AN OLD COWGIRL LOOKS BACK
In the 1940s and 50s, owning a horse for pleasure was a luxury. Most 'city' folk had little means for keeping a horse, and little means for supporting a horse. It took me the first 12 years of my life to convince my parents (now gone many years) to get one for me. I will be eternally be grateful to them for doing that and for supporting me in my life long love affair with horses.
Left: Daddy letting me sit on a donkey at the Grand Canyon; Right:Probably my first pony ride, Photographer's horse
Left:1951 on Duchess; I thought it was fun when I taught
her to rear on command.
Right: Teaching Duchess to shake hands
Jiggs and me, Archer City Rodeo, 1953
By the time I was 14, I was into barrel racing. There were very few 'jackpot' barrel races, certainly no one in my part of Texas had ever thought about something like a playday or open horse show. Therefore, to barrel race meant to rodeo. Rodeos, both RCA (Rodeo Cowboys Association) and Amateur, were usually an annual event sponsored by a city or town. That meant driving to that town, hauling the horse of course, in order to pay an entry fee and make one run around the barrels. Most rodeos were 50 or more miles from where we lived, which was Wichita Falls, in North Texas.
The link below shows the rodeo program for Henrietta, Texas 1954; I'm listed under "Sponsors Contest" which was what many barrel races were called, after the Stamford Cowboy Reunion event which jump started rodeo barrel racing...
A BIG event was the Texas Cowboy Reunion in Stamford, Texas, and it is still a BIG EVENT. I was fortunate to get to go out there and compete. In these photos you can see the 1950s version of an RV! That Ford Pickup with stock rack was my fancy horse hauling rig. I was very fortunate to have a Dad who would buy such a thing for me. And note the cots. And bear in mind that this is hot July, temperatures around 100 mid day. We were camped on the grounds of the TCR near a tiny stock pond, where we bathed, brushed our teeth and swam to cool off. Were we tough or what?
Stamford, Texas 1955, TEXAS COWBOY REUNION
OUR CAMP on the grounds of the Texas Cowboy Reunion in Stamford, Texas 1955
The Evolution of Barrel Racing ... About 1954 several of us girls who barrel raced, and a few who rode calves, got together to talk about creating a rodeo association. The Girls Rodeo Association (now the Women's Professional Rodeo Association) was already well established of course, but we wanted an amateur rodeo association, as we mostly went to amateur rodeos which were more abundant in our part of the world.
We didn't get as far as formally organizing, but it did spawn the organization of a new association to promote barrel racing, The Texas Barrel Racing Association, which of course was the major association for decades.
In 1955 at the Texas Cowboy Reunion my close friend Ann Newsome placed in the top ten in the barrel race, or Sponsors Contest, as it was called due to each girl barrel racer representing a ranch or town, her sponsor.
As a result of that good showing, Ann was invited to be among the first group of girls invited to the Fort Worth Fat Stock Show and Rodeo, to barrel race and add glamour to the event. She was paid to participate. Wow! What a great experience.
It was about that time that the barrel racers got together in Fort Worth to determine how best to promote our sport. It was agreed that we needed to be glamorous and skilled and well dressed. Therefore among the first rules of the TBRA was the dress code, which mandated long sleeves, hat, boots and dress pants ... not jeans.
THE TEXAS BARREL RACING ASSOCIATION - Click here for more on the TBRA
That single action, changing the sport of barrel racing from just a little rodeo contest to an added attraction that the spectators loved, was I believe, responsible for the phenomenon we see now.
The Texas Barrel Racing Association held sway for decades as the premier women's barrel racing organization. Had it not formed, who can tell if the sport would ever have progressed to the multi-million dollar level we see now in the 21st century. Now barrel racers have the great organization, National Barrel Horse Association.
I remember Daddy taking me to a ranch in West Texas in the early 1950 to see the great cutting horse, *Jody Earl. That horse was famous for cutting cattle without a rider.
