Tag Archive for: Rodeo

Write What You Know

By Barbrara J. Eikmeier

Hi! I’m a newcomer on the blog. Let me introduce myself: Most people call me Barb but I always use my full name when I’m writing. I live in Kansas where my full time job is a quilting designer, teacher and author. I travel all around the country (and via Zoom) giving quilting programs for quilt guilds. I go to California regularly where I co-own a retail quilt shop with my sister in law. I’ve written how-to instructional books and many magazine articles about quilters and quilting. And, I’m writing a novel that, of course, has a quilt in it. Quilting is what I know.

“Write what you know” is good advice. Your writing will ring
authentic. But what if you’re seeking a quirky character for your novel? Or you
need a fresh new location for a bad turn of events? Maybe it’s time to watch TV.

Recently, during a layover at the Denver airport, I noticed a
group wearing hats with National Finals Rodeo logos. They were on their way
home from the annual Las Vegas event. We chatted a bit and I said, “My 91-year-old
father watches the NFR every year. He knows all those cowboys and their

As I traveled, I considered what I knew about the NFR or
rodeos in general. The answer was: Not much.

I was on my way to take a turn helping my parents. Seeing
those traveler’s hats reminded me that, for the second consecutive year, I’d be
watching the NFR every evening with my dad. I’ve discovered I don’t have to
know much about rodeo to enjoy watching it. The trick is to watch with someone
who knows the competitors, their records, their horses and their fathers! Every
evening a different family member joined us. My knowledge expanded with each
event as my dad and brothers explained rules, mistakes, and the history of the
commentator’s own rodeo days.  When a bull
ride is only eight seconds long the lineup of competitors whizzes by and it’s on
to the next event, so if it’s boring (!) or painful to watch, the misery doesn’t
last long!

After five days of NFR broadcasts, I don’t have enough
knowledge to write a cowboy as a main character, or the arena as a primary
location, but I’m thinking about it. I mentioned to my brother, “Maybe I should
go in person.”

He laughed and said, “It’s sold out two years in advance.”

I checked. It is. And tickets range from $120 – $450 per
night. That’s expensive research.

During my college days I spent a summer riding on a cattle
ranch. I’m not a natural horsewoman. That is not me in the picture, although I once made the mistake of entering an arena on a well trained horse named Barbie. I didn’t know what to do, but she sure did! I haven’t ridden in eons, but the
experience gave me enough background to write a tack room into my novel. And I wrote
a character who breeds and breaks horses.

I thought I’d written all I could
about horses and cowboys. Now, after watching the NFR, I’m pondering a
character who is absent from home while riding the rodeo circuit. Or maybe I’ll
write about a former record setting cowboy who now works as a commentator at an annual small town rodeo. Or I
might have a young woman pass through on her quest to break a title in barrel
racing. She could make an interesting walk-on character when she needs a place
to board her horse overnight. I have new ideas for dialog. Phrases like, “He’s
out of the money,” or “There will be no buckle for him” should resonate with a
reader who knows rodeo. And, the arena could be the scene of an accident, a
death or foul play, not to mention eight seconds of tension during the bare back bronc

There’s a new item on my to-do list: Find a golf enthusiast to
watch a PGA tournament with. I don’t know much about golf. Yet.

Barbara J. Eikmeier is a quilter, author, student of quilt
history, and lover of small-town America. Raised on a dairy farm in northern California,
she enjoys placing her characters in rural communities.