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Lucille Mulhall (1885-1940)

Lucille Mulhall (1885-1940)

Lucille Mulhall was an authentic cowgirl who found fame in both wild west shows and the rodeo circuit. She interests me for several reasons. For one, humorist Will Rogers began his career as a cowboy on her father Zack Mulhall’s Oklahoma ranch, later joining Mulhall’s wild west show, billed as the “Cherokee Kid.”

It was Will Rogers who claimed that the term “cowgirl” was first coined (circa 1900) to describe Lucille Mulhall and her ranch skills. Lucille is famous for many reasons, largely because she could rope and ride like none other. She could rope eight men riding abreast (1). She was the most famous cowgirl of her time, catching both Teddy Roosevelt’s eye (who invited her to the White House) and Geronimo’s (who gave her a beaded vest and a decorated bow).

But I started researching Lucille Mulhall largely because of a reference in many sources to her uncanny ability as a horse trainer. She could train horses to do things others couldn’t. Of her unique ability, Lucille Mulhall said,

My system of training consists of three things – patience, perseverence, and gentleness. Gentleness I consider one of the greatest factors in successful training….Governor, the horse I ride in our exhibitions,…has nearly forty tricks….He can shoot a gun; pull off a man’s coat and put it on again; can roll a barrel; can walk up stairs and down again – a difficult feat; is perfect in the march and the Spanish trot; extends the forelegs so that an easy mount may be made; kneels, lies down and sits up; indeed, he…does nearly everything but talk.

I’d love to have seen Governor’s tricks, especially the one when he pulls off a man’s coat. But what is unclear is whether or not Governor is pulling the coat off his own body or some man’s!

(1) Alter, Judy. Wild West Shows: Rough Riders and Sure Shots Watts: New York, 1997.

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