My heroes have always been cowboys …


… And cowgirls. 

All of the women in the Old West weren’t school marms or dancehall hussies; all women on ranches didn’t wear bonnets and ride on buckboards. There were, and still are, women in the saddle. Women who herd steers, shear sheep, and kill rattlesnakes.

Connie Reeves was a cowgirl all her life. She was riding a 28-year-old paint named Dr Pepper, got thrown and died later of cardiac arrest.  She was 101 years old and always said she wanted to live her life on horseback and it was how she wanted her life to end. Inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame and National Cowgirl Museum, Reeves was a true American Cowgirl.

On an road trip out West a few years ago, I read Western authors ~ Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, A.B.Guthrie, Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy. Worn paperbacks I picked up in dusty shops and library book sales on my way across the land where buffalo still roam.

These novels, psychologically complex and viscerally charged, bear only the slightest resemblance to Owen Wister’s The Virginian, published in 1902, the novel regarded as the literary Western standard.

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy is a National Book Award winner about a naïve young cowboy’s ill-fated romance with the daughter of a wealthy Mexican landowner and a journey to a place where dreams are paid for in blood. Makes the stoic cowboy/cowardly villain/lovestruck schoolmarm of The Virginian look downright quaint, don’t it?

Hondo by Louis L’Amour is his first novel and one of his best.  In a remote corner of Arizona, a former U.S. Cavalry scout becomes the sworn protector of a woman and her young son amid rising tensions between settlers and the Apaches.

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey is a page-turner about quick-on-the-draw Lassiter who discovers a secret grave and fends off cattle rustlers on a Utah ranch.


My dad read Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour novels too. I think we both learned a lot from them about resourcefulness, courage, and honor.  Dad was like Louis L’Amour, almost entirely self-taught, always tinkering, an independent problem-solver and active learner all his life who rarely uttered a discouraging word.

Four-year-old cowgirl Jess Abney skipping along the fence.

My take-away from all this?

Always saddle your own horse.


Women in hats, chaps and boots, whiskey-drinking, tobacco-chewing, don’t-mess-with-me types ~ some famous, some infamous ~ needed guts to live out West.  Have you read about these feisty women? Who is your favorite frontier heroine?



meet you here next sunday ~  What do you suggest??????

Toni 7/21/13