Here's a link to a video of the great horse working totally alone in the cutting pen:
JODIE EARL CUTTING
REG. NO. HORSE'S NAME COLOR SEX DATE FOAL ST
0014396 JODIE EARL BAY GELDING 01/01/1944
Additional Horse Information for JODIE EARL: Deceased
SIRE DAM MATERNAL GRANDSIRE
U0115901 BROWN JUG 3 U0241085 CRICKET by NAIL STUD 0444444 UNKNOWN SIRE
1984 CANDY BAR CHARGE
My 1980 Appaloosa mare, Candy Bar Charge, sired by Bar Money Charge.
She was trained by me in several events, and by Keith Johnson (Pine Johnsons grandson)
in cutting. We showed her in 1984 at the Fort Worth Stock Show where she won cutting under Keith, and won or placed in
several performance classes with me. Candy's dam was a foundation Appaloosa sired by Candy Chief.
Horse and Cattle Sales ... now these were EVENTS ... I went to
as many as I could get to because they were entertaining, educational and
hugely interesting. PLUS, they always had free Bar B Que. A great place to eat
great Texas food!
Wish they still did that!
It was only in the 1960s that I was finally able to bid on and buy anything!
After being widowed at age 28, while striving to build a paying horse business, I purchased two broodmares and foals at an annual Quarter Horse sale In Vernon, Texas.
I bred them to my stallion, Judge Lasan, a
wonderful son of Calhouns Lasan that I had purchased as a two-year-old and
trained for reining and roping.
My mare, Miss Go Lasan, and her daughter, Lynx Lasan (see at foot of page with my husband Harlan riding her) go back to my old mare and this stallion.
Below, sale catalog from the 1950s, featuring Quarter
Horses from the ranch
of early breeder, R. L. Underwood. Click images to see larger photo.
That's teenage me with my Thoroughbred crop-out overo filly, Tabari, 1955
She was a gift to me from a TB breeder in Oklahoma. This was long, long before it was admitted that paints could crop out in Thoroughbred horses. Her dam produced three paints before being shipped to Kentucky and sold. Little did anyone know what a TB mare like that would someday be worth!
NOTE the Ford Pickup Truck in the photo ... I drove it home with the filly
in the back end, accompanied by my mother, from Guymon, Oklahoma. Daddy
purchased the truck from the same man who gave us the filly.
Did I have great folks, yup yup yup I surely did!
That's me roping off Tabari about 1958;
by then I was married and living with my working cowboy husband Bryson Laird, on the Lake Creek Ranch, near Windthorst, Texas. Tabari was used by Bryson daily as a ranch horse at Lake Creek. I barrel raced her and roped off her, too. She was the first horse of mine that I ever cut cattle on, heading, herding and moving them on the ranch.
'Jiggs', My first Quarter Horse and all-time best friend, photo 1955.
Jiggs lived all but her first year of life with me. She died in 1975.
Midwestern University, Wichita Falls, Texas; cowboys and would-be cowboys, about 1958.
MU is my alma mater
my mother, Harriet Baker Sammons; right on my mare Taffy, a King Ranch mare
maternal Grandmother, Martha Jane Martin Baker and Baldy pulling her buggy.
She, with Grandpa James Caleb, raised seven children on a farm in Oklahoma. She told me many stories about life in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She once told me that she rode horseback and was such a gadabout that my Grandfather thought when she had their second child that she would stay home more. Not so, she said; she just loaded up the kids in the buggy and kept right on gadding about. Actually, the work on the farm was so hard, that I doubt she had a lot of time to go 'a visitin' but she did tell me that one little black mare she drove to the buggy was so fast that she would race other folks to church with her, and usually win.
Grandma and Grandpa Sammons, Ed and Emma: Grandpa was a blacksmith and inventor. Quite an artist too, in crafting beautiful things of metal. Hanging in my house is a Mason's emblem that he made for Daddy when Daddy became a Mason. It's made of copper and steel, and the Masonic Emblem was crafted from horse shoe nails. Grandpa also built the very first "Jaws of Life" for the Fire Dept in LA. His shop, Sammons & Sons, existed well into the 1950s and beyond; it changed hands and became a leading manufacturing plant under the guidance of my uncle, Albert Sammons.
