Tad Lucas: Rodeo’s First Lady

Blog1Extremely large families intrigue me. That’s probably a throwback to my childhood because, while growing up, one of my best friends was the youngest of twelve children. That always astounded me. She was already an aunt when she was born, and her oldest sister was about the same age as my mother. She had seven brothers who acted as bodyguards whenever the boys started swarming around her. She had four sisters who served as extra mothers. And she had two very, very tired parents who were so happy to be on the home stretch of parenting that they didn’t spend their days worrying about child safety hazards and whatnot. They seemed to feel that any day that ended with the same number of children it had started with, was a good day.

Recently, I was doing some reading on one of my all-time favorite rodeo cowgirls. Somehow I had forgotten that “Rodeo’s First Lady,” Tad Lucas, was the youngest of twenty-four children. Yeah, let that sink in for a minute!

I’m not sure if this was a “Yours, Mine, and Ours,” situation or not, but I am sure of two things:

  1. Twenty-four is enough children to make the Duggars look like rank amateurs at procreating, and
  2. Tad Lucas had the makings of a fascinating biography from the moment she was born.

They Could Have Called Her Pollywog

Blog2Tad Lucas was born Barbara Inez Barnes on a Nebraska ranch, in 1902. When you’re the youngest of two-dozen offspring, someone is bound to give you a nickname. In the case of little Barbara Inez, that nickname was Tadpole, which was mercifully shortened to Tad. I can’t help but wonder if anyone regretted not calling her Pollywog and shortening it to Polly. But, as with so many of my thoughts, that is neither here, nor there.

blog3As the baby of twenty-four children, her parents had bigger fish to fry than wringing their hands worrying that their little Tadpole was a tad of a tomboy. Tad, it seems, was born to ride and she spent a major chunk of her childhood in the saddle. By the age of seven, she was helping her big brothers start colts. And, just for giggles, she liked to ride calves. She and her siblings also competed in horseback races and various contests against other ranch children and local Sioux children.

blog4In 1917, at the age of fifteen, she made her professional debut in a steer riding competition at the Gordon, Nebraska State Fair. When you stop and think about it, her childhood experience of riding calves was sort of like the training wheel version of steer riding.

She Got There as Fast as She Could

blog5Tad wasn’t born in Texas, but she got there as fast as she could. Soon after making her professional debut, she moved to Fort Worth with one of her many brothers. She spent some time riding broncs at small town rodeos and moved on to bigger competitions. In 1922, she became a full-fledged, full-time, professional rodeo cowgirl. One year later, she joined a Wild West show and toured the U.S. and Mexico. Those tomboy years paid off in spades when Tad won second place in bronc riding at the Madison Square Garden rodeo.

More Tricks Up Her Sleeve

blog6While she was with the 101 Ranch Wild West show, Tad became enchanted with trick riding. She also became enchanted with cowboy, and fellow performer, Buck Lucas. So, she learned how to trick ride, married James Edward “Buck” Lucas, and set off on a grand life adventure. Tad was invited to compete at Tex Austin’s London rodeo, so the new Mr. and Mrs. Lucas had themselves a honeymoon ocean voyage to London. It was in London’s Wembley Stadium that Tad first performed publicly as a trick rider. Both trick riding and marriage agreed with her and she stuck with both of them for the duration.

blog7Tad and Buck made their home in Fort Worth, but it would be wrong to say she “settled down.” From the time of her marriage, until the beginning of WWII, Tad continued to compete in bronc riding, relay racing and trick riding. She was best known as a trick rider and collected more titles than those given to Eastern European royalty!

blog8In 1928, Tad Lucas won the $10,000 MGM trophy for champion all-around cowgirl at Madison Square Garden . . . and she did the same in 1929 and 1930. In 1935, Tad earned a more than $12,000 in competitions and exhibitions. That’s more than $200,000 in today’s money, and that was far from “chump change” for a woman. And it is all the more impressive when we consider that she earned it during the Great Depression.

