A Dream Worth Having

My guest today is first-time novelist, Catherine Madera, author of Rodeo Dreams. This story is about fifteen-year-old Cindy Crowe, who adopts a mustang and pursues a dream of barrel racing fame. If only she can keep from being distracted by disappointment, rhinestoned rodeo queens, and a certain cute bull rider. Ultimately, Cindy discovers that any dream worth having has the power to break your heart…and change your life forever.

Catherine, this is a wonderful story for adults as well as young adult readers. Tell us what inspired you to write this book.

In 2004 I read the young adult book, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Even at 32 years old I found the book delightful—fun and heartfelt. It reminded me of being a teenager and the importance of friendship. Though I’d never thought of myself as a fiction writer, I thought that if I ever did write fiction I’d want it to be something like the Pants books. I loved the classic horse stories as a child and worked to create an intriguing story that combines elements I never grow tired of: the drama of pursuing a dream and friendship (between humans and also human/horse friendships). My protagonist is a teen but I wanted to write a story I would enjoy reading.

How did you come up with the title and the theme? (Great minds think alike!)

Yes they do, Heidi! I love cowboy/girl culture and rodeo. And fighting for a dream is a universal theme that is endlessly fascinating to me. As to title, nothing else came to mind at the time. Shortly after I began writing, however, I had what I now call a “T-shirt from God” moment. I’d been feeling discouraged with my first attempts to write the story and that old negative voice we all fight with was berating me for wasting time on the thing. I remember a conversation I had with God that said, in essence, “What’s the use?” That very day I went into town and stopped at the feed store to buy a couple items for my small farm. I took a few extra minutes to look through some clothing that was on sale. My mouth dropped open when I pulled out a shirt that had a vintage rodeo cowgirl on the front wearing red boots. In rhinestones underneath it said, “Rodeo Dreams.” I bought the shirt. It may sound weird but at that moment I felt God’s encouragement to keep going.

Wow. That is so cool! I love anecdotes like this.

Have you always been a writer?

I was always an avid reader and enjoyed writing poetry, etc. in elementary school. I knew I wanted to be a serious writer when I worked on the school paper my senior year in high school. For many years after, I dreamed about becoming a journalist—flying to the scene of exciting stories and meeting interesting people.

What was your first published piece and when?

My first published piece was an essay for the now out of print Victoria Magazine in 2000. It was called “Horse Heaven.”

You’ve written many essays and non-fiction magazine articles. How did you get started in this writing arena?

In 2004 I won a national contest for Guideposts Magazine (one of fifteen women nationwide out of 3,000 entrants) and had a remarkable, intensive, all expense paid five-day trip to Rye, NY to learn to write inspirational non-fiction stories. That experience changed my life and birthed my freelance career. Most of what I know about story telling I learned from Guideposts. I still write for the magazine and other non-fiction publications.

Are you an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?

I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer (though I sometimes wish to be an outliner!). I work from a general idea of major events in a story but no firm idea of how I’ll get from one scene to the next. My characters constantly surprise me!

Have there been other authors or books that have influenced you?

An important early influence was my first editor at Guideposts, Jim McDermott. He taught me so much about the elements of story. The books that have helped me the most include: Writing for the Soul, by Jerry Jenkins; Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott; and On Writing, by Stephen King. Very recently I also read Donald Millers outstanding new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It has great wisdom for writers about how to create a great story as well as inspiration for life. I also consider the northwest writer Sibella Giorello (The Stones Cry Out/The Rivers Run Dry/The Clouds Roll Away) an important mentor and friend in my writing life. The encouragement of those a bit farther along the road is critical.

You are a cowgirl in your own right. Did you grow up riding and barrel racing or is this a recent development?

I grew up with horses and have done lots of different types of riding. However, I’ve never barrel raced! In a curious twist of life imitating art, my eleven-year-old daughter has become serious about the sport of barrel racing. She takes lessons on her Quarter Horse, Cowboy, and we do local shows and 4H. She would like to do junior rodeo in the future. I own an Arabian stallion named Eli and enjoy dressage and trail riding.

How do you think your childhood background has influenced your writing?

I moved around as a child…a lot. Seeing many different places/people perhaps inspired my curiosity and fascination with people’s stories. I also grew up in a home where books and reading were very important. My father, especially, encouraged a love of good writing.

You decided to self-publish your book. Tell us what influenced this decision and what your experiences have been in doing this project.

