It’s rodeo time in San Antonio. City slickers are polishing their boots, hiking their jeans and donning fringed jackets. My nephew, seen in this picture, has to tighten his suspenders to get ready for action. He’s a bullfighter (rodeo clown) and protects the riders when they’re thrown. Crazy, but someone’s got to do the job.
In the stock barns, rows and rows and rows of animals are in stalls waiting to show. Kids have worked all year fattening those pigs or steers or chickens anticipating that magic moment in the ring when the judge gives the nod—and you’re handed a blue ribbon! My daughter competed with her lambs when she was in high school. Who knew I would ever learn to shear a sheep! (Did you know we washed them in Woolite before she showed them? Fact!)
As a kid, I yearned for the cowboy life. My cousins owned a ranch and I learned to ride a horse under tutelage from Uncle Voss, a stern taskmaster. He allowed me to tag along behind a trail ride and eat from a chuckwagon, though I admit sleeping on the packed earth wasn’t for me. Alas, once my feet hit the ground, my aching legs and sunburned face let me know right quick I wasn’t cut out to be a cowgirl. I’d rather read Loretta Rogers books nowadays.
So what’s rodeo time have to do with the writing life? Experiences! There’s an old adage that states write what you know. Well, I have a plethora of life experiences now that I’ve— ahem— aged a bit. My genre is cozy mystery and sweet romance. And there the game begins!
Look at the vast arena of characters and situations I can choose from within just this rodeo season. Cowboys with spurs, rodeo clowns, riders, city slickers, regular folks. I’ve met all of them. Add the smell of the arena, the carnival and funnel cakes on the midway...... With all of those ingredients you can stir up a Story Stew:
WHAT IF—a cowgirl roped a steer and couldn’t handle it.
WHAT IF—an accountant moseyed his way down the aisle admiring the stock in the barns.
WHAT IF—that steer got loose and charged out the gate.
WHAT IF—someone was found dead behind the chutes.
WHAT IF—the accountant found a rope.
WHAT IF—the rope was bloodied.
Well, we can either bring in a detective, kill someone else or we can have the cowgirl and the accountant live happily ever after.
In my cozy mystery Dog Gone, a cleaning lady becomes aware of a dog-napping ring and ends up being kidnapped! To research this story, I attended the River City dog show. And watched a psychic and a masseuse work with dogs. For real.
See you don’t have to reach far to find fodder for a story. That’s how we do it, Radical Readers. We spot a unique situation and mutter “WHAT IF…..” then let the characters take the lead.Come along with us, pardners. We'd love to have you!
Eileen Key retired after teaching school for thirty years. She is a freelance writer and editor, with two mysteries and three novellas published. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Mother of three, grandmother of four, Eileen resides in San Antonio, Texas.