Cowboy Slang


Cowboy Slang

By Natalie Bright

Southerners have a way of cutting consonants and lengthening vowels to speak our mind. Some people may assume we’re ignorant. I think we’re entertaining and somewhat lazy. For instance, we’ve shortened you all to y’all. Rather than converse in a lengthy explanation of our intentions and plans, we simply say, I’m fixin’ to. The listener has to guess at the intended task.

Lunch or Dinner; Which Is It?

Common day phrases have been altered too. My husband and I have had many a discussion regarding breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He insists the correct names are breakfast, dinner and supper, just like his grandparents used to call it.

Talking Hoss

Same thing goes for the American cowboy. Raising quality beef steak was a real profession, and continues to be so today. Technology has had some influence on the cattleman and ranching industry, but what remains is a simple way of speaking his mind. There are few story tellers equal to a group of cowboys gathered around talking hoss. These types of conversations are gold to a writers ear.  I heard a cowboy mention that his horse was smoked, which means the horse had already been ridden hard and needed a rest so the cowboy had to quit work for the day. One simple word can say a lot. 

Down in the Skillet

In the olden days, the Texas Panhandle was down in the skillet. On the cattle drive, the chuck wagon cook, or dough-wrangler, might whip up a batch of sour-doughs with sop (biscuits and gravy), along with a boggy top for dessert (a pie with only a bottom crust).

After work, the ranch hand would dig around in his war-bag for a clean shirt, which is a carry-all for his personal possessions. I’ve heard the term still used today. A war bag is similar to a sports bag with a cowboy’s rodeo gear for riding broncs or bulls.  Back to the olden days, if he could find clean duds, he’d slick-up for the shin-dig at a neighboring ranch where they’d shake a good hoof until day break.

Cowboy Slang Reference

These witty and colorful catch phrases are interesting to me and I love sprinkling a few throughout my stories. I’ve discovered several helpful reference books, in case you’d like to learn more about the lingo of the great American west. These are a few of my favorites:

COWBOY LINGO by Ramon F. Adams, is a collection of slack-jaw words and whangdoodle ways (Houghton Mifflin Company).

WESTERN WORDS, also by Adams, A dictionary of the Old West (Hippocrene Books, New York).

COWBOY SLANG by Edgar R. Frosty Potter

Happy trails and keep writing!


The Magic of John Wayne

The Magic of John Wayne

By Natalie bright


While driving a carload of boys, I listened with interest to my 15yo son and his friends chat about movies. I was shocked to hear one of them say that their favorite movie star was John Wayne. What followed was a surprisingly in-depth discussion of his movies, and if the remake with Jeff Bridges lived up to the original version (they all agreed that both actors owned the part). 

I’d like to say thank you cable television. I guess those John Wayne marathons and boring summer days have a way of coming together in every young man’s life. Did you ever imagine that kids of the 21st century would still be watching John Wayne?

Satellite Dish Enchantment

I realized that the youth of today are exposed to so much more than we were. I really didn’t have control of the television channels until I moved out on my own. My children have a television, iPad, and gaming system, all affording exposure to a wide variety of material. My two boys like westerns and 007 and transformer movies, those ridiculous videos on YouTube, and the history channel. Plus we have horses and cattle and lots of chores. It’s a busy and varied life. 

Books for every Taste

And the same goes with books. I read across all genres, and I’ve come to realize that kids are like most adults.  When I speak at schools, I open discussion to talk about their favorite books. I’m always surprised at the variety of answers, and my kids read a mix of genres too, except it’s not the stories I would have chosen for them.  I’m clueless as to why my youngest refuses to read about Harry Potter and prefers zombies instead. And my oldest went from the Jack and Annie series straight into nonfiction about World War I. 

Editors and agents work hard to produce amazing stories, and thanks to social media and eBooks there’s so many ways for readers to discover them. Opportunities abound for writers too.

Rock Songs of the 70’s

As we drove along, we programmed my sons iPhone to the car so he could play his music. The teenagers sang along with today’s country, but the rock songs were from the 70’s and 80’s; Boston, Journey, Eagles. The same rock songs I used to sing to and the same songs that drove my parents crazy. This younger generation thinks they’re the first ones that came up with everything relating to hip. Does that ring familiar?

More Than a Feeling

As More Than a Feeling blasted through the car, my son asked, “How do you know the words to that song?” 

I smiled. Thanks to me, my children are watching excellent movie stars, expanding their interests, considering all the possibilities and realizing that they can be anything they want to be while being exposed to the technology of a new century.

Now if a cable channel would run a Clint Eastwood marathon and if some teenager would take out the trash, my modern world would be complete.

For the Love of History

Middle Grade Mondays

 For the Love of History

by Natalie Bright

If you love history, a fictional story in an historical setting might be something you’d like to tackle. Historical fiction is a time-consuming, massive undertaking. Not only do you need the common elements of story craft, you also need a basic knowledge of the time period. Your details must be accurate or you will get snippy feedback from passionate readers (ask any historical author about the letters and emails they’ve received).

Research-Write Process

Authors confront the research portion of their stories in several different ways. Based on questions to some of my favorite historical writers, here are a few of the processes I’ve learned about.

1) Research the heck out of it first, then power through and write the first draft. Do. Not. Stop. Verification of facts, sensory building, characterization, etc., is done during the editing process.

2) Start with minimal research, character profiles, and develop a basic plot outline. Write, stopping to inquire about specific details as you write. This would be akin to one step forward, three steps back form of world building. By the time you get to the end, you have a fairly polished novel.

3) Total and complete emersion into the time period. You consciously and subconsciously step back into that era.. While you write, you’re developing character profiles, plot elements, intricate details about life, and researching the time period. In your spare time, if not writing, you can rent movies on that time period and read nonfiction books.

Its In the Details

It’s the subtle details about everyday life that brings historical fiction alive for me.  Everything must be true to that time period. For example, in my middle grade western, the heroine’s mother told the town’s sheriff to “give me a call.” When I heard those words as I read them out loud to my critique group, I felt like such an idiot. The only way the Sheriff could have “called” in 1885 is through a mega phone.  Oh wait, were mega phones even invented by 1885? (See what I mean. As if writers aren’t already crazy enough.)

Beware of those every day, subtle details. They’ll sneak up on you. I believe people who lived in other centuries had the same desires, dreams, aggravations that people do today, but their day-to-day realities are not the same as ours.


One element that is critical when writing historical fiction regardless of the process you use, is a timeline.  This can be developed on your computer in a spreadsheet fashion, they can be found online on numerous history sites, or you can make your own with dry eraser board or butcher paper to be taped to your wall for easy reference.

1) Time of day and days of the week specific to your characters as your plot progresses.

2) Print a timeline from a credible website with major events. You might want to thread these events through your plot line. Is your character directly a part of that event?

3) A timeline specific to your setting and a plat or map. What’s going on in the fictional town where your character lives and how is it affected by actual events of the time?

Have you discovered a process that I haven’t mentioned?

What process works best for you?