Mollie Kathleen Gortner: Sitting on a Gold Mine

Mollie Kathleen GortnerI hear tell that some people don’t like history—not even Western history. Whaa? For the life of me, I don’t understand that. Nope. Now, if you want to tell me you don’t like algebra, I can get behind you on that. Letters have no place in math, in my humble opinion. But history? What’s not to like? There’s adventure and intrigue that’s ours for the digging through dates and facts and we don’t even have to solve for x. Today, I’m digging out the story of Mollie Kathleen Gortner, both the woman and the gold mine that bears her name.

Yours, Mine and Ours

Cripple Creek, COWhen Mollie Kathleen Gortner’s son, Perry left their home in Colorado Springs to work as a surveyor in Cripple Creek, Colorado, he was quite impressed by the amount of gold in the area. He talked about it so much that his dear ol’ Ma wanted to see for herself.

Some people say she went because she was concerned about her son’s safety. Or maybe she had an adventurous spirit. Whatever her motivation was, she convinced her husband, Henry, that they needed to gather up supplies and drive the family wagon to Cripple Creek. They moved into the log and canvas tent Perry had constructed. Today, she might be accused of helicopter parenting, but it was the 1890s. At most, you could accuse her of being a covered wagon parent.

Sitting on a Gold Mine

1It was September of 1891 when Perry came home from work telling tales of a huge herd of elk he had spotted. Mollie Kathleen did what any good covered wagon parent with an ounce of curiosity would do. She set off to see the elk for herself. While she was looking for elk, she eyed an interesting rock formation that turned out to be gold in quartz. Ironically, Mollie had been searching for elk in a spot known as Poverty Gulch. That was well before Jed Clampett went shooting at some food and up from the ground came a bubblin’ crude. (Oh, admit it, there do seem to be some eerie similarities between these stories!)

Unlike Jed Clampett, Mollie did not go running back to the home place screaming at the top of her lungs. Mollie Gortner had the good sense to hide some of the ore in her clothing and skedaddle quietly on home. Having a surveyor for a son was a real advantage. He surveyed the site and then sat on it while Mollie Kathleen took care of business. Armed with the survey description Perry had provided for her, Mollie set off for town, where she filed a gold claim in (get this!) her own name. When the clerk balked, Mollie informed him that her husband Henry was a lawyer and the clerk could argue with Henry when he got home from Colorado City. The clerk wasn’t happy about it, but Mollie Kathleen Gortner became the first woman in Colorado (and, quite possibly anywhere) to stake her claim, as it were.

It’s interesting to note that, even after the mine was in full swing, the National Geological Survey visited it. Their written report stated that “Mr. M.C. Gortner” had discovered the mine. Where did the “Mr. M.C.” come from? Mollie Kathleen’s given name was Mary Catherine and the “Mr.” came from the author’s imagination!

Mine Over Matter

Mine over matterThe mine was in Mollie’s name, but it was Perry who had the responsibility of overseeing the mine. It wasn’t because Mollie Kathleen couldn’t have done the job, however. It was because the miners had some far-fetched notion that a woman at the site of a mine was bad luck. They sure as heck didn’t want to take their chances! So, Mollie pretty well steered clear. When she did visit, the men promptly came to the surface and waited for her to leave before getting back to work. You might say that she drove the workers out of their mine. Well, you probably wouldn’t say that, but I couldn’t resist.

Keep an Open Mine

Mollie Kathleen GortnerMollie died in 1917 and her husband, Henry, died a short time after that. Perry was left with a one-third interest in the Mollie Kathleen mine. Perry ran the mine until his death in 1949. Aside from the time when there was a forced government shutdown of the mine, during WWII, the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine was in continuous operation from the time it opened in 1891, until 1961. In terms of U.S. Presidents, that takes us all the way from Benjamin Harrison to Dwight D. Eisenhower, narrowly missing out on the Kennedy administration.