Grandma and Grandpa Sammons owned a ranch in the Mohave Desert of California and raised a few paint horses in the 1940s and 1950s. Grandma told me that she would give me a horse. [I credit Grandma, because she seemed to be in charge of the horses, way to go Grandma!]
Daddy told me he would ship the horse to Texas when I could play his favorite piano piece, Chopin's Polonaise. I purchased a simplified version of the piece, learned to play it well, and then reminded him of the promise.
Daddy looked into shipping one of
Grandma's paints to Texas, but then offered to buy me a Texas
horse instead, since that would cost less than shipping one from California.
That was how I got my first horse. She was a paint mare in foal that cost $35. Tragically, she died shortly after we got her, which was devastatingly heartbreaking.
A couple months after that, with the help of Mr. John Wallis, my parents purchased a mare for me, along with a filly (since I had lost a mare and a foal, my Mother reasoned).
Mr. Wallis was kind enough to offer to board my horse at their stable, which was within walking distance of our home. He had built a small stable for their two horses on a city lot near our neighborhood.
It was a keen facility with
a little wooden barn housing a couple of stalls and a feed/tack room. He had
hand-drilled a well, and installed a rope pulled bucket which we used to fill
the water troughs. I loved just spending time there, messing with the horses. As
soon as I got in from school, I jumped into Levis and took off afoot for the
horse lot each afternoon.
Mr. Wallis' daughter, Frances, age 16, was enlisted to train the horse, and to teach me to ride. She was my idol, my mentor, everything wonderful in the way of influence and wisdom. That was the start of a life-long friendship, a sister-hood actually, between Frances and me.
Years and years later when she and her family were living in Mexico City, I trained some of her horses and competed on them and kept them here at our place. It was through her horses that I came to know the athletic abilities of horses sired by Bar Money Charge, who was a ranch stallion at Wichita Falls. I ended up training over a dozen of his get. Eventually in the 1980s I even purchased the old stallion himself.
Frances Wallis Ramirez passed away in 1998. I miss her so much.
Left: Eileen Sammons and Frances Wallis Ramirez Stamford, 1955; Right: later in the 1990s, Wichita Falls
1990s into the 2000s: on Oreo, English; with friend Regina Brock; on Abe; on Abe's sire, Jet Carr
Enjoyed doing a little showing in English classes . . .
and the beat goes on ...
Eileen and Oreo Van Tyke - a different century and still addicted to horses
and trying new things. Oreo was the cause of my returning to Paint Horses in 1998.
He was the fifth stallion that I've owned, trained and ridden over this half-century plus.
OREO VAN TYKE DIED IN 2011 - A great horse and his memory lives on
Harlan and Eileen driving Tiny Tim in Azle Christmas Parade, 2010
Eileen and Lynx Lasan, Wichita Falls, October 2013
Ages 76 and 15, respectively
Rescue mare, Sweetie with Eileen, combined age 106 years!
THE DIARY OF SWEETIE, beginning JUNE 21, 2015
Y2K:Riding into another Century Horseback!
Age is only a state of mind
My undying gratitude to:
The Lord of course, for allowing me a lifetime with horses
and more blessings than I can name
The World's Greatest Husband:
My parents, Harlow and Harriet Sammons
photo circa 1932
Our friend and long time cutting horse trainer, Curly Talmage
pictured here with daughter Nancy, aboard the immortal REY JAY - 1950s
My other writing links include . . .
- The Novel based on the Old Cowgirl's experiences: GIRL ON HORSEBACK
NOW IN PAPERBACK:AT AMAZON.COM
NOW IN PAPERBACK:AT AMAZON.COM
The TEXAS BARREL RACING ASSOCIATION - A LOOK BACK AT THE START OF IT ALL
THE LORD AND MY FRIENDS
VISIT The National Cowgirl Museum
and Hall of Fame
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