, sarcasm and complaining about work. Eventually the girlfriend became an ex-girlfriend and we started dating.

Even before I left the ranch, I knew I wanted to write about it. I knew what I wanted to write about. I never wanted to write about myself. I wanted to write about this amazing independent woman who worked on the ranch. She became the inspiration for the main character of my novel. After my work at the ranch ended, I started writing the story. In two years I wrote 36 pages. And then I put the story down and didn’t pick it up for years. I thought I was going to PA school. And then I wasn’t. But I was still intensely focused on my career in healthcare.

In 2015 I marveled at how 10 years had passed since I met my husband. Since that ranch changed the trajectory of my life. And I decided that I wanted to finish that story I started so long ago. And so began this journey you are accompanying me on now. If it weren’t for the book, this blog wouldn’t even exist. This blog is a product of my dream of finishing my story and the prodding of a good friend to chronicle my thoughts. I would be nothing without the strong women who have been a part of my life throughout my time on earth. I am built by them. Starting first with my mother. Then my sister. And out from there, like concentric rings of inspiration, each woman adding more.

My story is about an independent woman who must continue to grow. The main character is Sam Hart, a female wrangler at the Broken Hart guest ranch. She is looking forward to a satisfying winter season of leading dudes on trail rides. But with Eli Wright as the detestable general manager, the likelihood of a peaceful season is slipping away. And Sam feels her job, and even her future with the ranch, are threatened.

Vulture Peak, Wickenburg Arizona

This story is a work in process. I am still actively editing it. Below is an excerpt from the first chapter. I wanted to share a taste of the story. To give a feel of what I’m working on.

And if you’re wondering what the hell made me want to write a novel, my only answer is that I had to. I don’t know why. I can’t question the process too much because the doubts become too large. I just have to do this. There is a saying by Thomas Carlyle. “Go as far as you can see. When you get there, you’ll see further.” So that is what I’m doing. I can’t see much beyond the telling of this story. But I am guided by a pull in my heart stronger than my fear that this is all for nothing.

Without further ado, here is the sample.


“Eli Wright came onto the ranch with nothing but an old shitty Ford truck and a mouth full of rotten teeth. He had nothing, he came from nothing, and then he showed up here and wants everything.”

“Samantha, honey. He can’t be that bad.”

“Mama,” Sam spoke through gritted teeth, “He knows nothing. But he acts like he knows everything. I just cannot believe Ron and Pearl promoted him to manager after having him as the head wrangler for just one season.”

“Sam, I’m sorry, but you knew this was going to happen. You knew it when you left at the end of last season. You haven’t even gotten started with this season. Maybe you should think about giving him a chance. You’re the one who told me Ron was very successful in day trading, he must see something in Eli that you don’t.”

“Well now I wish I hadn’t told you that, because I don’t like you turning it around on me.”

“I’m not trying to turn it around on you. But what choice do you have?”

“I could leave.”

“And go where? Another ranch? And then if there’s a no good, rotten-mouth, jerk there you going to leave that ranch too?”

“Well actually Ron and Pearl fixed his teeth for him over the summer. So now he has a full set of shiny veneers.”

“How do you know that? And anyway, quit distracting me. You got to buck up cowgirl. You can’t just pick up and leave when you get bored or the going gets—“

“Shit, ma. Sorry. Gotta go. He’s coming right now.” Sam cut her mom off.

“You called me from the ranch? What the heck, Sam? That is not smart.”

“Okay, mom, love you too. Great talking to you. Thanks for all the advice.” Sam set the phone on the receiver, her mom’s admonishments still floating up to her.

Eli walked in to the staff dining room, “Hey, been looking for you all over the place. I thought you were cleaning and oiling saddles?”

“I was. I finished up and came in to give my ma a call.”

“Okay, well we got shit to do. You all caught up on the gossip going on back home?”

“We weren’t—it wasn’t gossip. Never mind. Why were you looking for me?”

“The newest ops girl needs to be towed out of the river bed.”

“What the hell was she doing going through the dry river crossing?”

“Don’t know. You can ask her when we go pull her out. Figured you could help me.”