Mollie Kathleen Gold MineIf you ever visit Cripple Creek, Colorado, you’ll probably hear about Mollie Kathleen—both the gold mine and the woman. The Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine is a vertical shaft that descends 1050 feet into a mountain. To put some perspective on that, the Eiffel Tower is 1063 feet tall. Ooh-la-la! The mine is still a tourist attraction, and is visited by an around 40,000 people each year. (To put some perspective on that, I estimate that’s about the number of people shopping at my local Costco on the Sunday before Christmas. But maybe I’m wrong in my estimation of that.) The Mollie Kathleen is the only vertical gold mine offering tours, today.

Mine tourThe tour of the mine takes groups down in the original cases used by the miners. You might be surprised to learn that the trip down only takes about two minutes. Whoa! That is lickety-split, people! I’ve been in modern elevators that don’t work that quickly! Visitors also get to witness the workings of mining equipment, from the equipment used in the 1890s all the way up to modern equipment.

A Mine of Information

Twice a BrideIf you like Historical Fiction, you might want to check out the novel, Twice a Bride, by Mona Hodgson. In it, Mollie Kathleen Gortner’s life plays out in a fictionalized story. Twice a Bride is one of four books in a series based on the women of Cripple Creek, Colorado.

I hope you’ve enjoyed digging through these dates and facts as much as I have. More than 122 years have passed since Mollie Kathleen Gortner first set foot in Cripple Creek and finding her story is still like striking it rich!

Take the mine tour in this great video!

Happy Trails y’all!
Anita Lequoia

“Stagecoach Mary” Fields: The Richest Woman in Town

Stagecoach MaryMay I confess to having a bit of envy toward anyone who has ever had a really cool nickname? It doesn’t matter who they are. From Wild Bill Hickok to Meadowlark Lemon, if they’ve got a cool nickname, I love them! I’ve considered trying to get a snappy moniker to stick to me, but that’s not the sort of thing you bestow on yourself. (Although, I do think “Leather Lady Lequoia” has a certain ring to it and I would not object if you saw fit to use it!) But, today, we’re going to learn about a woman who didn’t have to come up with her own nickname. We’re going to learn about Stagecoach Mary Fields!

Born into Slavery

Stagecoach Mary FieldsMary Fields was born a slave in Tennessee, in 1832. This is the part of the story where I would normally try to include some amusing anecdotes about her childhood. But, alas, I shall refer you back to the part about Mary Fields being born a slave in 1832. Being born in 1832 meant she would continue to live as a slave for thirty-three years. It also meant that when slavery was abolished in 1865, she had quite a few years to make her own choices and call her own shots.
I can practically hear you saying, “Um, Leather Lady Lequoia, if you think a freed slave in the 1800s got to call her own shots, you need to brush up on your history.” And, to that, I say, “Thank you for using my new nickname. And, please wait until you learn more about this woman before you pass judgment!”

Let Freedom Ring

In 1865, Mary Fields’ opportunities looked about like those of any other freed slave. She went to work on an estate. That might have been where her story ended, if not for the fact that she went to work on the estate of a prominent Tennessee judge, by the name of Edmund Dunne. When Judge Dunne’s wife died, in 1883, it was Mary Fields who was given the task of delivering the five Dunne children to Edmund Dunne’s sister.

Mother Mary AmadeusAs it happened, Dunne’s sister was the mother superior of an Ursuline convent in Toledo, Ohio. What might have been just a trip to Ohio ended up altering the course of Mary Fields’ life. Mother Mary Amadeus must have taken a shine to Mary Fields, because upon meeting, they formed a bonded friendship. To fully appreciate this pair of friends, pause for a moment and reflect on this picture: It was 1883 and there was a friendship between a nun and a 6-ft-tall, 200 pound, dark-skinned, freed slave woman who wore a rough cap and men’s trousers. Mary Fields was also known to carry a jug of whiskey and conceal a service pistol under her work apron. She wasn’t what you might call genteel! No, they weren’t the sort of duo most people would have expected to encounter in a nation that was still licking its wounds from the Civil War.

