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Book review: 'Rodeo Women' covers a lot of miles

"Oklahoma Rodeo Women" by Tracey Hanshew (The History Press, 128 pages, in stores Tuesday)

Rodeo’s inner story is that of miles and memories.

The miles are symbolic of years and the memories of a family having formed within the sport.

Author Tracey Hanshew does an excellent job of covering a lot of miles and memories of those who are far too often unrecognized in rodeo — the women of the sport.

She opens strong with a primer for newcomers and a refresher for diehards. Oklahoma is a pertinent part of this overview with Oklahoma City having served as host of the National Finals Rodeo from 1965 to 1984, a period in which the NFR went from struggling infancy to respected maturity.

Following the overview, we are given an in-depth look at the life of Lucille Mulhall “a key factor in connecting ranch life to professional rodeo competition for women.”

This was a wise choice as a tone setter for an appreciation of Oklahoma women in rodeo. By 1916, according to the book, Mulhall had formed a rodeo company and was the only female rodeo producer at that time.

Keep in mind though, this book is not a biography of one, but rather an appreciation of many.

When a person travels extensively, he or she covers a lot of miles and collects a lot of memories. In doing so, travelers often notice certain landmarks they want to return to for a closer look. "Oklahoma Rodeo Women" offers such an opportunity.

Perhaps readers will want to learn more about the 101 Ranch and the 101 Wild West show. Maybe it will be Mildred Douglas known as “the world’s first woman steer rider” that brings them back. Or possibly their interest will be triggered by Pauline Nesbitt, a bronc rider and trick rider who made her own costumes which led to her modeling in the Sears and Roebuck catalog.

Also to be appreciated is how this work highlights women who have played major support roles in addition to those who have won titles from coast-to-coast and in some cases left their mark on rodeo internationally.

Readers will be left in awe of what has been and continues to be accomplished by the women of Oklahoma in rodeo. So for those who enjoy history or sports, specifically Oklahoma history or sports, this is a well-chosen read and a road worth traveling.

— Bryan Painter, For The Oklahoman

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Bryan Painter

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