Through a New Lens

Entering the Okanogan SR eliminations
Omak Elimination Trials 2015

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.

cropped loren up the dike
Omak Elimination Trials 2015

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

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  1. Jean Sutton says:

    Great blog, Carmen. So many memories of the rodeo and race come to mind.
    Thanks for sharin.

    1. carmenpeone says:

      Thank you. A clean lens is always a good choice!

  2. Carmen:
    I have been in Okanogan and Omak and my husband and I sat in those very stands looking east over the ridge. My first, and only published novel, is the tale of my mother-in-law’s adventures hitchhiking from Minnesota to Washington State in 1929 (a true story). I needed a name for my fictional town so picked Omakogan where my heroine Patsy faces down a mobster (at their apex in those post Depression years) Spats Sullivan in a showdown. I needed to see the territory surrounding my story so we drove the roads, stayed in the quaint hotels, and ate at the local eateries. A beautiful area and a great setting for adventures!

    1. carmenpeone says:

      Judith, The account of your mother-in-law’s journey sounds remarkable! Omakogan…love it! It is a hot, dry, yet beautiful area. Thank you for sharing this story. How fascinating!

  3. Melody Biehl says:

    Great Blog, love it. Can’t wait to read what you write on paper.

    1. Thank you, Melody! I’m anxious to hear from the publishers who are reading it.

  4. This is a thrilling account, Carmen. We attended that event a few years ago. We camped at Lop-Loop. I wrote an article that appeared in RV LIFE. It’s a fun event, even with all the controversy attached to it.

    1. Thank you, Mary. It is controversial, but many people don’t get to see the behind the scenes. These animals are taken care of as though family members. Loop loop is a beautiful area. Perfect setting for RV Life. Great choice!