Jamie Dearing Rauch, once the rodeo queen of Bosque Farms and of Valencia County, probably knows more about the job and title than anyone.
Rauch is back in New Mexico this month to judge the State Fair's Queen Pageant and to promote her new book, "Cowgirl Devotion – The Revelation," a work inspired in part by her passion for helping people to welcome Jesus Christ into their lives.
She was also a State Fair Rodeo Queen runner-up in 1984.
The book, Rauch's second, draws on her experiences as a cowgirl and rodeo queen. Her first book, "Teach the Teachers: A Guide for Rodeo Queen Committees," dealt with many of the same issues.
While they're in New Mexico, she and her husband, Stanley, are staying at the Abo Road home where she grew up. Her mother still lives there, but the surrounding pastures are now dotted with several new houses as the community continues to grow around the old homestead.
Rodeo queen is an important position for any girl striving for the crown, Rauch says. It's much more than a simple reward for winning a skills contest or beauty pageant. The queen, in essence, becomes the spokesperson for the rodeo, promoting it to the public and in the media. She has to know a lot.
This year's State Fair queen, for example, was required to demonstrate "good horsemanship, proper equitation and show that she can ride well," Rauch says. (She defines equitation as "the study and art of riding and horsemanship.")
To compete successfully, the queen, Stephanie Bailey, of Grady, N.M., also had to give a speech on the rodeo, model the latest cowgirl fashions and pass written tests on New Mexico's history, state fair history and knowledge of the rodeo. Since 1950 the competition has also included a personal interview.
"Stephanie is absolutely great," Rauch says.
When Rauch competed for State Fair queen, there were 22 or 23 contestants. This year there were nine.
"We want to keep the tradition alive," she says, hopefully. "We want to encourage Valencia County and all the other counties to send girls to the competition."
The winner will find that she is "busy from sun-up — maybe beforehand — and going to all hours," Rauch says. "She is one busy girl."
That may be true, but it's a memory she cherishes.
The Rauches live in Moses Lake, Wash., near their two adult children, a son and a daughter, each of whom has a 4-year-old boy. She calls the grandsons "the light of my life, a lot of fun."
The journey from rodeo queen to Moses Lake and now back to Valencia County hasn't always been an easy one. When she first ventured to the Pacific Northwest, with the man who is now her ex-husband, she experienced culture shock.
The country cowgirl found herself in Eugene, Ore., a place she calls "the hippie capital of the world." She didn't quite fit in.
But she's lived in Washington State for 26 years.
Rauch hasn't ridden a horse for some time, ever since she contracted fibromyalgia, an affliction often thought to result from overactive nerves that causes chronic widespread pain and tenderness throughout the body. She believes hers stems from chemical poisoning she got at a paper mill in Washington where she once worked.
"I was ill for a very long time," she says. "But with prayer and nutrition I'm overcoming it."
She pauses for a moment, then adds, "It was all God's purpose. I'm much stronger and bolder now than if I had stayed here."
A few weeks ago, she was visiting Hawaii and rode a four-wheeler.
"If I can do that," she says, "I know I'll be riding (horses) again."
Proceeds from "Cowgirl Devotion – The Revelation" will help pay for Rodeo Queen University, the Rauches' newest project.
According to her friend, Tabetha Strack, the university, really a series of camps, "is designed to empower the next generation of girls by providing them with valuable faith-based courses intended not only to give them a competitive edge in rodeo queen pageants, but build self-esteem and character."
The camps are intended to attract young women from 8- to 24-years-old. The Rauches plan to hold one in Arizona next March and again in Albuquerque and Washington State in June. Eventually they would like to run camps in all 25 states that host rodeo queen competitions.
"It's all about God opening doors," she says.
Horsemanship is really part of Jamie Dearing Rauch's genetic makeup. She calls riding and rodeo skills "the lifestyle for our family."
Her grandfather and father were both rodeo cowboys. Her daughter was a rodeo cowgirl, and now her son is getting into it.
Rauch has three older brothers. Her "middle-brother," who lives in Belen, Jimmy Dearing, is a rodeo roper, as is his son, Brock.
The cowgirl-turned-author says she has always had an affinity for writing and the written word, a passion that goes back at least as far as her days at Los Lunas High School, a time when she was the reigning rodeo queen.