Oklahoma Panhandle Perfect Setting for Zabel’s New Novel

300-croppedVivian Zabel, author of Prairie Dog Cowboy joins us today to talk about the setting for her new novel published in October by 4RV Publishing. The 180-page book set in the Oklahoma Panhandle in 1899 is primarily intended for ages 9-12.

Buddy, the main character begins learning how to work a ranch when he’s just four years old. The work of a cowboy is in his blood and that’s what he wants to do when he grows up. A neighbor who believes in him makes him a promise: when you’re good enough to rope a prairie dog, you can have a job on my ranch.

I met Vivian on the Published Authors Forum. She’s a fellow contributor to the Forever Friends anthology published last year and the author of Midnight Hours and Case of the Missing Coach. I’m happy to welcome her to the Round Table.

The Prairie of Prairie Dog Cowboy
by Vivian Zabel

cowboy The setting for Prairie Dog Cowboy was fictionalized but exists in the Oklahoma Panhandle. The prairie runs from what is now northeast Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and north into Kansas and Nebraska. The area is also considered part of the High Plains.

Many people think the panhandle is drab, ugly, and flat. Not so. Yes, a person may think the land is flat because few, if any hills, are found, but the land has unexpected valleys and gullies that contain green, living things.

The view is spectacular in its own way. I’ve stood outside the house where my husband grew up and looked “forever” in all directions. The sky bright and blue arched above my head. The horizon stretched at the edge of the skyline miles and miles away. At night, the stars against the black velvet of darkness seemed closer than in other places. The lights of towns twenty to thirty miles away could be seen without trouble.

The gullies, deep and rather narrow cuts in the land caused by wind and rain run-offs, often hide green grass when the land above is dry and grass is brown. Valleys, which are different than gullies in that they are usually wider and have more flood plain created by rivers, are filled with trees and lush plant life.

Along the roads, in pastures of prairie grass and man-induced plants, cattle graze, slick and fat. Fields of wheat or milo, sometimes corn, can be found creating breaks between thousands of acres of native pasture.

In the book, the ranches owned by the Hyman family and James Buck are found along the Beaver River. Much of the area used as the Buck ranch and a portion of the ranch used as the Hyman ranch were taken by the government to make Optima Lake and a reserve and hunting area. The land still exists though, cutting through the Oklahoma Panhandle prairie.

Buddy rode and worked the land that can still be found, rich and valuable, filled with hardworking people.

Prairie Dog Cowboy can be purchased through any book store, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and/or 4RV Publishing.

Prairie Dog Cowboy
4RV Publishing
Vivian Gilbert Zabel

Note: anyone leaving a question or comment will be entered into a drawing to receive one (1) of four (4) canvas bags with a 4RV logo.

8 thoughts on “Oklahoma Panhandle Perfect Setting for Zabel’s New Novel

  1. This post was kinda like an interview of the setting. I enjoyed it. Where I grew up and live it’s rolling hills and woods in all directions. Would love to see that Oklahoma night sky when the stars seem closer than anywhere else.

  2. This sounds like a very entertaining book. Vivian’s contribution to the anthology, “FOREVER FRIENDS”, was very well done, and I am certain that “Prairie Dog Cowboy” will appeal to more than the 9 -12 year olds. The setting is well described here.

    Congratulations, Vivian, and a special thank you to Malcolm for providing this interview.

  3. Thanks for hosting me and Prairie Dog Cowboy today, Malcolm.

    Beth, Oklahoma has everything from the plains and prairies of the western part of the state to the Ouachita Mountains of the southeast and the foothills of the Ozarks in the northeast. But the Panhandle does have its own stark beauty.

    Zada, I’ve had older teens and adults say they enjoy the book. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. I agree, when the setting is described so well, it makes the book enjoyable. I’m not a history buff and since starting my state series, I’ve been learning more about each state – how even if they are totally land locked, they still have plenty of water sources, mountains, plains, prairies, and everything in between. It makes a difference seeing things from the historical point and the modern day view.

    Nice posting. Thanks for having Vivian on her tour, Malcolm. E 🙂

    Elysabeth Eldering
    Author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad (JGDS), 50-state, mystery, trivia series

    STATE OF WILDERNESS, Book 1 of 50 now available.
    STATE OF QUARRIES, book 2 of 50 coming spring 2009
    STATE OF RESERVATIONS, book 3 of 50 coming 2009
    STATE OF HEIGHTS, book 4 of 50 coming 2009


    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jgdsseries/ (series newsletter forum)

  5. Vivian,

    I’m glad you stopped by my round table today. I’ve always been highly focused on “place” when I write, and I look at it almost as a character when I’m reading. It’s hard, for example, to read Tracy Chevalier’s BURNING BRIGHT without feeling like you’ve been plunged into Elizabethan London. I haven’t been in the OK panhandle area for a long time, but I think I can go there figuratively by reading PRAIRIE DOG COWBOY.


  6. I enjoyed this stop of the tour. I was here earlier this morning, but I got all distracted by the Montana tags and went off on a clicking frenzy.

    I’m looking forward to reading Prairie Dog Cowboy to my boys soon.

  7. Rena, you should have your books by Monday at the latest. I sent them priority Thursday (that way the post office would pick them up at my door).

    Thanks, everyone, for stopping by.


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