Nobody’s Eliza Doolittle

Mary FieldsWhen Mother Amadeus took a position at St. Peter’s Convent, near what would become Cascade, Montana, Mary Fields joined her there. When Mother Amadeus became ill, it was Mary Fields who nursed her back to health. And, when Mother Amadeus was well, Mary Fields stuck around and helped at the convent.

Mary Fields continued to stay at the convent. She cared for the nuns’ practical needs and they, in turn, tried to help her become a little more refined. The nuns were not successful in their Pygmalion attempt! Mary Fields liked to swear and smoke cigars. She also didn’t mind an occasional fistfight, which she was sure to win, by the way!

Eventually, her rough edges caused her removal from the convent. A bishop had received complaints about her and he insisted that she leave. Mother Amadeus moved Mary into living quarters in Cascade and helped her secure a job as a mail carrier. Mother Amadeus may have secured the interview, but Mary got the job because she could hitch a team of six horses faster than any other applicant, even though she was around sixty-three-years-old at the time! She was only the second African American to work for the U.S. Postal Service.

Stagecoach MaryMary’s route was between Cascade and the convent, so she was never far from the nuns she loved so dearly. She never missed a day of work. When a pack of wolves spooked her horses and the wagon overturned, she stood guard and protected the shipment of supplies for the convent, through the night. I’ll bet you can guess how Mary Fields came to be known as Stagecoach Mary. She might just as well have been called Snowshoe Mary because when the snow was too deep for her horses, she delivered mail on foot, wearing snowshoes.

Fun Facts about Stagecoach Mary

Stagecoach MaryWhen Mother Amadeus was sent to Alaska, in 1903, seventy-year-old Mary Fields was heartbroken. When Stagecoach Mary finally gave up her mail route, she found she had no shortage of admirers. Here are some fun facts about Stagecoach Mary:

  • She had two failed attempts at operating a restaurant. She might have been successful, if not for the fact that she fed anyone, even if they couldn’t pay. No shoes. No cash. No problem!
  • Her birthday became a school holiday for the students of Cascade.
  • By order of the Mayor, Stagecoach Mary was the only upstanding woman allowed to drink in Cascade’s local bar.
  • In 1910, when the New Cascade Hotel was leased to a new to a new manager, the owner stipulated in the contract that Mary Fields would be served free meals for the rest of her life.
  • When her home burned to the ground, in 1912, the townspeople built her a new home.
  • She babysat area children for the rate of $1.50 an hour. Most of that income was spent purchasing treats for the children!
  • In 1914, when Stagecoach Mary was in her final days, she took her blankets to a patch of tall weeds, lied down and waited to die. She wasn’t one to impose on people! She was discovered by three brothers she used to babysit and taken to a nearby hospital. She died a few days later of liver failure. Although she died penniless, she was really the “richest” woman in town.
  • Gary Cooper took notice of Stagecoach Mary when he was a youngster visiting from Dearborn, Montana. In 1959, he wrote a story for Ebony magazine, in which he said, “Born a slave somewhere in Tennessee, Mary lived to become one of the freest souls ever to draw a breath, or a .38.”
  • Stagecoach Mary has been portrayed in two television movies: The Cherokee Kid, in 1996 and Hannah’s Law, in 2012.

Stagecoach MarySurely, you can see why Stagecoach Mary is a hero of mine. And, you know, when you get right down to it, I would have loved her even if she hadn’t had a cool nickname.

Happy Trails, y’all!
Anita Lequoia

An American Cowgirl: “Cattle Kate” Watson

Cattle Kate Do you remember that 70’s television commercial for the Time Life Books, The Old West, series? It is seared into my brain! I’m convinced that even when I am old and trying to dress the cats in doll clothes, I will remember that, for $12.95 plus shipping and handling, you could receive the introductory book entitled The Great Chiefs. Then you would receive another book from the series every other month for the same low, low price. Secretly, I always sort of wanted to order! I mean, what lover of the Old West wouldn’t want to learn more about a bunch of fascinating characters and have some lovely hardbound books with “the look and feel of hand-tooled, saddle leather”?