I spent about four years editing the story, submitting it to contests and my critique group, and pitching to agents and such at writer’s conferences. I received enough positive feedback to feel like I had something worthwhile. Unfortunately, it was bad timing in the publishing industry. I knew that, regardless of my solid experience writing non-fiction, I’d have a tough time getting an agent. I’d always thought self publishing fiction, in particular, was a bad idea. “Kiss of death” were the exact words, as I recall. However, God seemed to have other plans for me. He very definitely gave me direction to self publish and put the people in my path to help. Most notable, perhaps, was my graphic artist, Karen Bacon. From the beginning, Karen “got” my vision and I love what we created together. I also opted to use a printer, not a vanity press. This kept my printing cost down and also got the book into the major distribution channels immediately and with almost no effort on my part. Self publishing can be a confusing maze of choices and options with numerous pitfalls and ways to waste your money and compromise your copyright. I feel blessed that my experience has been extremely positive and low/no risk.

What are you doing to market Rodeo Dreams?

Good question! I have been pretty low key but am selling the book slowly and steadily through word-of-mouth, Amazon/Barnes, and also in a couple niche stores in the area. I am getting the book in front of my target audience through groups like 4H and horse expos/events. I am also interested in presenting the book at elementary schools and am looking into ways to do this. As every serious writer knows, marketing these days is almost exclusively up to the author whether you go through a traditional publishing house or produce the work as I have. It can be tough but also a good opportunity to learn and grow.

Are you working on another fiction project?

Yes. I am working on a sequel called Rhinestones. In addition, I’m about a third of the way into a work of women’s fiction.

Here’s a fun question for you: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you have to have? Assuming I can’t have my husband, Mark (thinking deserted), I’d need good coffee, my Bible, and my Smart Wool socks/long underware for potentially cold days. I hate being cold!

Catherine, thank  you so much for sharing your publishing story with us.

Rodeo Dreams is available on Catherine’s website, The Writer’s Way, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Women’s History Month

Because March is officially Women’s History Month, I want to take the opportunity to honor my grandmother, Olive May “Tootsie” Bailey Gasser. She was the inspiration for my novel, Cowgirl Dreams, and most likely contributed genes to my strong, independent spirit.

She was the consummate horsewoman and much preferred to be out riding than in the house pushing a dust mop. The thing about her that inspired the book was the fact that she rode steers in rodeos during the 1920s. I love knowing that about her!

What a legacy our foremothers left us.

Published in: on March 19, 2010 at 6:02 pm  Comments (5)  
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Author Interview: Jana Richman

My guest today is WILLA Award-winning Jana Richman, author of The Last Cowgirl. This is a bittersweet story of the heart, a poignant coming of age tale, a tapestry of relationships and love. It grabbed me from the beginning and yanked me right into Dickie’s life, into her heart and kept me riding through the pages right along with her.

Jana175Jana, welcome to my blog. Did you grow up on a ranch?

Sort of. When I was about ten, my father bought a run-down ranch similar the one George found for himself in The Last Cowgirl. We were ill-prepared for it. My mother hated the idea, having been raised on a farm herself and finding no romance in the life. But my father, whose own father worked as a hired ranch-hand his entire life, was driven to own land and live a life of ranching. However, he never moved us to the ranch permanently. We stayed in town during the school year and lived at the ranch during the summer.

How much of this story is from your own experiences?

I get asked this question a lot and I find it difficult to answer. Some characters in the book (George, Ruth, Annie, Heber, and Stumpy) are based upon people I know or have known in my life, and others (Bev) come entirely from my imagination. As I mentioned above, my father did buy a small run-down ranch when I was a child, and many of the ranching scenes in the book come from my own experience. The book is set in Utah’s west desert, which is where I grew up, and the love and sadness that Dickie feels for the place are emotions I share with that character. I believe this is no doubt true throughout the book—that the overall sentiment comes through my own experience.

What inspired you to write this book?

The Last Cowgirl coverTwo moments in my life have stuck with me as pivotal events. The first was my father’s decision to buy the ranch. I grew up hating that decision and it took years for me to realize what a positive difference it made in my life. It changed my life completely, shaped the way I view the west, contributed greatly to my understanding of the west and taught me how to live in the west.

