RTW - Inspiration in Unlikely Places

From YA Highway:

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question to write about on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic:
When you need creative inspiration, where do you go?

I've written before about my favorite places, places I find inspiring and rejuvenating.  Places I go to relax, to unwind, to reflect, to remember why I'm on this journey, no matter how long that journey might take.

But sometimes I find inspiration in the most unlikely places.

As one of six major sponsors, my company is heavily involved in Minnesota's largest rodeo, the World's Championship Hamel Rodeo and Bull Ridin' Bonanza! I grew up in this area, northwest of Minneapolis, but have never attended the Rodeo.  I went through a brief country music phase in college, during which time I owned a pair of (inexpensive) cowboy boots (from Target), went to a ton of concerts, and swooned when a boy I loved (who had a girlfriend that wasn't me) held me close on the dance floor and sang "I Love the Way You Love Me" by John Michael Montgomery.

Big Hair Country Girls

I'm not a Rodeo gal. I mean, for many years of my life I could barely sit across the table from someone eating a hamburger, so watching a guy wrangle a poor, scared little calf was not high on my to-do list.

When I learned that one of my company's largest events was managing volunteers and ticket sales for the Rodeo, I was less than enthused.  Set up, two nights.  Shows, Thursday through Sunday nights plus a Saturday matinee.  Tear-down and clean-up, two nights.  

Most days that week, the week of July 4th, temps hit the 90s, except for Thursday and Friday, which reached 100.  That doesn't factor in heat index.  Hot, humid, gross.  You might recall that I rather enjoy air conditioning; there is no such thing at the Rodeo.  At dusk, vicious blood-sucking mosquitoes attacked in droves.  

So I sweated buckets, was covered in dust and dirt and grime, and took at least two showers a day for a week.  I spent between seven and 12 hours a day at the Rodeo, checking in volunteers, assisting with ticket sales and operations, and climbing the hill between the South Gate and the North Gate about seventy-five times.  On the first night of clean-up, I scoured the grounds for trash in the hot blazing sun for three hours: cigarette butts by the hundreds, candy wrappers, gum, zip ties, a hose nozzle, ticket stubs, and a $20 bill, which I used to buy myself lunch the next day and Dairy Queen for my son that night.  Each night I came home, showered, and threw myself down on the couch to watch TV, unable to sleep, even though I still had to be at the office at 8 am the next morning.

To recap: hot, stinky, sweaty, dirty, tired, hot.

To say that I had a fantastic time at the Rodeo would be a bald-faced lie.  I did, however, enjoy myself most of the time (usually when I didn't have sweat rolling down my back).  The Rodeo is a huge event entirely orchestrated by volunteers.  Amazing volunteers who give up hours, days, weeks of their time to make it happen.  They sweat, they stink, they put their lives on hold and then they do it again the next year.  And the money raised goes back to the community.  

People come from ALL OVER THE WORLD to see this Rodeo.  I am not kidding.  One of my jobs was handling VIP ticket sales.  I was shocked the day a guy named Barry called from New South Wales, Australia, to purchase tickets for two nights.  He was coming to the States to visit his son in Montana and they drove the RV to Minnesota for the Hamel Rodeo.  He called me "doll" and I didn't even mind.  I would have liked to have met him in person.

I didn't get to see much of the Rodeo, but the people-watching was phenomenal: families with cute kids in cowboy hats and boots.  High school kids in packs and on dates.  Older people who have come to the Rodeo for 32 years.  And the cowboys, of course.  

I got an education about rodeo life, which includes rodeo groupies.  There is a term for such groupies:  Buckle Bunnies.  Here's a brief description from Wikipedia, under Groupies:
Groupies also play a role in sports. For example, "buckle bunnies" are a well-known part of the world of rodeo.[8] The term comes from a slang term for women ("bunnies"), and from the prize belt buckles awarded to the winners in rodeo, which are highly sought by the bunnies.[9] According to one report, bunnies "usually do not expect anything more than sex from the rodeo participants and vice versa".[8] In a 1994 Spin magazine feature, Elizabeth Gilbert characterized buckle bunnies as an essential element of the rodeo scene, and described a particularly dedicated group of bunnies who are known on the rodeo circuit for their supportive attitude and generosity, going beyond sex, to "some fascination with providing the most macho group of guys on earth with the only brand of nuturing they will accept".[10
I had no idea.

And now, of course, I'm working a Buckle Bunny/Rodeo storyline into my WIP. Because, really?  This stuff is just too good to pass up.

Sometimes when you're not seeking inspiration, inspiration finds you.  I found inspiration where I least expected: at the Rodeo.

How about you?  Where do you find creative inspiration?


  1. Love this post, Sara! Rodeos sound fun and crazy and I love the picture ;-) Thanks for sharing and great inspiration.

  2. Though I've have never been on a rodeo, I find them fascinating! Would love to go to one and see all that fuss with my own eyes.
    So great that you're writing about one!

  3. That's a great story, Sara, and a great use of the experience. The chances of me ever going to a rodeo are south of slim (though I would have said the same about living in America 20+ years ago, so never say never!), and it sounds as if this is not something you would have chosen to do. But kudos to you for taking the experience and milking it for all it's worth! :)

  4. anything involving the term "buckle bunny" is definitely too good to pass up. (have you read the miseducation of cameron post? it might give you some more ideas about rodeo plots.)

  5. That actually sounds fun. Except for the hot and sticky part. Love that you are working it into your WIP. So cool to see where people get ideas from.

  6. Awesome story. I found a novel in the children I teach at school. I never really expected that but their personalities all had stories to tell. It's amazing how and when inspiration can hit!

  7. Haha! Buckle bunnies?! You're so right about inspiration sometimes finding you and not the other way around. It's weird how these things end up creeping into our stories intentionally and sometimes accidentally. :D

  8. Inspiration really is everywhere. :)

  9. My husband took me to the rodeo for valentine's day back when we were still dating. I actually loved it. :)

  10. Great post. I am not a fan of hot weather so I applaud you for going out to the Rodeo. I wouldn't last five seconds without AC.
    Thanks for sharing!

  11. There's a pretty big rodeo in a town down the hill from here, but I'm pretty biased against it--the sanctuary I used to volunteer at is right next to the arena for the rodeo, and the fireworks and drunken revelers upset our critters to no end.

    But that's what we do as writers--put a spin on things and add it to our next book!

  12. Buckle Bunnies. OMG. Now I want to go to the rodeo and soak up some culture. Anytime a guy sings to you, even better while dancing is tops with me! Except when they are singing Carrie. 'Cause I've never heard that one before.

  13. What a great story, Sara! I have never heard of buckle bunnies - that really is too good to pass up. Looking for inspiration in the least expected places is the attitude I will take with me next month to a family reunion on my hubby's side of the family that I don't want to go to! :)

  14. I admire you for having pulled it off - I think I would have everyone hating me due to telling them what a cruel, unnecessary sport meant to puff up the egos of chauvinistic men it is. I lived in Spain for a while and had worse discussions about bull fights and I never even went near one! Ehm, okay, anyway, back to the actual topic of this post ;) I think it is great you got inspiration and the lesson is so true: inspiration strikes in the most unexpected places!

  15. I'm a North Eastern girl, but I love rodeos and especially like to watch the bull riding! Whenever it comes on ESPN, I watch, and my husband thinks I'm crazy. You're right, inspiration can come from anywhere, even very strange places. :-)


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