She Can Do It!

blog9For reasons I do not understand, women’s contests were dropped from the major rodeo circuit during World War II. If you ask me, rodeo should have taken a cue from baseball and ramped up female involvement during the war. Were the rodeo people not reading the Rosie the Riveter posters? The “We Can Do It!” sentiment seemed to be lost on them. Even so, Tad Lucas continued to have steady work as a rodeo performer.

blog10That “We Can Do It!” attitude took root with Tad, and she became one of the charter members of the Girl’s Rodeo Association, which later became known as the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. The organization was formed in 1948, in an effort to restore women’s roles in rodeo. She maintained her affiliation with the group until she retired from rodeo in 1958, at the age of 56.

Tad Lucas was the first person ever to be honored by all three rodeo halls of fame: the National Rodeo Hall of Fame, in 1967 (the first woman elected), the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, in 1978, and the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, in 1979.

blog12Tad passed away in 1990, in her adopted hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. In her will, she established the Tad Lucas Memorial Award, which honors women who excel in any field related to Western heritage.

It’s not easy to stand out in a family with twenty-four children. But, by jingo, the Tadpole did it! And, in the process, she earned her unofficial title as Rodeo’s First Lady.

Happy Trails,

Anita Lequoia

Dr. George Goodfellow: More Than an “OK” Doctor

Geo1Good healthcare is not something to be taken for granted. And good healthcare in the Old West was really not something to be taken for granted. In fact, many, if not most, doctors in the Old West had no actual…Oh, what is the word? Oh, yeah, education. Many “doctors” in the Old West had no education. So, when you found a doctor who had some training and licensing to go along with the title, you had found yourself a prize. Dr. George Goodfellow was a prize among Old West docs.

For He Wasn’t Always a Jolly Goodfellow

Geo2George Emory Goodfellow was born in 1855—smack in the middle of the California Gold Rush. Growing up around mining camps was an education in itself, but his parents still opted for something a little more formal. When George was twelve-years-old, he was sent to boarding school in Pennsylvania. At fourteen, he entered the California Military Academy in Oakland. And, at seventeen, he entered the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Things were going great until George was suspended from the Naval Academy for what some people called a “hazing incident.” If you call knocking the school’s first black cadet unconscious a “hazing incident” instead of a hate crime . . . well, I disagree, but. . .tomato, tomahto.

When appeals to President Ulysses S. Grant and the First Lady weren’t successful in regaining George’s position at the Naval Academy, he moved on to plan B. He studied medicine with his cousin the doctor and graduated from the College of Wooster in Ohio. He briefly opened a medical practice in Oakland, California before moving to Arizona, eventually settling in Tombstone.

Bar Exam

Tombstone, Arizona in 1880
Tombstone, Arizona in 1880

In 1880, Goodfellow arrived in Tombstone and hung his medical shingle over the Crystal Palace Saloon. You might say that enabled him to administer bar exams. Okay. I take it back. You would never say that. Dr. Goodfellow became the thirteenth doctor in town  – – and the fourth doctor to actually have a diploma – –  when he opened his office on the second floor of the saloon. It is said that Goodfellow might as well have had two offices, given the amount of time he spent drinking in the bar at the Crystal Palace. But the location was good for business because, well. . .did I mention that this was Tombstone, Arizona?

The Crystal Palace Saloon
The Crystal Palace Saloon

Being known as a hard drinking, ladies’ man made him less than an ideal husband, but it didn’t make him less than a fine doctor. He was a friend to the Earp brothers, Tombstone business owners, and local miners, but that didn’t keep the disreputable cowboys from seeking his services as well.


Bullet Points

Goodfellow’s wife happened to be the cousin of Samuel Colt, the inventor of the Colt revolver. That was a providential union since that weapon provided Dr. Goodfellow with more business than he could shake a stick at. It’s always good to know how your bread is buttered!

In fact, Dr. Goodfellow was the foremost authority on gunshot wounds in the country. Admittedly other doctors had set the bar a little low. Prior to Goodfellow, retrieving a bullet from the abdomen meant that a doctor stuck his unsterilized fingers into the bullet hole and hoped to pull out a bullet. Goodfellow was the first known doctor to perform a sterile laparotomy to treat an abdominal gunshot wound. What do you know? The patient lived! Who would have thought that having a doctor sterilize instruments, wash his hands, and clean the patient’s wounds could make the difference between life and death? If you answered, “Dr. Joseph Lister,” you are correct. However, even though Lister first demonstrated sterilization techniques for surgery in 1865, the idea hadn’t exactly swept the nation.