The second event was the nerve gas incident in 1968 that killed about 6,000 sheep. It wasn’t the event so much as the reaction to it—or lack thereof—from my community that stayed with me. The event passed without much conversation, without much outrage, seemingly without much notice. I’ve written about that in several different genres—both fiction and nonfiction. The cognitive dissonance required by the people of my hometown—most of whom were receiving a paycheck from the military branch of the federal government at the time—always fascinated me. Outsiders wrote about the people of my community describing them as apathetic dupes, but I knew it was much more complex than that. I go back to our (westerners) relationship with the federal government over and over in my work.

Those two events were the basis of my exploration in The Last Cowgirl. I initially thought it would be George’s story, but as I tried to write that, I realized that George wasn’t reflective enough to tell the story so it became Dickie’s story.

You’ve used flashbacks seamlessly, and the book is written in present tense, which I didn’t even notice until I was half-way through. Both of these techniques are evidence of your writing skills. Do you have a writing background?

I used to be a CPA and then went to work on Wall Street, but I was always a closet writer. When I was growing up, my father thought reading was a “waste of time” when there was real work to be done, so I did my reading and writing on the sly. I don’t come from a literary background. That’s always intimidated me but never stopped me. When I decided to come out of the closet, I moved back west and enrolled in a journalism graduate program at the University of Arizona. After that degree, I got an MFA in creative writing with an emphasis in nonfiction. I did a lot of freelance writing—any job I could get—to get myself through both graduate programs. I deliberately let my CPA license lapse so I could never fall back on that.

What do you like/don’t like about writing?

There’s nothing I don’t like about writing. That’s not to say I find the process easy; I don’t. But I love the process. As my husband likes to say, I’m ill-suited for any other life. I can’t get out of bed before 10 a.m., which means I cannot hold most jobs. I am decidedly not a team player, as has been noted on every report card and every performance appraisal throughout my life. The word “team” makes me shudder. And I like to lie. Writing fiction is a good job for me even if the pay sucks.

The part I don’t like is the part that has nothing to do with writing—the marketing/promotion of a book. I do it because I want to go on writing, but it’s not nearly as fun for me as sitting in a room alone. I love to hear from people who have read the book and have found that it resonates with their experiences, but it is stressful for me to market my own work. I would find it much easier to market the work of another writer. Maybe we should set up a system to do that for one another (just like you’re doing here with your website!)

Hey, good idea!

How long did it take you to write the book?

That’s also a difficult question to answer. I started on it before my previous book came out in 2005, but then got pulled away from this novel for the final editing and marketing of that book. My guess is about 2 years—maybe a little longer.

How long to find an agent/publisher?

I already had an agent before I wrote The Last Cowgirl. I’ve worked with the same agent since 2001. He has handled my nonfiction and fiction. When I was working on the nonfiction book, I spent close to a year writing and polishing a book proposal. Once I felt that it was ready to show, I started to attend writing conferences. I won a nonfiction fellowship at the Writers @ Work conference in Salt Lake City and that included meeting with an agent or an editor. I met with an editor from Norton. She didn’t end up buying the book, but she showed enough interest in the proposal so that I knew I had something, and I went from there. I showed the proposal to a select group of writers that I had some earlier contact with. Eventually it got the attention of my current agent and the rest is history. He’s been fabulous to work with. I feel as if he understands my work and he gets it in front of the right editors whom he believes will have an interest in the work.

What has been your biggest obstacle in getting to this point of your writing career?

Writing is one obstacle after another. What other job do you know where you work for hours, weeks, months, years for nothing more than a remote possibility that you might get paid some nominal amount of money in the future? It’s an absurd career choice. I would say my biggest obstacle thus far has been the recognition that I either need to live alone or I need to live with a partner who has a deep understanding of the creative process. I was set on the former, but I’m lucky enough to have found the latter.

Any favorite authors or genres you enjoy?

Everything. I read literary nonfiction, fiction and poetry. I read work that challenges me every step of the way, and then I’ll read crap for a while. I won’t name names or titles, but there’s endless crap out there to choose from.

What is your next project?

I’m working on another novel.

How would you like to be remembered?

You mean next year or after I die (assuming it’s not next year)? Next year I’d like to be remembered like this: “Oh yeah, I liked her last book; I think I’ll buy her next one.” I don’t spend too much time worrying about whether I’ll be remembered after I’m dead. What do I care? I’ll be dead.

You are also the author of a non-fiction book, Riding in the Shadows of SaintsShadow of Saints: A Woman’s Story of Motorcycling the Mormon Trail. Can you briefly describe your inspiration for, and what this book is about?

