Monday, March 5, 2012

The Cowgirl Behind the Dreams...

My guest today, award winning author Heidi M. Thomas, is sharing with us the story behind her books.  I hope you enjoy her post as much as I did.  Welcome Heidi, and thank you for being on Cowboy Kisses today.  On with your post...
The Cowgirl Behind Cowgirl Dreams and Follow the Dream
In a scrapbook my grandmother created is a clipping from the Sunburst Sun (Montana) newspaper, Aug. 26, 1922, that reads:
1:00 Parade of cowboys and cowgirls, headed by Cut Bank brass band
2:30 Tootsie Bailey will enter competition with entire field, riding wild steers with only one hand on cirsingle
Another clipping states “Tootsie Bailey won first and Mary (Marie) Gibson second prize in the steer riding.”
Marie Gibson was a well-known Montana cowgirl and won national awards for bronc riding.
Tootsie was my grandmother and she would have been 17 at that time. I did have the opportunity to spend time with her, ride horseback, and get to know her pretty well before she died suddenly when she was only 57 and I was 12.
I know that she was an avid horsewomen and that she was more at home on the back of a horse than behind a dust mop. My dad told me she had competed in rodeos, riding steers, when she was young. I kept thinking how courageous that was, especially as I got older and watched bull and bronc riders. Grandma was petite—five-feet two-inches and weighed a little over 100 pounds. I was amazed that she would pit herself against an animal that weighed 900 pounds or so, one whose sole purpose was to get that pesky rider off its back and then maybe stomp on her!
My character, Nettie, has a dream to become a rodeo star and the tenaciousness to follow that dream. In Cowgirl Dreams  (EPIC Award Winner), during the 1920s, she faces family and social barriers to that dream. The sequel, Follow the Dream (a WILLA Literary Award Winner), finds her still holding on to her dream. But the drought and depression of the 1930s forces her to make some tough choices and rethink how her dream works in with her family and life in Montana.

Excerpt from Follow the Dream:
Sunday, August 10, 1930
Dust still blowing. Will it ever stop? So long since we’ve had even a drop of rain. Worried about the horses. Not much grass left. Jake’s not himself….

Nettie stopped writing. What was that noise? A low clicking hum. The wind? No. She’d never heard it like that. The sound grew louder. She stood and went to the window.
At first she didn’t see anything. The air hung hot and still. Her mind filled with confusion. Then a movement down by the corral caught her eye. A dark river of motion, flowing, clicking, humming.
Nettie sprinted for the door. “Neil! Where are you?”  Frantic, she ran toward the barn. “Neil!”
“Here I am, Ma.” His small voice came from the hayloft. He pointed to the mass off to one side. “What’s that?”
She climbed up the ladder inside the barn and sat beside him. “Grasshoppers, honey. They won’t hurt you.” The whirring, low-flying cloud clung to the ground, slowly moving through small patches of withered grass, leaving the ground as bare table-top, swarming over the corral fence. What was left of the posts stood like skeleton bones, stark and fragile.
Her son’s eyes were wide, pools of gray-green in the dim light. “What are they doing?”
“They’re eating.” Revulsion fought her calm words.
“Why did they eat the corral poles?”
“Because there aren’t any crops and not much grass left.” She tried to still the fluttering fear inside her stomach. Now there won’t be any grass left for our horses.
Nettie and Neil watched until darkness settled around the path of destruction left in the insects’ wake. Jake rode in from town and found them still sitting in the open door of the hayloft.

Both books are available through my website, from my publisher Follow the Dream is also available on Kindle and Cowgirl Dreams on Nook.
Heidi M. Thomas grew up on a ranch in eastern Montana and now lives in western Washington where she writes, edits for other authors, teaches community writing classes and blogs She is a member of Women Writing the West (, Skagit Valley Writers League ( , Northwest Independent Editors Guild ( and VBT—Writers on the Move ( .


Heidiwriter said...

Ginger, thank you so much for hosting me today!

Carole Estby Dagg said...

What an amazing grandmother - I'm glad you had a chance to know her!

Eunice boeve said...

So neat that you have those clippings about your grandmother. I bet you were pleased to read that she won first place and Marie Gibson, the noted cowgirl rider, took second. I've read both of your books and enjoyed them.

Lori Orser said...

I agree with Eunice; having those newspaper clippings about your family history is wonderful. She sounds like quite the cowgirl! To those new to Heidi, let me just say I've read both books, and she's a great writer, and the story is one any woman will enjoy, because frankly the interior lives of women haven't changed much since the 1920. Great blog, Heidi, and thanks for the info, for International Women's Day!! Thank you Ginger, for giving her a chance to meet new people! P.S. What a hot cowboy! Woohoo!
Lori Orser

Heidiwriter said...

Thank you all for stopping by. Yes, I was thrilled to discover those clippings and also some short pieces she had written about her horses and about how she met and was courted by my grandfather. I'm so happy you enjoyed the books, Eunie and Lori. I'm working on the third in the series, but it'll be awhile yet before it's out!

Anonymous said...

What fun to have those newspaper clippings, Heidi. What your grandmother did was just amazing! And you translated her life so well into your books, both of which I enjoyed very much. Can hardly wait for the third one!