Cowgirl Up!

Free Cowgirl Up! by Heidi Thomas

Book: Cowgirl Up! by Heidi Thomas Read Free Book Online
Authors: Heidi Thomas
saddle, to the cheers of the crowd. She waved at her fans, planted her boots in the stirrups, secured her hat on her head, and nodded, ready for a spectacular last ride. The snubber pulled the gunnysack blindfold from Black Cat’s eyes; the bronc lunged up and forward but lost his footing and fell.
    Marie and the watching women gasped as the horse, trying to recover, went into a backward somersault with Bonnie trapped in the saddle, one foot still caught in the hobbled stirrups.
    Following his instincts, the bronc leapt to his feet and continued to buck. Bonnie’s head hung down, her body flopped limply, and her left foot was still caught in the stirrup. The pickup man desperately tried to grab hold of her. For six more horrible leaps and lunges, Bonnie’s head hit the ground with sickening repetition until her boot finally came off and she lay unmoving on the ground.
    Ollie Osborn, one of the cowgirls watching, later said, “I could hear that girl’s head hit that ground, right there in the bleachers.”
    Bonnie McCarroll died eleven days later in a Pendleton hospital.
    Marie Gibson was shaken to the core. She’d already lost a good friend, Louise Hardwick from South Dakota, three years earlier.
    She commented to a newspaper writer, “You just never know, from [one] minute to the next, if you’re going to answer that final roll call. You might say you take your life in your hands. We deplore the tragedy that takes human life, but we glory in the fine exhibitions. . . .”
    Despite the danger, Marie continued to supplement the family’s income with her riding skills into the 1930s, winning her second world championship title in women’s bronc riding at Madison Square Garden.
    Marie Gibson unfortunately proved the truth of Fannie Sperry Steele’s words: “Rodeo teaches you that death is right around the corner and the ‘now’ is all you have, so make the most of it. It may be the old Anglo-Saxon creed, ‘Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die’ carried over into rodeo, but it fits. We live each day as if it’s our last.”
    Nearing age forty, Marie was growing weary of the demanding rodeo life, many injuries, and time away from her family. She was considering “hanging up” her spurs to retire on her ranch and spend more time with her family.
    Then Marie attended a rodeo in Idaho Falls on September 23, 1933, just before she planned to go to Madison Square Garden. She drew a wild, high-bucking bronc and gave a spectacular, successful ride. The whistle blew, signaling the pickup man to come pluck her off the back of the still-bucking horse. Just as he reached her, Marie’s bronc turned, crashed into the pickup man’s horse, and fell to the ground.
    Her sons were with her that summer, and twenty-three-year-old Lucien was the first to reach her.
    Marie’s skull was fractured, and she died a few hours later.
    One of Marie’s own poems sums up her feelings about life:
    Let us ride together
careless of the weather
blowing mane and hair
miles ahead, no cares
sound of hoof and horses sniff
trotting down the Milk River
with the wind let’s slip
let us laugh together
young one or old
to the crack of the leather
when it is cold
break into a canter
shout at chicken and rabbit
running down the river trail
steady hand and knee
take the life of the country
that’s the life for me
it would be a pity
not to gallop free
so we all ride together
careless of the weather
and let the world go by.
    And words said at her funeral included: “She died as she lived, hearing the applause of the people.”
    A retired cowboy later told Marie Gibson’s granddaughter, Ann Marie Stamey, “Life may have been tough for Marie, but she had a heck of a good time in rodeo anyway. It sort of gets in your blood.”

    What happened to Bonnie McCarroll in Pendleton in 1929 and then again to Marie Gibson in 1933 is credited with the

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