“I’ve always felt confident that there was an audience in America for rural progarming that was being ignored by urban broadcasters,” said Patrick Gottsch, the […]
courtesy of Linda Clark
photos by Rhonda Hob
What began in a library basement nearly 50 years ago in dusty Hereford, Texas, has turned into an amazing 33,000 square-foot destination featuring fearless, talented women, also known as ‘cowgirls.’ The annual National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame luncheon located at the Dickie’s Arena in the cultural district of Ft. Worth, Texas, once again hosted induction ceremonies Oct. 26.
Pat Riley, the museum’s executive director expressed her joy regarding this year’s event, “the 2021 annual induction luncheon was a sold out event attended by over 1,300 people. We are grateful to everyone who attended and paid tribute to the amazing group of females who were being honored. The power, strength and trailblazing spirit of this group is unparalleled, and hearing their stories and listening to their acceptance speeches was moving and empowering. We are already looking forward to next year.’’
The word ‘cowgirl’ was traditionally thought of as someone who roped a cow and lived on a ranch; someone who was tough inside and out. While those platitudes may still apply to the term ‘cowgirl,’ the fulfilment of the definition has certainly evolved. Women that now define themselves as cowgirls seems to epitomize more of an independent spirit; perhaps involved in the agricultural industry in some form or fashion; an individual thinker; one who is creative, perhaps breaking the glass ceiling on what was formerly thought of as male dominated career fields.
This year’s slate of inductees encompassed five women from diverse backgrounds and careers, but all consider themselves ‘cowgirls.’
Miranda Lambert — hailing from east Texas has accomplished much in the country music world. A talented musician, singer and song writer she is a force to reckon with as an entertainer, businesswoman, and cowgirl. Lambert began her singing career as an underage teen in local honky-tonks with the permission of her parents. At last count, she has won 35 Academy of Country Music Awards (ACM) awards, nine of those consecutive honors as the Female Artist of the Year. Another woman of strength, Lambert is a valiant pioneer for women in the music industry who many times do not receive parity in radio airplay compared to their male counterparts. She was instrumental in the creation of the Women Creators Fund at Belmont University. Her passions are not only in the music field — she and her mom, Bev Lambert, created the MuttNation Foundation that raises money for shelter animals, through fund-raising efforts and her same-named line of pet supplies. Lambert’s passion for animals is not lost on shelter animals and she is the owner of several horses, especially her beloved Gypsy Vanner breed, which are known for their magnificent manes, tails, and feathered legs.
Kathryn Kusner — was the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in show jumping. Starting her horse career as a stable hand she quickly showed an aptitude for English riding, jumping, as well as steeple chase, and won many national and international titles. Kathryn’s slender, petite build was also an asset in the horse racing world and she made several, failed, attempts to get her jockey license. Her gender in the 1960s was a hindrance to qualification and she successfully sued becoming the first U.S. licensed female jockey in 1968. The glass ceiling definitely shattered as a result of her tenacity. In addition, Kusner is an accomplished pilot, scuba diver, and competitive marathoner, but her most important work has been a program she began providing horsemanship camps for at risk children in Los Angeles.
Lari Dee Guy — is a multiple time world’s champion in breakaway roping, heading, heeling, and all around. Growing up on her family’s ranch in Abilene, Texas, Guy has lived her life horseback with a rope in her hand. Breakaway roping has long been a standard event for boys and girls in the junior, high school, non-professional, and college ranks of rodeo. Lari Dee and many of todays’ top breakaway ladies were successful in bringing breakaway roping to the PRCA rodeo ranks in 2020 with much hullabaloo and fan acceptance.
WPRA President Jimmie (Gibbs) Munroe, herself a National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame inductee had this to say about Lari Dee, “The National Cowgirl Hall of Fame inducted one of our champions this year. Lari Dee Guy was inducted along with an impressive 2021 class. The WPRA is very proud of Lari Dee and all of her accomplishments and achievements. Not only is she an eight-time WPRA World Champion, but she has given so much back to women in rodeo. Through her clinics she had inspired young girls to want to be ropers and to believe they can achieve anything they set their minds to. With “Rope Like a Girl,” she has created a movement in women’s roping that we have never seen before. She is truly a phenomenal ambassador for the sport, and we are so fortunate to have her represent our association. Congratulations from the WPRA and thanks to Lari Dee for what she has done for breakaway roping and women in rodeo. We know that her contributions are nowhere close to being done.”
Merina Lujan, known in the art world as Pop Chalee, a name given to her by her grandmother, a Taos Pueblo, means ‘Blue Flower.’ The Native American painter rose to prominence in the 1930s when at the ripe old age of 29 Pop began her art career after attending the Santa Fe, (New Mexico) Indian School of Art. Her depictions of Indian ceremonial dancers, forest and wildlife scenes, horses, and deer met with interest and commission pieces purchased from such notables of the day as Gene Autry, Walt Disney, and Howard Hughes. Some credit her whimsical artistry of deer as the model for Disney’s ‘Bambi.’ She is credited with being an influential figure in the Native American arts movement of the 20th century.
Lavonna Koger — better known as ‘Shorty,’ is a native Oklahoman and long-time rodeo cowgirl. Not coming from a rodeo background, her family supported her rodeo interests, however. After working in a Western retail store, she had the opportunity to go into business for herself. Always being enamored with Western retail, especially hats, she met another person named Shorty, who had a hat restoration business he was interested in selling. Shorty seized upon the opportunity and for the last 30 years has designed, manufactured, and restored hats. Her store is located in the historic Oklahoma City National Stockyards district and she travels setting up at tradeshows all over the United States. Shorty will tell you, however, that her greatest success was not in the arena, or in her store, but the creation of the non-profit, Rein In Cancer, a program initiated by Shorty and a group of horsemen to honor her sister, Shirley Bowman, who died of cancer. Rein In Cancer helps fund treatments, nutrition, and counseling through the OU Cancer Institute of Oklahoma City.
To sum up this years’ honorees, National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame board member and past inductee Pam Minick commented, “Each year I am overwhelmed by the accomplishments of the honorees and how they have paved the way and shined a light on cowgirls and our Western heritage — but this year, with almost 1,400 people in attendance … I feel that we showed the world what an impact cowgirls continue to make.”
For more information on the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame, visit www.cowgirl.net.
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