“And we need to take your truck.”

“Why wouldn’t we take the ranch truck?”

“I ran it out of gas. Well it has a little bit left in it, but not enough to go pull her out of the sand.”

“You what? How did you?” She now knew why he needed her help to tow the girl’s car out of the sand.

“Don’t worry about it. Just meet me at the truck. I’ll grab the towing chain out of it.”

Sam got in her new Dodge, she purchased it over the summer and the new car smell hadn’t left the upholstery yet. She pulled the truck around to Eli’s trailer, where the gas-less ranch truck sat. Eli’s rusted-out teal truck sat next to the ranch truck. She recalled how her heart had sunk when she pulled onto the ranch a few days earlier and saw the truck angled in front of the ranch office. She had hoped perhaps he wouldn’t return.

BANG! Eli slammed the chains in the bed of the Dodge and came around to Sam’s open driver’s side window.

“Jeez, Eli. You wanna watch my paint job? You really tossed that in there.”

“Ah c’mon Sam. You should have a bed liner anyway. Nobody keeps their trucks with a slick bed anymore anyway.”

“Yeah, bed liners cost money. So unless you’re giving out free liners, I’d like to keep it looking new for longer than a couple months.”

“Fine, fine. You gonna get out and let me drive or what?”

“Excuse me? Why would I let you drive my truck?”

Eli looked at her, mouth agape, threw his hands up and walked over to the passenger side and got in the truck. “What the hell’s up with you today?”

“Do I really need to explain to you why I would like to drive my own truck?”

“Whatever, Sam. Let’s get on our way. I’m looking forward to seeing what fresh meat we’re getting in.”

Sam ignored the comment. “So how did you even know she was stuck?”

“She walked to Holleran’s ranch and he called over here, because obviously her cell phone didn’t work. He called the office phone. Said the employee line was busy.”

“Oh so I guess you weren’t really looking all over for me then. You knew I was in the staff dining room on the phone.”

“Well I just got lucky. The staff dining room is where I started.”

Sam drove the truck off the ranch and south toward the fork in the gravel road. The fork to the north led to the Broken Hart Ranch. The fork to the East lead across the dry river bed and to the Holleran’s ranch and a few other private properties.

As they approached, they could see the girl’s red, two-door coup crouched in the piled up sand on the left side of the worn ruts. Sand filled the gaps in the wheel rim and came up to the bottom of the car. Eli opened his door before Sam had even cut the engine.

“Well hi there, Tess. Hear ya got a little problem.”

The young woman blushed. “Yeah, seems the desert got one up on me already.” Her long blonde hair sat on top of her head in a loose bun, her skin glinted with prickles of perspiration

Sam walked up to the leggy girl and offered her hand, “Hi Tess, I’m Samantha, but everyone calls me Sam.” They shook hands and Sam couldn’t decide if she was meeting a pretty, gritty girl or a wannabe cowgirl. The girl’s nails were artfully manicured with acrylic French tips, and her buttery leather boots bore no wear lines. Between the sports car, the manicure and the brand new boots, Sam decided she was looking at a wannabe cowgirl.

“Nice to meet you.” Tess gave Sam a wide smile, filled with straight white teeth that reminded Sam of a bleached-white orange peel. Tess seemed to sense Sam’s judgment. She chuckled and gestured at the car, “I swear they told me that thing could handle off-roading. But I guess the 2 feet of loose sand proved a little too much for it.”


Well, what do you think? Would you keep reading? Would it make you click “Buy Now” in your amazon account? Is there a strong woman in your life who has inspired you years after you first met her?

Wickenburg Arizona Guest Ranch Cowgirl
The ceramic horse was a joke, I was taking it around town taking photos with it, and then sent the horse and the photos back home to a friend. I still have those Ariat boots. Sadly, the hat was destroyed by our beloved Connor dog.

Legal Stuff: This is all copyrighted work, so please, no copying, reprinting or using of these words without my express permission.

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Theresa Rice

Writing a modern day western and telling my daily stories of humor, sadness or inspiration. Depending on the day, it might be all three.

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