“I felt the thrill of a horses strength, the sleekness of his sweaty hair, his muscles bulging between my thighs and rump. As the novel progressed, I lived the danger of riding a vicious bull. Adrenaline edged my nervous system as I read Heidi’s pages, relived fears and victories of those not so long ago days of our ancestors. Heidi knows this world of chores, hot summers, cold winters, storms, disease, and loss. From a girl’s perspective she told of the interest and desire for a man. She recreated it vividly! Her work is good.Steve DeChenne, reader
In FOLLOW THE DREAM author Heidi M. Thomas takes us back some 80 or so years ago to the life and experiences of Nettie Moser. The main character, based on the author’s own grandmother, is living the life so many of that time (and even of our own) long for: the right mate and the right place to pursue her own dreams.
As is the lot of all of us, though, life comes with its own challenges that will cause Nettie to question the life she is pursuing and at times it seems as though her doubt will affect her husband Jake’s outlook as well. There is an interesting dialogue, both spoken and unspoken that the author brings with Nettie and Jake that I think all of us can appreciate.
When it seems that Nettie, who has been so adamant about doing things her way and playing by her own rules, seems to question the logic of moving forward, her husband says this: “I don’t want our world to change. We have to fight to hang on to it.” How many of us haven’t felt that same way when things are going in a different direction than what we had planned?
It is with scenes and realism like this that makes Thomas a beloved author that gets to the heart of her characters and by extension her readers.
FOLLOW THE DREAM is a call to action not just for Nettie and Jake but all of us as we try to hold on to our own.
Follow the Dream – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat
Rodeo cowgirl gets hitched, faces hard times
By T.J. GILLES – For The Outpost, Billings, MT
After finally obtaining the right to vote, American women in the 1920s were flexing their liberation in a variety of ways.
Some, such as Montana’s Jeannette Rankin, had gone into the halls of Congress. Amelia Earhart proved she could fly airplanes with the best of the boys.
Multitudes merely bobbed their hair and became flappers in the speakeasies and blind pigs which sprang up in dark places after the women’s vote helped usher in a quaint Shiite law known as Prohibition.
In the West, women rodeoed.
Not confined to sissified events such as barrel racing or goat-tying, Montana women such as Alice and Margie Greenough, Fanny Sperry Steele and Marie Gibson were busting broncs head-to-head with their male counterparts. They and trick rider Trixie McCormick were showing their stuff in Madison Square Garden and before the crowned heads of Europe in Wild West shows.
Heidi M. Thomas’ grandmother, Olive May “Tootsie” Bailey grew up in the Sweetgrass-Cut Bank area near Montana’s border with Alberta, loved her damned old rodeo and competed alongside the aforementioned legends.
She and her husband, Otto Gasser, ranched along the Hi-Line and then in Garfield County.
As Thomas says she visualized it:
“A petite young woman mounts a 750-pound steer, and hangs on to nothing but a rope tight-wrapped around one hand. That she stays on this bucking, twisting, snorting beast for ten seconds, eight seconds or even two seconds, seems like a miracle.
“This is the intriguing picture of my grandmother I have carried in the back of my mind since I was a little girl. Ever since I began to explore fiction writing as opposed to journalism, this idea has been nagging at me, telling me I needed to write about her.”
As a girl, Thomas heard of her grandma’s sagas. “She died when I was only 12, so I never got to talk to her about her life as a rodeo cowgirl,” Thomas writes on her extensive website.
“But she had taken many pictures, created photo albums, scrapbook and journals, from which a story emerged. My Dad told me stories about his growing up in the 1920s and ’30s. The spark grew to a flame, and I was hooked.”
Living in Washington state in 1999, Thomas began setting down “Cowgirl Dreams,” basing the lead character, Nettie Bradley, on her grandmother.
Ten years later, she was back in Montana on book tours for the book. She’s back again this year with the story of Nettie’s early married life in “Follow the Dream” and has another title on the next generation, “American Dreams” currently in revision.
According to her website, yet another novel, “Rescuing Samantha” is in progress.
In the sequel to “Cowgirl Dreams,” Nettie has been married (against parental resistance) to her cowboy, Jake Moser, and they share their dreams of rodeoing together and even raising a family on the circuit, as real-life Marie and Tom Gibson did in the 1920s and 1930s.
But into each dream, a little reality must fall and a lot of reality fell upon the Montana landscape in those years. The state’s fledgling homestead agriculture began its death spiral in the 1920s because of a post-World War drop in prices and persistent drought on the highly leveraged land.
Banks failed and insect plagues of biblical proportions seemingly descended whenever there was sufficient rain to grow a crop worth destroying.
A reverse immigration occurred, as families pooled resources to send one of two members to the coast to earn enough money to buy train fare for remaining family members to escape ravaged Montana. Livestock –- and people – often were left to fend for themselves.
Thus, Nettie and Jake move from ranch to ranch and in 1931, decide to trail their herd of 50 horses two mountain ranges and 350 miles from Sunburst to Salmon, Idaho, where there’s grass.
The struggle to keep body, soul, marriage and horse herd together marks the saga that is “Follow the Dream.”
