By Heidi Thomas
As I researched my novel, Cowgirl Dreams, based on my grandmother in the 1920s, I found a theme of courage as well as competitiveness. I’m in awe that someone as petite as Grandma (5-feet, 2 inches and 102 pounds) would even consider pitting her strength and skill against such a large animal whose goal is not only to get that foreign weight off its back, but also (in the case of a steer or especially a bull) try to stomp on the rider once she’s down.
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.
In Cowgirl Dreams, 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?
Heidi will be back in May for her blog tour. I will be reviewing the book plus I will post an interview. I am offering a $10 giftcard to Barnes & Noble. The contest closes in two weeks.