More than an “OK” Doctor

It just so happened that being an expert on gunshot wounds was exactly what people wanted from a doctor in Tombstone, Arizona. After all, it wasn’t exactly a retirement community! Goodfellow’s skills were particularly useful following the infamous shootout near the OK Corral.

Billy Clanton
Billy Clanton

The good doctor treated the gunshot wounds on Deputy U.S. Marshal, Virgil Earp, and Assistant U.S. Marshal, Morgan Earp on that fateful day. He also treated Billy Clanton, who had been on the other side of the law. Billy Clanton didn’t make it, but Goodfellow did fulfill his final request by removing Clanton’s cowboy boots. Billy Clanton had promised his mama that he would die with his boots off. He just barely kept that promise.

Ike Clanton
Ike Clanton

When Ike Clanton filed murder charges against the Earps and Doc Holliday in the deaths of three cowboys involved in the shootout, Goodfellow’s testimony was instrumental in gaining an acquittal. Two months after the shootout, when Virgil Earp was wounded in an ambush, Goodfellow rushed to his side and saved his badly injured arm. He was also called when Morgan Earp was mortally wounded by an assassin’s bullet.

The lynching of John Heath
The lynching of John Heath

Some of the more humorous anecdotes about Goodfellow involve his duties as coroner. When the townspeople of Tombstone took the law into their own hands by lynching John Heath, Goodfellow was present. Heath had received a prison sentence but the townfolk felt he deserved well. . .more. Even in one of the Old West’s most notorious towns, it was illegal to kidnap a man from prison and string him up from a telegraph pole. As coroner, Goodfellow’s findings would determine whether or not charges would be filed against those involved. Everything hinged on his coroner’s report. He solved that problem by writing a clever report that said John Heath had died from, “emphysema of the lungs which might have been, and probably was, caused by strangulation, self-inflicted or otherwise, as in accordance with the medical evidence.”

A Different Kind of Bullet Points

Geo10When talking about a fascinating man like Dr. George E. Goodfellow, it’s impossible to include everything about his life. But here are a few bullet points of a different kind that may interest you (Many of them don’t even involve actual bullets!):

  • Goodfellow pioneered the use of spinal anesthesia.
  • He was the first surgeon to perform a perineal prostatectomy to remove an enlarged prostate. He traveled the country training other surgeons in the procedure.
  • He performed the first appendectomy in Arizona, which makes you wonder how many people had died from appendicitis prior to that time.
  • He pioneered the concept of bulletproof fabrics and clothing.  On multiple occasions he noted that gunshot victims were saved from serious injury when a bullet hit a doubled thickness of silk. Goodfellow experimented with making bulletproof clothing. While he never perfected the product, the idea of a bulletproof fabric spread quickly. Gangsters were soon paying $800 for silk vests, which they believed would protect them.
  • Goodfellow was the man behind the idea of treating tuberculosis patients with the dry climate of Arizona.
    He published articles on the venomous bites of rattlesnakes and Gila monsters.
  • It was Goodfellow who published the first surface rupture map of an earthquake in North America.
  • While in a bar in Tombstone, he got into a drunken fight with another man. Goodfellow stabbed the man, but it was determined that he had acted in self-defense.
  • It is said that Goodfellow rode with the U.S. Army in an 1886 attempt to recapture Geronimo. Following Geronimo’s apprehension, Goodfellow, speaking fluent Spanish and a smidge of Apache, interviewed and befriended Geronimo.
  • Goodfellow practiced medicine in Tombstone for eleven years before serving as personal physical to General William Shafter during the Spanish-American War.
  • He later practiced medicine in San Francisco, until he lost everything during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake

Geo11The tombstone of Tombstone’s most prized doctor was discovered in Los Angeles, long after his death in 1910. His obituary said he died of a nervous breakdown. After reading through some of his adventures, I shouldn’t wonder!