So, whenever it comes time to choose a new blog topic, I try to imagine what I would have wanted to read about in one of those fancy books. Today’s winner is Cattle Kate Watson. I hope you like her story as much as I do.

Ella Enchanted

Cattle Kate PortraitCattle Kate Watson wasn’t born with the name Cattle Kate. Her parents weren’t that hard up for names. Oh, maybe if she had been the last of ten children, her parents would have run out of ideas and resorted to a name like Cattle Kate. But, as it so happens, she was the firstborn of ten children, and was thus given the perfectly acceptable name of Ellen Liddy Watson. She went by Ella.

Little Ella was born in 1861, in Arran Lake, Canada. When she was a child, her parents packed up their growing passel of children (I’m pretty sure six children constitutes a passel.) and moved to Lebanon, Kansas to homestead.

Ella Disenchanted

Cattle Kate & William A. PickelWhen she was sixteen, Ella was being courted by a young man named William A. Pickell, who, at nineteen years of age, must have seemed to have it all together. He didn’t. I would love nothing more than to tell you that they became Mr. and Mrs. Pickell and had a son named Dill and a daughter named Gherkin, but I can’t.

They did marry, when Ella was eighteen, but it was not a blissful union that resulted in naming children after types of pickles. William A. Pickell was an abusive drunk, who often beat Ella with a horsewhip. It took a little over three years for Ella to say, “Enough!” and to head back to the safety of her parents’ house. She filed for divorce and moved to Red Cloud, Nebraska, which was fourteen miles from her parents’ homestead.

Later that year, Ella moved to Denver, Colorado to join one of her brothers. Her next move was to Cheyenne, Wyoming. In a day when women scarcely went further than the mercantile alone, it was highly unusual for a single woman to flit about the countryside unescorted! She worked as a cook and a seamstress in Cheyenne, before moving to Rawlins, Wyoming.

The Rumor Mill

Rawlins, WyomingIn Rawlins, Ella worked as a cook and a waitress at a boarding house, known as the Rawlins House. Rumors would later spread that Ella had actually been working as a prostitute and serving up a lot more than biscuits and gravy, but there’s no evidence to back up those claims. I’ll just go ahead and warn you that the rest of Ella’s story depends on whom you choose to believe.

It was 1886 when Ella met Jim Averell, a homesteader whose wife and newborn had died a few years earlier. Ella moved in with Averell, shortly after making his acquaintance, which didn’t do anything to help her reputation. But, the arrangement seems to have been a happy one for Ella and her “fella.” Averell opened a road ranch on his property. The road ranch served as sort of a restaurant and store. Ella was the official cook and got to keep the money she made. The two did apply for a marriage license, but the license was never filed. It’s possible there was a paperwork mix-up and the two were married, but we’ll never know for sure.

Jim AverellAverell became postmaster, but Ella insisted upon having her own revenue stream. She filed her own homestead claim, on the land adjacent to Jim Averell’s, and she had her own cabin. It seems to me that Ella had done everything to ensure that she was never again on the receiving end of a horsewhip. She might have lived out her life in blissful independence, were it not for a bunch of hoopla over cattle.

Ella bought quite a few head of cattle from a man who was heading to Washington territory. She also bought a brand from a local rancher. She had earned her new nickname of Cattle Kate and things were going well until… (You knew there had to be an “until” in this story!) Albert Bothwell, who was member of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, claimed that a large chunk of Jim and Ella’s land belonged to him.

Bothwell had a reputation for believing that wealthy men were above the law and Bothwell himself was a wealthy man.

Next, Ella, I mean, Cattle Kate, was accused of branding cattle that had been rustled. The rumors began swirling and they didn’t stop.

