Today, I’m running a post I did during my blog book tour last spring. We’ve caught up with Ada Brady, Nettie’s mother and have convinced her to take a little break from her many household chores, sit down with a cup of tea and answer a few questions.
In the book Cowgirl Dreams, Nettie has defied her mother by sneaking out to ride in a rodeo, wearing pants, no less. Mama grounds her to her room, without supper, to do the darning she’d forgotten. Here’s an excerpt:
Nettie groaned. Why couldn’t Mama understand that she’d rather be outside, working with the horses and cattle? With that look on her mother’s face, she’d be lucky to get outside again by this time next summer.
Maybe if she did a really bad job of darning, she wouldn’t have to do any more. She wove the needle over and under, under and over, deliberately missing some threads.
After about an hour, Mama stepped into the room. “How are you doing?”
“Okay.” Nettie kept her head down.
Her mother picked up a darned sock and inspected it closely. “No.”
Nettie looked up, keeping the smile from coming. This was it. Now Mama would let her quit rather than being embarrassed to give the socks to Mrs. Conners.
Mama picked up the scissors and cut the woven patch right out of the sock. Nettie gasped. Then her mother picked up another, looked at it, and cut the darn out, too. “This is sloppy work. You’ll do it all over.” She flung the socks back into the basket.
HMT: Mrs. Brady, don’t you think you were a little hard on your daughter? After all, she had a successful ride on that steer?
Mama: Absolutely not. Nettie is a headstrong girl. She has to learn that she cannot just run wild, dress like a man in public, and ride off whenever she feels like it.
HMT: But ripping out her work and making her do it all over?
Mama: I know she hates this job. But it’s important to learn to take care of a family. This skill not only keeps her and her brothers in socks without holes, it earns us pin money, so we can buy something special when we go to town. She’ll need to know this when she has a family of her own.
HMT: I understand. But Nettie has a dream, to be a rodeo star. Isn’t it a good thing for a young woman to have a goal in life?
Mama (sighing): Yes. It is. I had a dream once—to become a musician. But you know what, it was not practical. Sure, I can play now for enjoyment, but it doesn’t put food on the table and clothes on my children’s backs.
HMT: And you do have a large family.
Mama (proudly): Yes, eight children living.
HMT: I gather Nettie doesn’t aspire to marriage and children.
Mama: I just don’t understand that girl. Her two older sisters took naturally to needlepoint and cooking and housekeeping. They couldn’t wait to set up their own households. But Nettie… (a shake of the head) All she wants to do is ride her horse. And now steers!
HMT: Why is Nettie wanting to ride in rodeos such a bad thing? She could probably win some money and help the family out that way.
Mama: That may be true, and we could use the extra income. But, it’s such a dangerous pastime. Why anyone—especially a girl—would subject her body to such a beating on top of a bucking animal, I’ll never understand.
HMT: I’ve heard there’s an adrenaline thrill in doing something like that.
Mama: It’s just not practical. And women who travel around the country with men, well, they have a (eyebrows raised) “certain reputation,” don’t you know?
HMT: I didn’t know that. What about Marie Gibson? She’s married and has a couple of children. She’s not that kind of woman.
Mama: Oh, Mrs. Gibson. Yes, she is a fine woman, and she has done her best to convince me that she can keep Nettie under her wing while taking her on the rodeo circuit. (sighs) My goodness, maybe I shouldn’t fight Nettie on this so much. She certainly is determined. And I’ve seen her ride. She really is quite good.
HMT: I’ll say she is. I admire what she does. I’ve never been brave enough to ride a bucking steer or bronc.
Mama: Yes, I suppose it does take courage. But, you know, I would be remiss in my role as a mother not to want to protect her and to teach her how to cook and mend and care for a house and children. (She stands, takes our cups to the dishpan, and turns back to me.) I’m very glad you’re writing about our dear Nettie, but please, try not to encourage her so much in her headstrong ways. (She sets a heavy flatiron on the cook stove.) Now, I really must get back to my chores. I have a huge pile of ironing to do.