Happy Trails,
Anita Lequoia

The Dalton Gang: Protecting the Family (Dis)honor

Dalton1Some mornings I need a little something extra to get me going. Wait. That’s an understatement. I need a little something extra to get me going every morning. And that little something extra is coffee. You see, I don’t wake up with all six cylinders firing. It takes a jolt of coffee, the elixir of life, to get my spark plugs sparkin’. This morning, as I was trying to get that little something extra flowing through my veins, I started thinking about how great it would be if I could combine my love of coffee with my love of the Old West.

Well, sure enough, some little spark managed to fire somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind. And that little spark made me think of Coffeyville, which sounds to me like coffee-ville. Coffeyville made me think of the Dalton Gang’s infamous raid on that fair town. I thought that would be the perfect topic for our weekly chat around the campfire, because, with all due respect to the infamous outlaws, I am of the belief that the Dalton Gang didn’t have all cylinders firing at all times . . . and I’m not even sure if coffee could have helped them.

The Family (Dis)honor was at Stake

The Dalton portion of the Dalton Gang consisted of three Dalton brothers. Gratton “Grat” Dalton was born in 1861. Robert “Bob” Dalton was born in 1869. And Emmett “Em” Dalton, the baby of the bunch, was born in 1871. They were from a long line of outlaws and lawmen, which, in the Old West, could be roughly equivalent. The gang was rounded out with friends, Bill Power and Dick Broadwell.

In any career, it’s a good idea to specialize, and this group specialized in train and bank robberies. The Daltons had a lot of ambition, and there was a certain amount of family rivalry.

The cousins of the Dalton brothers were none other than the infamous Younger brothers, who frequently rode with Jesse James. That meant there was some stiff competition to be named the best (worst?) outlaw at the annual family reunion. Bob Dalton set his sights on one-upping anything that Jesse James ever did. So, Bob declared that the Dalton Gang was going to do something Jesse James and the Youngers had never even thought of: They were going to rob two banks at the same time. In outlaw terms, that has about the same degree of difficulty as Evel Knievel jumping the Snake River.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Yes, members of the Dalton Gang made quite a name for themselves, which was ultimately part of their problem. Not only did this group of three brothers and two spares think it would be good idea to rob two banks at the same time, they also thought it would be a good idea to rob two banks just miles away from where they grew up. Now, I know that hindsight is 20/20 and that it’s easy for me to sit here with my cup of coffee, questioning their decision-making skills. But, it seems to me that if you wanted to rob a bank – – let alone two banks – – you would not do it where everybody knows your name.

Coffeyville, Kansas – Condon Bank, center – CLICK TO ENLARGE


The Dalton Gang must not have seen it that way, because they set off to Coffeyville, Kansas to rob the First National Bank and the Condon Bank. The men rode into town at about 9:00 AM on October 5, 1892. They went down the bustling streets and tied their horses in an alley across from the banks. Disguised in fake beards, Grat Dalton, Bill Power and Dick Broadwell headed to the Condon Bank, while Emmett and Bob Dalton went to the First National Bank.

Those Party City-ish beards didn’t do much to prevent people from recognizing them. Townsman Aleck McKenna knew a Dalton when he saw one. He watched the trio that went into the Condon Bank. As soon as he saw a gun pointing at the cashier, McKenna turned into the town crier and yelled, “The bank is being robbed!” Word spread faster than butter on a hot biscuit! The townsmen armed themselves with guns from the hardware store, and were pretty darned thankful that Old West hardware stores made a habit of selling more substantial weapons than rakes and fire ant poison.

Meanwhile, on the Other Side of the Street

Condon Bank, Coffeyville, Kansas

Meanwhile, a bank owner, a bookkeeper, and a cashier were all taken hostage inside the Condon Bank. The cashier told the trio of fake beard wearers that the vault was on a time lock and couldn’t be opened for another ten minutes. Grat, Power and Broadwell bought the story and settled in for the wait. While they were waiting, the townsmen got ready for a shootout.

