I recently wrote a fiction book about the World Famous Suicide Horse Race in Omak, WA––the second full weekend of August. This event is part of the Omak Stampede, but its own entity. I’ve attended the stampede off and on since I was a little girl. But this year I watched the race from a new lens.
After a Friday afternoon book signing at Corner Shelf Books in downtown Omak, my husband and I took in the rodeo and Suicide Race from the stands. The rodeo started at seven and the temperature was holding out at 96 degrees. Fortunately, the heat was short lived as the sun set behind the stands around 8:00. The rodeo went off without a hitch Friday night. Even though the bleachers were scant, the entertainment was thrilling.
During the stampede weekend, I discovered two new snippets for up and coming books in the series. One from a conversation with friends, and one from sitting in the stands and looking up.
We stayed with friends who reside in Omak. While visiting Saturday morning over breakfast, our friends told us about a mishap during this year’s elimination race where one of two race horses got loose after colliding. One was caught while still on the rodeo grounds, and the other was traveling south on US Highway 97 and caught by its owner who was filling up with fuel at the Tribal Trails Gas Station and Minimart a few miles south of the stampede grounds.
I borrowed a sticky note and jotted this down, thinking about book two in this trilogy. How would this accident be caused in my book? How would the horses get loose? Where would they be, on the hill, in the Okanogan River, coming up the dike? Whose horses would get loose? My mind spun with ideas.
Then on Saturday, my husband and I sat in the stands during the roping event, watching lightening flash above the suicide race hill. It lit up the sky during barrels and bulls as well––the suicide race began after bull riding. This got me to thinking, what if the storm was bad enough to cancel the race, and then what? Would it be cancelled? Would jockeys protest and run it anyway? Could they? Would they be fined and how much? Would it be worth it? Would the Owners and Jockey’s association go with three and not four races? Would they continue on Monday? Would anyone get struck? Would it make the horses more anxious?
I sat in the stands, recalling last year when I was on top of the hill during eliminations snapping pictures from the side of the hill has jockeys blasted past in a cloud of dirt. Then from the bottom, as they charged down, plunging into the Okanogan River. I’d talked to the owner and jockey of the past five races. Watched them ready their horse with deft care. Then the lightening would strike again and my mind would ponder additional scenarios.
Come to find out, the lightning was far out and the angle suggested it was close, but still…
I’m not sure I can ever watch the World Famous Suicide Race again without asking, what if?
A new lens has been snapped onto the camera of my thoughts, and I’m ready for whatever images it snaps. I will be ready with pen and paper to record those pictures in words and in the recesses of my imagination.
~We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect – Anaïs Nin