Haters Gonna Hate (and Possibly Lynch)

Albert BothwellWe’ve all seen enough Westerns to know what happened to cattle thieves in the 1800s, and it wasn’t rehabilitation and job training! In an elaborate plot, Bothwell gathered a posse, released all of Ella’s, aka Cattle Kate’s, cattle, and kidnapped Ella and Jim Averell. Before long, Ella and Averell were hanging from a tree near Independence Rock. Independence, for Cattle Kate, was not all she had hoped for.

Cattle KateSome folks believe that “Cattle Kate” Watson was a no-account prostitute turned cattle rustler who deserved what she got. Others (myself included) believe she was framed. At any rate, Cattle Kate became the first woman to be lynched in Wyoming. And, for that, I feel she deserves a place in my imaginary Time Life Book, Cattle Rustlers of the Old West.

Here’s a 1954 TV program, “Stories of the Century” about Cattle Kate. ..you’ll enjoy it!

And when you have time, stop by for a look-see at our Western home décor…I wonder if Cattle Kate would have liked it?

Happy Trails, y’all,
Anita Lequoia

Isabella Bird, Rocky Mountain Explorer

Isabella BirdIf I asked you to name some explorers, how many could you name? Now, let’s say you’re on a game show trying to win a trip around the world and a lifetime supply of Rice-a-Roni. Get to it! It’s the “Lightning Round” and the clock is ticking. There’s Magellan, da Gama, Columbus, Ponce de Leon, Lewis and Clark . . .now, quick, name female explorers! If the only name on your list is Dora the Explorer, you’re never going to make it to Rice-A-Roni territory. For that, you’re going to have to offer up a more unexpected name. Howzabout Isabella Bird?

The Early Bird

Isabella Bird was born in England, in 1831. She was as sickly as a character from a Dickens novel, but she had a hankering to see the world. When she was 22-years-old, her doctor suggested that to help her health, she should take an ocean voyage. Hmm… Allrighty then. I confess that I got a little hung up on this point because it was 1854 and we weren’t exactly talking about taking a cruise on The Love Boat, sipping drinks with little umbrellas in them on the Lido Deck. It was a good deal more “rustic” back then! But, hey, I’m not a 19th century doctor, so perhaps that was a perfectly logical suggestion. Isabella’s father presented her with £100 and quite literally shipped her off to stay with relatives in America, for as long as her money lasted.

Isabella Bird travelsThe doctor must have known what he was talking about because Isabella did seem to forget about her health woes during her travels. She sailed across the ocean blue to the shores of Canada before traveling on to the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. Isabella broke the protocol of the day by traveling without an escort. Gasp! That was pretty scandalous. But she enjoyed meeting people and loneliness was not an issue. Plus, there were those American relatives to visit.

Free as a Bird

Isabella BirdIsabella really did seem to flourish during her travels. Travel seemed to be just the tonic she needed. It’s interesting to note that many girls of the time were “a might puny”. I have often wondered if this is because they were just plain bored out of their minds! It’s not that needlepoint and writing correspondence weren’t fine pastimes, but some girls needed more.

The Englishwoman in AmericaWhen her cash ran out, Isabella returned to England, but she didn’t return to needlepoint and letter writing. She wrote a book! An Englishwoman in America was published in 1856 and was a smashing success. The caged bird was free and she was not going back in the cage!

Over the next few years, Isabella made multiple trips to Scotland and wrote several magazine articles. She found a cause! She became a champion for Scottish crofters (tenant farmers, similar to U.S. sharecroppers). She wrote articles about the plight of the crofters and used the money she made to help crofters emigrate to the U.S.

Bird’s Eye View

Isabella Bird in her Hawaiian Riding DressWhenever Isabella spent too much time in England, her poor health would return. So, in 1872, she decided to travel to Australia. From there, she went to Hawaii. It’s funny to think that the woman who was traveling for her health managed to climb an active volcano, in Hawaii! She published the details of that trip in the book, The Hawaiian Archipelago.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Hey, Anita, I thought you said she was an explorer! Perhaps you need to look up the difference between ‘explorer’ and ‘traveler’.” Patience please, I’m getting there. I’m just taking the scenic route!

