Welcome to the 2023 Inspirational Western Women series.
I’m excited for you to meet the featured gal for this month. She’ll tell you all about what it means to have a cowgirl attitude! So sit back, sip a favorite beverage, and enjoy my writer friend . . .
Heidi M. Thomas
This is a paraphrase from Dale Evans, who went on to say, “Cowgirl is a pioneer spirit, a special American brand of courage. The cowgirl faces life head-on, lives by her own lights, and makes no excuses. Cowgirls take stands. They speak up. They defend the things they hold dear. A cowgirl might be a rancher, or a barrel racer, or a bull rider, or an actress. But she’s just as likely to be a checker at the local Winn Dixie, a full-time mother, a banker, an attorney, or an astronaut.”
Although I grew up on a ranch in eastern Montana, and I rode horses (my horse was a red roan named Strawberry), gathered cattle with my dad, and helped with branding, I never really thought of myself as a “cowgirl.” But through my years of reading and researching for my books, I’ve come to realize that I am—maybe an “urban cowgirl” now by strict definition, but a cowgirl by attitude.
I like to say I was born with ink in my veins. My parents read to us and instilled a love of story in me. I couldn’t wait to learn to read and to write my own stories! As soon as I could form letters, I probably drove my mom and dad crazy asking, “How do you spell…?”
I continued reading and writing every chance I got through school and went on to get a degree in journalism at the University of Montana in Missoula. I wrote for The Missoulian newspaper for several years, freelanced for other newspapers and magazines, and then in the mid-’90s, tried my hand at a novel. I was hooked on fiction.
My grandmother was a cowgirl—a real one, one who not only rode horses, but also rode bucking stock in rodeos in the 1920s & ’30s. After she died of a brain aneurysm at age 57, my dad and I were going through some photo albums. He remarked, “Did you know your grandma rode in rodeos?”
My twelve-year-old mind perked right up. “Wow, no, I didn’t know that! How cool!” I knew my grandma was no “sit-in-the-rocker-knitting” kind of grandmother—she preferred the back of a horse to a dustmop any day of the week. I filed that tidbit of information away in the back of my brain until many years later, when I was ready to write books.
My first published novels were based on my rodeo-riding grandma. What began as an offhand comment by my dad has resulted in my publishing my 10th book this year. Little did I know!
I have three books based on Grandma “Tootsie”: Cowgirl Dreams, Follow the Dream, and Dare to Dream. My next two novels are based on my mom, who emigrated from Germany after WWII: Seeking the American Dream and Finding True Home. My latest trilogy is a contemporary series, strictly fiction, but the character is the great-granddaughter of my original cowgirl character: Rescuing Samantha, Rescuing Hope, and Rescue Ranch Rising.
I like what someone said about Reba McIntyre: “There’s something about a cowgirl—she just knows how not to give up.” I like to think I have some of that cowgirl perseverance in me!
I’m still “just an urban cowgirl,” but I love to write about horses and the women who love them.
Heidi is a member of Women Writing the West, Professional Writers of Prescott, and Arizona Authors Association, is also a manuscript editor, and teaches local memoir and fiction writing classes.
She is an avid reader of all kinds of books, enjoys the sunshine and hiking in north-central Arizona, where she writes, edits, and teaches memoir and fiction writing classes.
Heidi is also the “human” for a finicky feline, and describes
herself primarily as a “cat herder.”
Connect with Heidi