Corpus Christi, Texas, took the limelight in October, 1949, for it was there the world champion cowgirls were named.
Article and Photography by JAMES CATHEY, originally published in the April 1950 issue of Western Horseman.
The South Texas all-girl rodeo was the climax of a good season, as competition was keen and plentiful. The lucky few took home valuable prizes, leaving a desire with the remaining girls to make good next season. In most events, the champions were decided by split-second timing in the last performance.
A 14-year-old Texas high school girl literally walked away with all-around honors. She is more princess than queen, but, nevertheless, she is queen of the cowgirls. Little Amy McGilvray rode her 8-year-old bay gelding, a Quarter Horse named Pee Wee, in 22 approved rodeos, winning $2,671 in the barrel race alone. This, added to her winnings in bull riding, jackpot and matches, totaled over $3,000 in 1949. She is a daughter of rancher Bud McGilvray and lives on their ranch at Mertzon, Texas. Her little sister, Janelle, is quite a hand in the saddle, and between them, things are pretty lively around the ranch as well as in the arena. Amy stays busy with her horse training, grooming and riding, but also finds time for homemaking, sports, music and dancing, and also serves as secretary of her class, as well as assistant Sunday School teacher. She not only has the official title of world’s champion all-around cowgirl but is an all-around young lady, accomplished in anything she undertakes.
Betty Barron, another ranch girl from near San Angelo, tossed a fast loop in the last performance, which netted her the title of champion calf roper. She is always a serious threat with the twine. She went into the final performance sitting in third place, but when she roped and tied the calf in 33.2 seconds, she won the money and became the champion by 9.23 points. Betty has been considered all summer as the likely title winner, but at the close of the Fort Smith all-girl rodeo, she practically considered herself out of the running. Nevertheless, she let the ranch work go and went rodeoing just once more. Betty is also a good contender for the prize money in the barrel race at most any show she enters. She makes a good showing in the arena and on the ranch where there isn’t any work too hard nor any task too big for Betty.
Margaret Montgomery, 1948 all-around champion and president of the Girls Rodeo Association, turned milkmaid for 15.4 seconds the last performance to take a lead of 1.89 points in the wild cow milking. Margaret is about as good as the next in everything she does. She was third for the all-around, third in bareback riding and second in calf roping. Her horse is a black, long-legged gelding who carries plenty of racing blood and is known as Joe. She uses him for everything and had never roped a calf from him until about the first of September in 1949. She was born on a ranch near Ozona, Texas, and spent her life in that vicinity. Before her marriage to calf roper and rancher Vic Montgomery, she was Margaret Owens. In 1947 the girls saw the need for an association, and when the Girls Rodeo Association came into being, it was Margaret who was destined to become president. She has guided it well and efficiently for the past two years. Margaret voluntarily refused to seek the office again, and Nancy Binford, of Eldorado, Texas, was her successor for 1950.
The saddle bronc riding was won by an old-timer who is known to millions as a top rider. She is Vivian White, of Otokaha, Oklahoma. She rode three horses at the Fort Smith all-girl rodeo to win that championship. Her rides were those of a champion, and it is certainly fitting that Vivian became world champion saddle bronc rider. That rodeo was the only one where the saddle bronc riding was contested.
From Jacksboro, in the brush country of north central Texas, comes a cowgirl who is one of the best all-around contestants. She is Jackie Worthington, another ranch girl. Jackie is an all-event contestant and is a sure-fire winner in the bareback and bull riding. She won titles in both events in 1949. At the Corpus Christi all-girl rodeo, she proved her ability by being presented five buckles. Besides the championship buckles, she was awarded three buckles by the committee, one for all around and two for winning the bareback and bull riding at that show. Jackie is a graduate of Texas State College for Women, where she became a licensed pilot, a hobby she uses very frequently in her profession of rodeoing. She is the owner of Sancho, a cutting horse which she has trained and who has won several shows recently. She won second all-around and third in the sponsor events in addition to the two titles. Jackie is the director for all riding events in the GRA and is one of the most influential members of the organization. She knows rodeo from beginning to end and can do something about it. There is not an event contested by the girls that Jackie doesn’t enter, and as a rule, she takes her share of the top honors.
There you have a thumbnail sketch of the 1949 world champion cowgirls. The 1950 season will give more girls more chances to be there, for there will be more all-girl rodeos, some of which will be inside. This will give more girls more chances to win. These are real champions and the future champions will have to be better champions.