Isabella Bird on HorseIn 1873, Isabella, once again, arrived in the United States. This time, she traveled to California and took a trip on the Transcontinental Railroad. She stopped off in Truckee because she wanted to see Lake Tahoe. She rented a horse and set off in the general direction of Lake Tahoe, but enroute, a bear spooked her horse. The horse didn’t stick around to check on her, so Isabella had to walk back to Truckee.

Things like that didn’t get a woman like Isabella down. Although she didn’t make it to Lake Tahoe, she did what my GPS would suggest . . . she began “recalculating!” She took the train to Cheyenne, Wyoming and then took another train to Greeley, Colorado. It was in Colorado where she really crossed over from traveler to explorer.

While in Colorado, she met up with a mountain man named Jim Nugent, otherwise known as Rocky Mountain Jim. Anytime a 19th century woman selected a companion with a name like Rocky Mountain Jim, it was a safe bet that she was in for an adventure!

Birds of a Feather

Together, Isabella and Rocky Mountain Jim set off to explore, starting off with Estes Park. With Nugent’s help, the little Bird climbed all the way to the top of Long’s Peak! This is another one of those times when I find myself wishing that there had been cell phone cameras in the 1870s. (Yes, believe it or not, this is not the first time I have wished I could see a selfie of someone from the 1870s!) Goodness!

Rocky MountainsRocky Mountain Jim fell in love with the lady Bird, but she wasn’t interested in pursuing a future with her traveling companion. As she wrote to her sister, “He is kind of man any woman might love, but no sane woman would marry.” A few years later, Nugent was involved in a quarrel that ended with a gunshot and his death.

Bye-Bye Birdie

A Lady’s Life in the Rocky MountainsIn 1879, Isabella’s book, A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains was published. All told, there were seven editions printed, but the book’s immense popularity wasn’t surprising. It allowed women all over the world, whose days were occupied with needlepoint and writing correspondence, to read about the adventures of a real, honest-to-goodness, lady explorer. It was better than a lifetime supply of Rice-a-Roni!

Isabella went on to travel to all corners of the globe, and to write about those explorations as well. The list is astonishing: Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Tibet, Persia, Kurdistan, Turkey, Iran, China, Korea and Morocco. She was the first woman ever to be inducted into the Royal Geographical Society. Her American explorations were very much just the tip of the iceberg!

Learn a bit more about the remarkable explorer Isabella Bird in this documentary from the National Library of Scotland:

Happy Trails, y’all!
Anita Lequoia

An American Cowboy: Cotton Rosser

Cotton Rosser - American CowboyWhat do you think of when you hear the expression, “living the dream”? Today, most people think about glitz and glamour, not spurs and manure. In all fairness, I’m pretty sure most people’s definition of living the dream never involved manure, but today, we’re not going to talk about “most people.”  Today’s edition of The Campfire Chronicle is about a very special cowboy, a man named Cotton Rosser. And Cotton Rosser’s idea of “living the dream” is a little different from most.

His name isn’t a household word, but if the rodeo industry were a monarchy, it’s pretty much a certainty that Cotton Rosser would be crowned king.  He has been in the rodeo business for well over fifty years. He has inspired generations of cowboys and he has entertained enough people to populate a country. And, I’m not talking about one of those tiny, obscure countries that only send one competitor to the Olympics. I’m talking about one of the BIGGIES!

So, put some marshmallows on a stick, gather round the campfire and make yourself comfortable. Today, I’m going to tell you the story of Cotton Rosser, rodeo legend.

Raising Cotton

Cotton on horseFrom an early age, Horton Alexander Rosser knew he wanted to be a cowboy. Fortunately, the blond hair of his youth helped him attain the nickname of Cotton. Because, let’s face it, Cotton is a way better cowboy name than Horton.