Across the street, Bob and Emmett also had three hostages. They forced the hostages to start shoveling cash into bags. The Daltons thought they could waltz right out the front door of the bank, using their hostages as shields. Old West Life Lesson #1: A bunch of vigilantes armed with hardware store weapons don’t give a rip what hostage is shielding you; they will shoot! Bob and Em quickly reassessed the situation and decided that the backdoor might make for a more efficient exit . . . it didn’t.

Members of the Dalton-Doolin Gang after their deaths, 5 Oct 1892, Coffeyville, KSI could go into great detail about what guns were fired, but the bottom line is that three townspeople and the town marshal were killed. Four out five members of the Dalton Gang were killed. Baby Emmett had more holes in him than a piece of Swiss cheese, but he survived.

The Write Stuff

Dalton7Emmett Dalton was tried and given a life sentence, and was sent to the penitentiary at Lansing, Kansas. Ultimately, he was pardoned after serving fourteen years, due in part to finding religion while behind bars. What does a pardoned outlaw with more than twenty bullet scars do after he is released from prison? Why, he moves to Hollywood, of course!

Dalton8Emmett Dalton spent the rest of his days writing, acting and consulting on films about the Wild West. In the photo above, Emmett is consulting with Hollywood cowboy icon Tom Mix . . . and I particularly like his comment in signing it! Emmett wrote a book, When the Daltons Rode, which was the basis for the 1940 film by the same name. He also dabbled in real estate and campaigned for prison reform. He died in Los Angeles in 1937.

I’m Going to Need More Coffee

There has been more than 100 years of speculation about the possibility of a sixth rider with the Dalton Gang on that day in 1892. I’ve read many of the theories and weighed their merit. So, what do I believe? I believe that before I tackle that subject, I’m going to need more coffee!

Here’s an interesting dramatization of the shootout, with documentary photos, directed and produced by the descendants of Dalton Gang member Dick Broadwell!

Happy Trails,
Anita Lequoia

Rin Tin Tin: The WOOF Heard ‘Round the World

Rin1bI’m not one who ordinarily dwells on the sentimental. I would almost always rather offer up a quick quip than a prolonged pondering. But today is a day for ponderings, as I sit at my computer with an aging dog sleeping next to me. This dog is my constant companion and we understand each other.

I don’t mind telling you that when this creature is too old for our daily walks, I just may turn into that woman . . . that woman who pushes her dog in a pram. Let’s just say that I haven’t ruled it out. I feel it’s only fair, since the old guy has been my personal trainer for years. He has roused me from bed on the mornings when bed still sounded like a really good idea. He has survived a mauling by an angry dog that outweighed him by about 300%. And he has survived an unfortunate run-in with a school bus. But, age is starting to take its toll and I can see my dog, which a vet once described as a “ball of muscle,” beginning to wind down a little. That’s what happens with animals. It’s simply a cruel fact of life. But my dog isn’t ready to wind down completely and I may have a long time to push him around in a pram like some eccentric old woman from a screwball comedy.

At any rate, all this pondering made me think of dogs that have left a lasting legacy. You know how one pondering always leads to another. Well, the next thing I knew I was pondering Rin Tin Tin. So, that’s what we’re going to talk about today—Rin Tin Tin, the dog with a legacy that has spanned close to a hundred years.

The Woof Heard ‘Round the World

Rin1Rin Tin Tin didn’t always have a celebrity lifestyle. This dog learned firsthand, er, first paw, that war is hell. In 1918, the dog kennel in Lorraine, France, where he was being housed with his mother and four littermates, was bombed. If it were not for a man named Lee Duncan, a U.S. Air Force Corporal,  the world would have missed out on one of the biggest canine superstars of all time.

Lee Duncan and his battalion rescued and took charge of the dogs. Duncan took one female and one male pup, while the other dogs were divided among the other soldiers. Duncan named his duo, Nannette and Rin Tin Tin, after French puppets, Nénette and Rintintin. It’s all very worldly, when you stop and think about it—German shepherds, rescued in France, by an American G.I. It’s the sort of story that could launch a Hollywood career!

A Dog and His Big-Time Movie Producer

Rin Tin Tin on the right, and Nanette on the left
Rin Tin Tin on the right, and Nanette on the left

Duncan’s dogs were the only two survivors of the dogs rescued that day. When the war ended and it was time for Duncan to return to the states, he arranged for Rin Tin Tin and Nanette to make the journey with him. Sadly, Nanette became ill during the trip and died soon after arriving in America.