I grew up Mormon and after meeting me most people are shocked by that. I am too. But there are pieces of me that are undeniably Mormon. What exactly does that mean? I’m the first in my family to leave the Mormon Church after five generations of devout Mormons. Why? That’s what I wanted to explore in the memoir, Riding in the Shadows of Saints. And I wanted to explore what we mean by “faith” in America. And what we mean when we claim a particular religion or none at all and what we mean when we say we do or do not believe in God.

Jana, thank you for your willingness to share your writing journey with us.

You may purchase The Last Cowgirl from your locally-owned bookstore. If you do not have one close by, you can purchase it from The King’s English Bookshop at www.kingsenglish.com or any independent bookstore.

Published in: on October 14, 2009 at 12:40 am  Comments (8)  
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An Interview With Mama

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 bySteer rider 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.”Darning sock

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.

sewing basketMama: 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.

Published in: on September 1, 2009 at 1:35 am  Comments (4)  
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Cowgirl Life Interview, Part II

daniellehayesToday I’m talking with Danielle Hayes, the other half of the Cowgirl Life Radio and TV duo. Her blog is Haute Cowgirl.

On becoming business partners:

Kadi and I worked on another project together and I was instantly drawn to her fabulous personality. We became instant friends and  I knew I could trust her. Trust is a HUGE thing with me and business. When the idea to further develop my company she was the first person I thought of to have on this adventure with me.

The idea for a radio and a TV show:

We had worked on another radio show together and knew we had really great chemistry on air together. So we talked long and hard about developing a show that was different from the typical “wahm mom” show and with how Haute Cowgirl was growing, we realized that we had the perfect niche that needed to be filled. With Cowgirl TV, we thought it would be fun to showcase a view into a cowgirl’s life and the fabulous events that occur within the western lifestyle.

Goals with the programs:

Just like Kadi stated, Connect, educate and inspire. I want people outside cowgirlliferadiojpg1the western lifestyle to really develop an appreciation of our lifestyle. I want to help other cowgirls find an online community because there is strength in numbers. And I want to inspire women to really pursue their dreams and passions. Both Kadi and I believe with all our hearts in what we are doing (even though we can get cowgirl-tv1a bit silly or wild) I have so much passion for the western lifestyle and ag community and I want our sites to be a place for like-minded people to speak about what they are passionate about.

Do you live on a ranch? Were you raised on a ranch?

I grew up on a farm in Great Falls, Montana where I swore I would leave the country life as soon as I could. I went away to college, traveled extensively around the USA, then found myself missing a simpler way of life.

When I met my husband who was very active in many areas of horses and agriculture I found myself brought back to my roots so to speak. Now we live on a ranch in Washington where my husband trains cutting horses.

Do you participate in rodeos or other equestrian events?

I grew up riding dressage and three day eventing. Now that I am married to a cutter, I am honing my skills atop cutting horses. I ride everyday and can’t imagine my life without our horses in it. It’s not just the horses that get you addicted, it’s the whole lifestyle. I love the people involved–they are truly our extended family. And of course the energy at events is amazing and inspiring. I love the fact that tradition remains at so many of these events.

Do you have a background in the fashion industry or just an avid interest?

I have always been a “fashionista” I worked for several smaller designers and photographers as a stylist before I was married. It was when we moved to Texas for my husband to apprentice with a bigger trainer that the idea of highlighting western fashion born. I started mostly just to give me something to do while my husband was on the road but its turned into something so much bigger and keeps growing what seems like daily.

What else would you like people to know about you?

I want people to first and foremost remember I am a mom. My son is my top priority and he is here with me every step of the way. So yeah, you may hear toddler moments at times on air. But if anyone can understand that family comes first, it’s those who appreciate the western lifestyle. Also we have an obligation to preserve this lifestyle, its something that should not be lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life. But all of us in the western lifestyle need to use all this new technology to get the word out that our community is strong.

Meet the Ladies Behind Cowgirl Life Radio and TV

prescott-family01Last week I was a guest on Cowgirl Life Radio. I wanted to reciprocate and to introduce my readers to the talented young women behind the radio and Cowgirl TV shows. Today I’m talking with Kadi Prescott, who blogs at Womb at the Innsane and Glam Sahm, from Apron Strings to Stillettos.

1. How did the two of you meet and become business partners?
Danielle and I met at an online mom community and ended up working on a project together. We hit it off really well and decided to start a few new projects on our own.