Thomas’ books are classified in the “young adult” category and Treble Heart Books is a Christian publishing house, which in this case means there’s no cussing or violence. Thoroughly vetted, it should interest readers of all ages.
What was great about the Great Depression? In a Montana style story of the Great Depression and one family’s survival, Heidi M. Thomas has written a sequel to her first novel, “Cowgirl Dreams” and has answered this question in a beautifully detailed way.
Nettie Moser’s story is the continued tale of the author’s own grandmother. The combined historical aspect and the family connection all set against the harsh backdrop of Montana is carefully crafted. The story is a realistic account of the lonely life of families on farms raising horses, cows and crops in a time when the weather determined the outcome of their efforts.
Most of us have images of cowboys in the wild west. This can be an unreal image where Heidi’s book shows how women had to work side by side come hell or high water with their men and children. It was a rough and tumble world but Nettie still holds on to her dream of being in the Rodeo although it almost slips away.
Nettie’s love for her husband, Jake, and her son, Neil, is vivid in good times and bad. The family makes choices that are hard but they do overcome their difficulties.
I highly recommend this book, especially ideal for young adult readers.
To my great surprise this one was a scorcher; I am going to say that right off the bat. I want to get right to the synopsis so I can give my thoughts on this afterwards; I think it will make more sense that way.
“Defying family and social pressure, Nettie Brady bucks 1920s convention with her dream of becoming a rodeo star. That means competing with men, and cowgirls who ride the rodeo circuit are considered loose women. Addicted to the thrill of pitting her strength and wits against a half-ton steer in a rodeo, Nettie exchanges skirts for pants, rides with her brothers on their Montana ranch, and competes in neighborhood rodeos.
Broken bones, killer influenza, flash floods, and family hardship team up to keep Nettie from her dreams. Then she meets a young neighbor cowboy who rides broncs and raises rodeo stock. Will this be Nettie’s ticket to freedom and happiness? Will her rodeo dreams come true?
Based on the life of the author’ s grandmother, a real Montana cowgirl.”
I think this is a great novel for just about anyone. The history of the times, the hardships, the self-sacrifice, trying to break thresholds and cross boundaries, all that is rolled into one here in Cowgirl Dreams . One does not have to have daughters, a wife or girlfriend to even begin to understand and relate to this novel, the plotline is that good. Heidi Thomas crafts several strong and engaging characters. I was transfixed and in awe of her ability to get me so emotionally attached to a group of cowpokes.–Giovanni Gelati, Gelati’s Scoop.
A Dream Never Forgotten 5 stars
This is the second novel written by Heidi M. Thomas that is loosely based on her Montana grandmother who grew up riding horses and competing in local rodeos. In the book, Nettie’s childhood dream is to become a successful rodeo rider like her dear friend Marie. Follow The Dream begins when Nettie is invited by Marie to compete in a wild west rodeo in London, a chance of a lifetime. But fate has another plan for the newly married Nettie. The dream is put on hold, but never forgotten The story is set in Montana in the 20s and 30s. Nettie struggles with personal tragedy and the challenges of getting by raising horses with her husband. They face many droughts and blizzards, let alone the harsh realities of surviving in isolated rural settings. This book deserves a place on the bookshelf next to Ivan Doig’s coming of age in Montana novels.
“I enjoyed this bittersweet novel with its accurate depiction of the lives of cowgirls in 1920s Montana and its tender portrait of a marriage.” Mary Clearman Blew, award-winning author of Jackalope Dreams, All but the Waltz: A Memoir of Five Generations in the Life of a Montana Family, and Balsamroot: A Memoir.
Follow Your Dream draws the reader into the lives of tough Montana ranchers, Nettie and Jake Moser. Dreams come and go, but their ranching life goes on with hardships and struggles for basic survival, but also with abiding love and humor. A wonderful story of courage and endurance. –Mary Trimble, award-winning author of Tenderfoot, Rosemount and McClellan’s Bluff
In her poignant tale of Nettie Moser’s diligent pursuit of a dream, Heidi Thomas gives a stunning example of what it means to “Cowgirl Up.” FOLLOW THE DREAM is a dynamic story of a woman’s strength and determination that is sure to inspire as well as entertain.
—Sandi Ault, award-winning author of the WILD Mystery Series, including WILD INDIGO, WILD INFERNO, WILD SORROW and WILD PENANCE
I’ll ride this steer, show my folks how good I am. Soon after you read; “Uh, yeah. How’d I get here?” That’s the beginning of a wistful story of a cowgirl getting ready for a rodeo. Women in the rodeo in the twenties and thirties were rare, but Heidi Thomas found some real cowgirls and built a wonderful story around them. She had enough material to write two books so far and I suspect we’re just seeing the beginning from this young lady.
It helps to have a friend of the same gender in the business and luckily, Nettie does. Starting out in the bull riding business tends to leave a lot of bruises and more time eating dust than staying on top. But to rise to the top you get back on and go again. Nettie was persistent and wanted to be the best. The question for readers is, how far can she go and how far did she actually go? Pick up a copy of this most delightful read and find out for yourself. I recommend this for all readers who love a good story.
~Ron Berry author of Math for the Family and Laughs from Corn Country