In the summer of 2022, I created a side character… (in the book Blind Date with a Hero), Jason Keen was Jared’s wayward brother, a rough-and-tumble rodeo cowboy living in Western Colorado. I named him Jason in honor of my own cousin, Jason — the toughest cowboy I know.
He’s fifteen or so years older than me and my memories of him as a kid are few – but almost all revolve around the rodeo and my own quiet awe of him. I also DO remember him sleeping in the recliner with his cowboy hat over his face at a family gathering, just like the fictional Jason did during his brother’s book! The real Jason was a team roper (not a bull rider!) on the rodeo circuit, and the most common time I got to see him was when I went to different county fairs and rodeos. We’d watch him compete and my 10-year-old self would swell with pride that he was MY cousin!
This summer (2023), I heard my cousin Jason’s testimony for the first time. Little did I know, the real Jason walked some truly dark roads before meeting the Lord at his own rock bottom. The rodeo circuit was a rough place for a man trying to prove himself, filled with lots of time on the road and lots of scraping together money to keep coming back.
“You’re a good man, Jason. Why do you let people think the worst?”
He took a deep breath. “It’s easier to let people see what they want. When I started riding, I was in a dark place. All day, every day, I was angry and… shackled by it. I tried a lot of different ways to deal with it, but the only time I felt a bit of relief was in the chute and in the arena.”
Cassie had never heard him talk this much about himself. “What do you mean?”
“When you’re in that moment, there is nothing else. There can’t be. It’s you and the bull and that’s it. The darkness couldn’t follow me.”
“Is that why you do it?” She was desperate to know and understand the man sitting across from her. Maybe if she could understand what drove him, she could help. Maybe she could be a good wife to him.
Jason glanced away from the road for a second to look at her. “For a long time, it was. But when the ride is over, everything comes back. I wasn’t… I wasn’t the nicest guy to be around on the circuit.”
“I’m good at it,” he said with a shrug. There was no cockiness in that statement, just a fact. “It…” He paused, as though trying to explain. “It pushes me to my limits.” Then, a hint of a smile as his cheek lifted. “Plus, I like to win.”
Then, after God and him had a nice talk in a jail cell,the REAL Jason met a girl and fell in love. He’s now a respected rancher in western Nebraska and a father to some amazing girls. To hear this grumpy, rugged cowboy speak so openly of God’s love and kindness has me tearing up just thinking about it.
God really does transform hearts, friends. I know I couldn’t do justice to his entire story, but I wanted to honor him by giving fictional Jason in the took some of his personality and characteristics. Namely — handsome, tough, and fiercely loyal. But also, a little grumpy and a lot deeper than you expect.
He splashed some water on his face. Leaning on the counter, he studied his reflection in the mirror. The man he saw there had failed a lot of people. His teacher, Mrs. Bennett. His brother and his parents.
But Cassie didn’t look at him and see failure.
For whatever reason, she’d decided he was good.
If she’d let him, he might decide to spend his entire life trying to prove her right. No doubt falling short a thousand times, but he wouldn’t give up. He just hoped she wouldn’t either.
Writing Jason and Cassie’s story was so rewarding for me. It comes out next week and I so hope you enjoy it!
If he could say the words, he’d tell her that he would die before he walked away from the vows he’d said in the courthouse. He’d admit that the idea of her watching him ride with his ring on her finger would keep him distracted the entire weekend. He might even admit that he was impossibly close to falling in love with her completely with every minute they spent together.
But he wouldn’t say any of those things. Because she hadn’t signed up for the tangled mess of emotions that was buried under the stillness he worked so hard to maintain.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “The rest? We’ll figure it out, Princess.”
She exhaled, slow and shuddering. “Why do you call me that?”
He considered not answering her. He’d ignored the question last time. But after a long pause, he admitted the truth. “Because it reminds me that I’m not a prince.”
Thanks for diving into my character Jason Keen from Marrying the Rancher’s Daughter – Book 1 in the Christmas in Redemption Ridge
Series. I hope you love him as much I do!
Have you ever been to the rodeo? What do you think about the wranglers who compete? Any other good books with rodeo cowboy characters?