Rin2Rin Tin Tin had lost his birth family, but he still had a devoted friend in Duncan. In 1922, Duncan entered Rin Tin Tin in a Los Angeles dog show. I love a good story about how a celebrity was discovered. While Rin Tin Tin’s story doesn’t have the unexpected charm of Lana Turner being discovered while drinking a soda at Schwab’s drugstore, it is a very fitting story for a celebrity dog. At the dog show, Rin Tin Tin wowed the audience by jumping 13.5 feet. Yeah, that’s the sort of thing that will get a French, German shepherd living in America noticed by a big-time movie producer.

Rin2aProducer Darryl Zanuck, approached Duncan after the show. He wanted to know if he could film Rin Tin Tin with his big-time movie producer camera. He flashed a wad of dough and Duncan thought that sounded like a great idea. Rin Tin Tin earned $350 for frolicking in front of the camera—well, for frolicking and jumping over a wall that was almost twelve feet high!

Rin4Using good old-fashioned American ingenuity, Duncan then contacted every studio in tinsel town about making a film starring Rin Tin Tin. While at Warner Bros, Duncan saw a film crew attempting to shoot a scene with a wolf. Duncan looked at the wolf. He looked at his dog. And he thought, “Close enough!” He approached the director and said that Rin Tin Tin could take over for the wolf and get it right in one take. He did it . . . and a star was born!

Just a Regular Dog Next Door

Rin6Rin Tin Tin went on to make more than twenty movies for Warner Bros. The pup from the bombed out kennel had become a household name. In his prime, Warner Bros. kept eighteen stand-ins for Rin Tin Tin. He had his own private chef to cook tenderloin steaks for him. He ate while classical music played in the background to aid his digestion. If that sounds like overkill, it might help to know that Rin Tin Tin was the one who brought Warner Bros back from the brink of bankruptcy. By 1926, the pooch was commanding a salary of $6,000 a week. In today’s dollars and cents, that is $80,000 a week! I can only hope he never got too big to take a lap from the toilet!

Rin5He had his own live radio show in the 1930s, entitled, “The Wonder Dog.” Rin Tin Tin did his own sound effects. “Arf!”

Rin3In August 1932, just shy of his fourteenth birthday, Rin Tin Tin died. That might have been the end, but it wasn’t. Duncan enjoyed German shepherds and he continued breeding dogs from the Rin Tin Tin bloodline. While there were plenty of descendants, not all of them had Rin Tin Tin’s natural abilities. Doubles were brought in to do the serious acting, while the offspring focused on scratching themselves and drinking out of toilets. But, it didn’t matter to the public. They continued to believe in the Rin Tin Tin Dynasty.

Four-Legged Legacy

Rin7In 1954, ABC began producing a show called “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” for television. This story had it all! It had and orphaned boy named Rusty being raised by U.S. Cavalry soldiers in the Old West. And, most important, it had a German Shepherd who went by the name Rin Tin Tin. In reality, the part of Rin Tin Tin was played a non-relative, while Rin Tin Tin IV stayed home drinking from his toilet in Riverside, California.

Lee Duncan died in 1960. He had enjoyed a mighty fine ride with the pup from the bombed out kennel. Unfortunately, he never trademarked the name, “Rin Tin Tin.” Years of court battles followed his death. The name was finally trademarked to a Texas dog breeder in 1993.

Rin8As for the Rin-Tin-Tin bloodline, that is still going strong. In Latexo, Texas, a litter of little chips of the block is born each year. Rin Tin Tin XII continues to makes public appearances and carries on in the steps of his famous four-legged forefather. I like that, because I know how difficult it is to contemplate saying, “Goodbye,” to a constant companion.

Now, please excuse me. I think I’m going to spend some time browsing online stores for dog prams. Maybe being “that woman” isn’t such a bad thing.

Here’s a fantastic video of Rin-Tin-Tin from the early days to today…you’ll enjoy it!

Happy Trails,
Anita Lequoia