2. How did you get the idea for a radio and a TV show?
The first project that we worked on was a radio show for moms. We both felt that there were a million mom focused radio shows out there already and the greater need was for a different kind of show. We just were not sure what direction to go in. It took us awhile to find our niche. After Haute Cowgirl became so successful, we saw that potential for a multi media source of western related news and fashion. My extensive background in writing and social media, combined with Danielle’s brilliance in business and passion for the western lifestyle just seemed to fit well. We teamed up and decided to take Western Glamour Media into a new realm…the internet.cowgirlliferadiojpg

3. What are your goals with the programs?
We have three goals: Connect, educate and inspire. We have the common goal of building an online community where all cowgirls can go to share their lifestyle with the world. Danielle and I see the gross lack of exposure for a lifestyle that this country was built on. We think that it is high time to educated the masses on the fact that western living and agriculture are not dead. We would like to eventually get syndicated and be able to branch out into a television reality series on Cowgirl Living. We would also like to see Haute Cowgirl help western fashion meld with main stream fashion.

cowgirl-tv4. Do you live on a ranch? Were you raised on a ranch?
Ironically, no. In fact, I am about as un-cowgirl as you can get. My mom is heavily involved in the western lifestyle and it literally helped her come out of a mental breakdown during the divorce from my dad. She met wonderful people who took her in and introduced her to the cowgirl life, during a time when she felt like she had nothing left to live for. I saw the transformation and was fascinated by the effect that western and equestrian living had on her. When I met Danielle, it just boosted my desire to learn more about everything and I am loving the people I have met!

5.  Do you participate in rodeos or other equestrian events?
I have never even sat atop a horse. Go ahead and laugh. I have to overcome my fear. I am determined to. My kids have done mutton bustin’ (riding sheep like bulls) and we love going to watch rodeos, but that is as far as I’ve gotten in my equestrian ventures!

6. Do you have a background in the fashion industry or just an avid interest?
Both. Kind of. I am a self proclaimed shopaholic and lover of fashion. I studied it for awhile but ended up pregnant and spent all of my twenties having my babies. I am a Glambassador for Glamour Magazine this year and so excited about the opportunity to cover fashion related events. It will satiate my inner fashionista! I would love to be the first designer to ever take a western fashion line, tweak it, add some city girl touches and sell it to a major brand. In fact, I think that will be on our “To Do” list, right Danielle?

What else would you like people to know about you?
I think it is important to convey that Danielle and I are work-at-home moms who set our priorities on being our children’s only nurturers. In a generation that is so callused towards the importance of mothers who stay home, it is crucial that we show the world our ability to raise our own kids and accomplish great things outside of motherhood. It speaks volumes about fostering the same ideals that were held by our ancestors.

Join us tomorrow when I visit with Danielle Hayes, the other half of the Cowgirl Life duo.

Published in: on May 2, 2009 at 9:11 pm  Comments (4)  
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The Model T

grandpa-modet-t

This is my grandfather, Otto Gasser, in his Model T Ford, probably about 1923. My dad later restored this vehicle during the 1960s.

In my book, Cowgirl Dreams, I talk about Jake buying a used car and coming to pick Nettie up on a date to go to a rodeo:

“A strange sound brought her up short. Was someone running a threshing machine outside? But the threshers weren’t due for weeks yet. The engine noise grew louder.

The horses in the corral whinnied. Then a series of loud pops propelled her to the window. Who was making that noise? Her folks were in town, and her brothers had gone to the pasture. Were they back, shooting at something?

With one boot on, the other hanging from her hand, Nettie could only stare, her mouth open wide. Here came Jake, driving an open-air Model T over the dusty wagon track. His grin reached from ear to ear, and he waved his hat in the air as though he rode a bucking bronc.

Nettie nearly forgot to breathe. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Jake driving a car? Not riding a horse?

He squeezed the horn bulb, sounding a raucous squawk, and whooped when he saw her run out of the house, swinging her empty boot.

“Hoooeee. Lookee here what I got.”

“Jake, what in the world?”

The engine cut out with a jerk. Jake jumped over the side and swept his hands toward the car. “Ain’t she a beaut?

Sure got her cheap, only two-hundred fifty. Even has an electric starter. Guess we can go places now.”

Nettie’s hand flew to cover her mouth. Her eyes felt as wide as full moons. “It’s really nice.” She limped around the machine in one boot, looking at the hard, thin rubber tires, the gleaming black running boards, the pinstriped upholstered seats, excitement building.

