Ann Lynch, Oklahoma, USA
Author of Fools Rush In blog
My mother, aunts, uncle, and my grandparents from Ponca City, Oklahoma would often talk about the 101 Ranch and the historic significance it added to their active oil town in Oklahoma. The story my mother loved most was of a wealthy Aunt who came to visit from Pennsylvania. Her main goal was to visit the 101 Ranch. This Aunt returned from her delightful 101 Ranch outing with stories of authentic cowboys and Indians. She had purchased Indian blankets, only to turn one over and see a tag that read, "Sears".
The tales of cowboys and Indians and the significant contributions to Rodeo brought by African American Cowboy Bill Pickett are most well known. He is said to be credited for creating "bulldogging". Now I am being introduced to the cowgirls of the 101 Ranch Wild West Show, not from a Ponca City author but from Monica James, an Arizona gun competitor and Fast Draw champion who wrote BUCKSKIN BESSIE HER LOST LETTERS. These historic letters were found in a trunk at an estate sale and Monica James was their perfect rescuer.
Each letter is published in script type but there are actual samples of Bessie's handwriting. Colorful Bessie's terminology is sometimes crude, but her penmanship is beautiful!. Monica James has researched each letter and given information, documentation and photographs galore to authenticate each entry as well as create even greater mysteries in the mind of the readers.
I met Monica James through my blogging. I was astonished to learn she had written and published this book on one of my favorite topics. She has given us an extraordinary glimpse into the life of a talented Western cowgirl and the glory of the 101 Ranch and Wild West Show.
I only wish I had found this book before mother died. I know she would have loved it. Mother read every Western novel she could get her hands on. She took marksmanship in college and won ribbons for her skills. Television westerns were her favorites and John Wayne was her personal hero. I wonder now if her love of the Wild West stemmed from her life in Ponca under the glamorous legacy of the 101 Ranch and Wild West Show.
A recent article in Oklahoma Living Magazine, August, 2007 by Kathy Holsonbake, quoted Al Ritter, a member of the 101 Ranch Old Timers' Association, "The 10l Ranch was ahead of its time with it's hiring practices. They gave women jobs before women could vote. The cowgirls were pioneers in showmanship and physical activities in the arena." These letters by Bessie Herberg certainly emphasize the special kind of woman these cowgirls had to be.
Thank you Monica James for putting together this wonderful book! I feel as if I have personally met Buckskin Bessie and she was quite a character for her time. I have finished this book with a feeling of a beginning rather than an ending. Now we need a movie or a History Channel Special.
Betty Hammer Joy
Author of Angela Hutchinson Hammer: Arizona Pioneer Newspaperwoman
Enjoyed your book, an unusual glimpse into the everyday concerns of a notable woman. You shed just enough light on Bessie's letters to carry her story forward, yet leave us wondering about her. Congrats!
Buckskin Bessie: Her Lost Letters by Monica James is the remarkable collection of correspondence by the renowned Bessie "Montana Bess" Herberg, and her life with the 101 Ranch Real Wild West show. Presenting readers with a complete collection of years of letters and writing from the fifteen year lover and companion of one of the most powerful "Wild West" showmen of the early 1900's, Joe Miller, Buckskin Bessie substantially contributes to an understanding and appreciation of Buckskin Bessie's life of travel, entertainment, and iconoclastic high adventure. Profusely illustrated throughout, Buckskin Bessie is very highly recommended reading and a popular addition to community library 19th Century American Popular Culture and Biography collections.