Women of the West — Georgie Connell Sicking
Often “a mare among the geldings,” this cowgirl has spent a lifetime of wrangling boys’ ideas and creating poetry.
Georgie Connell Sicking grew up with a boy’s name and the determination to be a top hand. Despite ridicule from other women, she raised a family and scratched out a living cowboying across the Arizona, California, Nevada and Wyoming ranges. Her poetry, penned to entertain herself, chronicles the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame member’s historical journey as the West’s original “bell mare.”
Not many women have guts enough to be a hand. They were raised to sit and scream instead of act.
The first year I recited at Elko [the inaugural National Poetry Gathering in 1985], I was losing my sight and had to read my poetry. I said about three lines, and then I lost my place. So I stood there, shaking and shivering. If anybody would’ve said, “Boo,” I’d have probably run.
Mom started us riding by ourselves when we were about 2. The reason she did was because horses were our only means of transportation. We lived 40 miles from town and didn’t have a car. All our travel was horseback.
What makes a good horse is the same as what makes a good friend—honesty, dependability and stamina.
Dad got me Buster for my 5th birthday. The gelding loved biscuits. I’d put one on the ground and when he reached for it, I’d climb on his head—which I wouldn’t advise kids to try. When he raised up his head, I’d get on his back. I could ride him anyplace I wanted to go, just slapping him on each side of the neck to turn him. If he got to going too fast, I’d just pretend I was falling off and he’d stop.
I roped a lot of mustangs and a lot of wild cattle. I cowboyed. I didn’t just put on the clothes and prance around.
When I was young, I hoped to be a good enough hand to hold a job on a cowboy outfit and someday have a ranch of my own. My sister told me, “Those are boys’ ideas. You can’t have them.” “Boys’ ideas or not,” I said, “I’ve got them, and that’s what’s going to happen.”
Things I was tremendously condemned for while I was growing up, I’m praised for now.
I hired on at the O RO outfit out of Seligman [Arizona]. To my knowledge I’m the only woman to this day that was ever on their payroll as a cowboy. I told the boss, “I can ride your colts, I can handle your cattle, I can doctor your cows and I can pack your mules. And, if at any time you feel I’m not doing enough work to draw my pay, fire me—my husband [Frank Sicking] won’t quit.”
My mother said a woman could be anything she wants to be, but should just try to remember to be a lady while she’s doing it.
I’ve never found much closeness with women. As I got older and worked with a lot of men, there was a lot of jealousy and a lot of meanness because of it. I’d go work with some fella and he’d tell his wife, “That Georgie’s a hand. I’d rather work with her than some of the guys,” and all of a sudden the claws came out.
My poetry comes from experience. I’m not very good at imaginary stuff. Mine is mostly real.
Frank and I spent many days riding side-by-side working cattle. We didn’t always agree, but we both enjoyed the work, and I guess we enjoyed being together doing it.
I had to walk a straighter line than [other women]. I had to get by 100 percent on my work, and work well enough that the men could ignore the fact that I was feminine.
I didn’t want a daughter because I didn’t think I could teach a girl the right things, but I’m darn proud of the daughter [Sue Jarrad] I did raise.
If I have to be less of a woman in order to make my husband feel like he’s more of a man, then he’s not the man I married.
Once the men found out that I would tend to my business and that I could do the work, they accepted me. That’s what made the women so darn mad, because I was accepted by the men.
I’m darn sure glad I had nerve enough to live the life I did, because it’s been a full one.