photo © Shirley Ross
THE GREATEST SPORT
by Georgie Sicking (1921-2016)
An old Nevada mustang,
As wild as she could be,
I’ll tell you all for sure,
She made a gambler out of me.
I forgot I was a mother,
I forgot I was a wife,
I bet it all in the hose I rode,
On him I bet my life.
The thrill of the chase with my roan,
Horse trying to give me a throw.
The smells of the rocks and the sagebrush,
The rattle of rocks as we go.
Blood running hot with excitement,
Mouth getting dry from the same,
In this world, ain’t nothin’ but the mustang,
Roan horse me and the game.
Mustang is getting winded
It slows down to a lope.
Roan horse is starting to weaken,
Mustang gets caught in a rope.
Roan horse’s sides are a heavin’,
And I am all out of breath.
Mustang faces rope a tremblin’,
It would have run to its death.
Sanity returns and I’m lookin’,
At the wild horse I just caught,
My prize of the chase,
Good looking or pretty it’s not.
A hammer head, crooked leg,
It’s awful short on the hip.
Little pig eyes, a scrawny U neck,
And it’s really long on the lip.
No, she sure ain’t worth much,
For sure she ain’t no pearl.
But she took me away from a humdrum life,
Right to the edge of the world.
Now mustanging is a fever like,
Alchohol, gamblin’ and such.
I guess it don’t really matter if what you catch,
Ain’t worth all that much.
This was before the laws passed,
That feed the city people’s dreams.
I was lucky to enjoy the greatest sport,
Of cowboys and of kings.
© Georgie Sicking, used with permission
Much-loved cowboy and Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame inductee Georgie Sicking, who died in 2016 at age 95, continues to inspire poets and cowboys. She has said that this poem is the result of her many mustanging experiences, experiences that “take you to the edge of the world.”
She tells about her first time in her book, Just More Thinking, when her husband, Frank, worked for the Green Cattle Company, which “…branded the O RO. They really had good horses, and rules were that those horses were not to be run after mustangs. Frank and I sighted a bunch of mustangs one day. I was riding a big brown O RO gelding. I told Frank that I bet old Ranger could give me a throw at one of those wild ones. He said that no way could Ranger carry my weight and run as fast as a wild horse, so to prove my point, I roped the mustang, which got away with my rope. I wanted that kept quiet as I didn’t want Frank to lose his job because of my breaking the rules. Roscoe Latham was the boss at the time. Frank and I went to the ranch one day, and Roscoe looked at me and said, ‘Young lady, I want to see you in my office,’ and I got scared! I walked in, he was sitting behind a desk, frowning. He said, ‘I have heard that you roped a mustang,’and I said, ‘yes.’ He said, ‘I also heard that you lost your rope,’ and I said, ‘yes.’
“He reached down under his desk and handed me a new rope, saying, ‘Now don’t lose this one.’ He still let me ride O RO horses.”
When WWII began and cowboys were hard to find, Georgie was hired on at the O RO, the only woman who ever drew pay at the Arizona ranch.
Georgie often mustanged with her friend Leonard Stephens, and the outstanding documentary about her, Ridin’ & Rhymin’ includes scenes of them recounting their experiences. She writes in Just More Thinking, that a ranch where they worked, “…was overrun and grazed off by wild horses. Sometimes the check from the main office would be slow…and [we] would rope enough horses for a truckload, and he would haul them to Fallon or Fernley to sell them. Then we would buy groceries.”
Georgie preferred to be called a “cowboy,” not “cowgirl.” She is quoted in Tough by Nature, Some people had the idea that all you had to do to be a cowgirl was put on a pretty dress and a pair of boots and a big hat and get a faraway look in your eyes…and you’re a cowgirl. They’ve been kind of hard to educate.”
Of Ridin’ & Rhymin’” the award-winning documentary about Georgie Sicking by Greg Snider and Dawn Smallman of Far Away Films (www.farawayfilm.com), Hal Cannon, retired Founding Director of the Western Folklife Center, comments, “Georgie Sicking is why ‘to cowboy’ is best used as a verb to explain a work, a life, and a big open land. This film captures her level gazed life in such a powerful way that it defines the American West.” A DVD is available at http://farawayfilm.com/rr.html.
Find some of her poetry and more about Georgie Sicking at CowboyPoetry.com.
This photograph, by Shirley Ross, was taken on the Virginia Range near Fernley, Nevada. Shirley Ross, who lives in Chico, California, is a native of Honey Lake Valley in Lassen County. She comments, “Even though I have lived in Chico for a number of years, I always return to the high desert to photograph any wildlife I come across, revisit ranches I lived on growing up, and to visit life-long friends and even some new ones.” She has many impressive photos of wild horses birds of prey, and more.
Thanks to Cindy Stout Quigley of CMQ Photography for introducing us to Shirley Ross.
(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but for other uses, please request permission.)