“We’re really going to ride in a car?” She’d never ridden in a car. In fact, nobody she knew even owned one.

Jake followed her, chuckling. “Yup. If you wanna finish dressing, I guess we could go on to the rodeo.”

Nettie looked down at herself, realizing that she was still minus a boot. Her mouth twitched upward into a smile. “Okay, big shot. I’ll get my boot on and you can take me for a ride.”

© 2008 Heidi M. Thomas

And here is a great video on the assembly of the Model T Ford.


Published in: on February 23, 2009 at 4:41 am  Comments (6)  
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Women and Rodeo Events

In early rodeos, women and men competed in the same arena, drawing from the same stock. Women rode broncs, steers, bulls, and did steer roping or bulldogging as well as trick riding, Roman races and relay races.

I know that my grandmother, Toots Bailey Gasser, rode steers in small Montana rodeos. Other cowgirls, such as Marie Gibson, also from Montana, rode steers, bulls and broncs throughout the US, Canada and even London. While each cowgirl had her specialty, most participated in multiple events.

Vera McGinnis, Tad Lucas and Fox Hastings were probably best known for trick riding. This demonstrated numerous types of stands and vaults, performed while the horse was galloping at top speed. Other maneuvers included crawling under the horse’s belly, hanging just inches from the mount’s pounding hooves.

roman-race1In the Roman race, the cowgirl would stand with her right foot on one galloping horse and her left foot on the other. (The horses would have had to be very well trained to stay together, and the rider obviously had great balance and strength.)

The relay race required three laps around a track, and the rider had to change horses, and sometimes saddles, after each round. If they weren’t required to change saddles, many cowgirls perfected the “flying” change, leaping from the back of one horse to the other without touching the ground. Vera McGinnis is credited with inventing this move.

Published in: on January 24, 2009 at 5:33 am  Comments (4)  
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Nettie Wears Pants in a Rodeo

My character, Nettie, from my novel Cowgirl Dreams donned a pair of her brother’s denim pants, sneaked out of thecowgirl-dreams-cover house one morning and rode in a neighbor’s informal rodeo. She loved the freedom of riding her horse Toby wearing pants and especially riding the steer in the rodeo. The adrenaline of staying on the back of that bucking, twisting, angry beast had her hooked and the clothing allowed her to ride unencumbered by the extra fabric of a skirt, divided or not.

But, when she arrived home, her mother was horrified to see her daughter dressed as a man. And having heard that Nettie’d ridden in the rodeo against her wishes, Mama was highly upset.

“You.” Mama stepped forward, her face dark red with anger. “You defied me.”

Cold dread pooled in Nettie’s belly. She’d never seen Mama so mad. “No, I—”

“Young lady, you were supposed to stay home today. Work on that pile of darning. You know Mrs. Connors wants it done by tomorrow, otherwise we don’t get paid till next week.”

The darning. She hadn’t given it another thought after she’d decided to sneak out. Oh dear. Icy prickles of guilt stabbed athher. “But. Lola. Why couldn’t she finish it?”

Mama stepped closer. “And, we had to hear it from the neighbor’s hired man. You. Rode. In. A rodeo.” With each woword, she jabbed her finger an inch from Nettie’s face. “You know how I feel about that.”

“But, Mama, I stayed on. I didn’t get bucked off.”

“Don’t you sass me, girl.” Mama’s voice shook now. “And wearing pants in public, too.” She closed her eyes a moment and sighed. “You will take that basket of socks, go to your room, and don’t come out until they’re all finished. No supper. No No riding. For a month.” She turned on her heel and stalked out of the kitchen.

At the door, Mama stopped. “And, for heavens sake, take that filthy red rag from around your neck and wash it.”

Published in: on January 23, 2009 at 3:37 am  Comments (4)  
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Cowgirl Fashion–Prairie Rose Henderson

In the early 1900s, Prairie Rose Henderson was a popular performer whoprairie-rose-henderson_bloomers created a bit of a stir by being one of the first to wear bloomers to ride. Despite the “racy” look (showing quite a bit of leg), it was still feminine and had to have been more comfortable and probably safer than voluminous skirts while riding broncs.

She wowed the crowds with her handmade fancy costumes, which were often decorated with beads, feathers, and sequins.

The Hall of Fame cowgirl was a champion bronc rider and a competitive relay race rider from 1901well  into the 1930s.

Published in: on January 15, 2009 at 4:42 am  Comments (5)  
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