You may wonder why a college English teacher and overall fantasy fan decided to write a novel set in the rodeo. The inspiration for The Bull Riding Witch came when I went to a rodeo to help my husband sell concessions to raise money for a nonprofit he ran at the time. I hadn’t been to a rodeo since I was a young child and had no interest in doing so.
But as I watched this rodeo, I found in fascinating, in a they-still-do-this-thing way. In The Bull Riding Witch, I talk about the Holy Trinity of Rodeo: “America, God, and Ford trucks.” The announcer discuss each aspect of the Holy Trinity with equal gravity and seriousness; so much so, it seemed almost a parody of itself. I won’t talk about the trucks, but believe, they were equally serious about them. I may have gotten the order of some of the following mixed up, but not the earnestness with which they are pursued.
They began the rodeo with an over-the-top patriotic display. While it is fairly typical to sing the national anthem at sporting events, none of the rest of what rodeo does is. None of the videos in this post are from a rodeo I attended because I’ve never taken one, but they are typical of what I’ve witnessed and demonstrate how seriously rodeo takes the Holy Trinity. They have a single rider holding a huge flag ride around the arena when playing a patriotic country song. Although the riders I’ve seen have always been women, this is otherwise typical, as is the announcement beforehand honoring veterans and asking them to stand to be recognized.
And since one big flag isn’t enough, then comes the rodeo drill team in which all members carry smaller flags while riding in patterns, and patriotic country music still playing.
After the patriotic display, the announcer begins the rodeo with a prayer and a reminder that rodeo is the only sport to still start by giving praise and thanks to God. I wish I could remember the words of the prayer because it struck me as nearly ludicrous the seriousness he prayed for the rodeo performers and their bravery as well as extremely self-congratulatory that rodeo is dedicated to God. You can’t make this stuff up.
The Holy Trinity did fascinate me, but it was the rest of the rodeo out of which Daulphina, the bull riding witch, was born.What impressed me was the incredible skill of the participants combined with the pointlessness of developing such a skill. This was particularly notable in the team roping event, in which one rider has to rope the head of the calf and the other the heel. Watch some of them doing it:
Think how incredibly difficult that would be to do and the hours and hours of practice and dedication needed to perfect this skill, but at the same time, why? What makes it worthwhile to stretch a calf out like that? I know sports don’t have a practical purpose, but these seemed to harken back to an era that died 100 years ago.
Most fascinating of all was the bull riding, which always comes last in the rodeo. When you watch someone who’s good at it, like Wiley Petersen, it may not seem so difficult. Wiley was my consultant on all things rodeo, but I’ll talk more about him tomorrow.
You only have to stay on for 8 seconds, which may not seem like a lot, but at the first rodeo I went to as an adult, not a single one of the riders did it. As I’ve learned since, there is a lot more skill in staying on the bull than it appears to a novice. These are more typical of what I saw than Wiley’s ride.
When you get bucked off these bulls, you have a 2000 pound animal crashing its hooves down around you. That weight coming down on a rider has killed far more than one bull rider. Notice also how often they get hung up with their hand stuck in the rope while the bull throws them around like a rag doll. Trying something like this is insane. The list of injuries bull riders get is impressively long, and they all get hurt. They say it isn’t a matter of whether you get hurt, but when you get hurt. Often the injuries are extremely serious, and if it doesn’t kill you, it can paralyze you. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would subject themselves to this, especially for the few hundred dollars they could win at the rodeo I attended, and if you don’t win, you don’t get a dime. (At the PBR championships, you can win a lot more than a few hundred, but not at these local small time ones.)
While I was watching the bull riding, Daulphina was born. I thought someone has to set a fantasy book in this world. This setting is just too good to ignore, and I’ve never seen a fantasy book set in rodeo. If you know of one, tells us about in the comments below. It took a few years for her story to take shape because I was working on other projects at the time, but The Bull Riding Witch will be available soon.
Remember, I am giving away two signed print copies and two ebooks of The Bull Riding Witch when it is released. I have added a grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card. To enter the contest, subscribe to my newsletter (see the sidebar) or comment on any of the posts in my blog. Each comment equals one entry, and you can enter as many times as you like.
Tell us about your experience with rodeo or the inspiration for your latest book.