Growing up in Long Beach, California, Cotton was always on the lookout for opportunities to spend time with cowboys. That didn’t change when he grew older. Following high school, he attended Cal Poly, where he served as captain of the rodeo team.

Cotton Up To It

Professional rodeo riderAs an adult, Cotton Rosser lived the life he had always dreamed of, as a professional rodeo rider.  And he took a logical step for anyone who had always wanted to live the cowboy dream . . . he bought himself a ranch! It was on that ranch that his life took a turn.  In 1955 Cotton’s legs had an unfortunate run-in with a post-hole auger, and that ended his career as a rodeo rider. For a less determined man, that might have been the end of his association with rodeos. For Cotton Rosser, it was just a fork in the road. Two broken legs didn’t keep him down for long.

Cotton RosserIt was still 1955 when Cotton and his friend, Dick Pascoe, started their own rodeo company, called Cotton’s Cowboy Corral. (See, doesn’t that sound a lot more authentic than Horton’s Cowboy Corral?!) Cotton’s rodeo association continued when, in 1966, he helped form the Golden State Rodeo Company, which provided stock for rodeos along the West coast.

It wasn’t long before Cotton was the soul proprietor of the Golden State Rodeo Company. In the mid 1970’s the name was changed to Flying U Rodeo, which continues to produce more than 50 rodeos annually!

Cotton-Picking

Cotton Rosser has a natural gift for knowing what people want before they even know they want it. He is a showman with a flair for over-the-top production value. When you see a Cotton Rosser opening ceremony, you know the rodeo has come to town!

His shows have the sort of pageantry that seems equal parts Gene Autry and Evel Knievel. Believe it or not, prior to Cotton Rosser, it doesn’t appear that anyone had thought of having a paratrooper make an overhead entrance to a rodeo opening ceremony! Cotton is quoted as saying, “If you don’t keep the audience entertained, they will go somewhere else.” That’s not likely to happen on Cotton’s watch because he offers up a star spangled spectacle that crowds are not soon to forget!

Cotton Rosser Collage

He brings innovative events to his rodeos and his thinking is not limited to any sort of bull. Shoot! There’s not a box big enough to contain ideas like Roman Chariot Races, Bull Poker and Bull Teeter-Totter!

Cotton Rosser isn’t all about the pageantry, however. He genuinely cares about the integrity of the rodeo. He takes great pains to ensure that the Flying U has the very best livestock. An aficionado of bucking horses and longhorn cattle, he attends to all the details himself . . . and it shows.

100% Cotton

Cotton RosserIn 1995, Cotton was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colorado. And, in 2009, he was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Rodeo Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

In 2007, the Flying U Rodeo Company published Million Dollar Memories: Fifty Years with Cotton Rosser and Flying U. The book is filled with photos and highlights from Cotton Rosser’s career.

Earlier this year, Cotton Rosser took off his cowboy hat and spurs to don a mortarboard and gown. He stood on a stage at California Polytechnic State University, where he had once served as captain of the rodeo team, and he told graduates, “The motto, ‘Learn by Doing,’ has worked for me all my life.” As proof that his motto really has worked for him, he received an honorary doctorate, that day.

Cotton’s Cowboy Corral, a If you’re ever in the neighborhood, you can drop into Cotton’s Cowboy Corral, a Western wear shop owned and operated by the Rosser family. Of course, there’s a good chance you won’t run into Cotton. You see, if the Flying U is putting on a rodeo, he’ll be on the road. At the age of 85, he still rides his horse in the opening ceremonies of the rodeos he produces.

So, I guess that sometimes “living the dream” can mean a combination of glitz and glamour, as well as spurs and manure. At least, that’s what living the dream looks like for Cotton Rosser. Now, let’s get back to those marshmallows. It’s almost time to douse our campfire, until next time. Here’s a little video of Cotton Rosser that I think you’ll enjoy!

And if you have a minute, click here to have a look-see at our Western pillows!

Happy Trails, y’all!

Anita Lequoia