Experience the stories of the founding of the Girls Rodeo Association, now the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, through the lens of rodeo photographer James Cathey.
“…Nancy Binford asked James to step in and take over as the [Girls Rodeo Association’s] first paid publicity director. ‘We can only pay $75 per month,’ she told him, ‘but the benefits of long hours, hard work, and endless travel, paid out of your own pocket should make you feel right at home. Besides, we really need your help.’ ” –Excerpt from Powder Puff and Spurs: The Story of James Cathey and the Girls Rodeo Association
This book steps back to the origins of the sport of rodeo and the tough and talented horsewomen who fought to compete in it, and who eventually founded the Girls Rodeo Association, now the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. The book includes personal stories of the GRA leaders and early competitors, as well as the story of rodeo photographer James Cathey’s involvement with it.
Cathey’s legendary and rare black and white photographs illustrate it, as pulled from the James Cathey Heritage Collection, which is housed in the archive of the Dickenson Research Center at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Cathey was posthumously inducted into the museum’s Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2018.
The book sets the stage of women in rodeo, from the early years when women competed in bronc riding, relay races and steer wrestling and performed as trick riders and ropers, to the tragic accident at the 1929 Pendleton Round-Up that killed bronc rider Bonnie McCarroll and threatened women’s involvement in rodeo.
Through the Great Depression and World War II, determined women formed all-girls’ rodeo competitions across the West. The success of the 1947 Tri-State All Girl Rodeo in Amarillo, Texas—put together by ranch women Nancy Binford and Thena Mae Farr—prompted competitors to organize. In 1948, in San Angelo, Texas, the GRA was formed, making the WPRA the oldest professional women’s sports association in the United States.
Equally interesting is Cathey’s life story, from his boyhood in West Texas and his tour as a bomber flight engineer in World War II to his pursuit of photography as a profession. His rodeo photography took off in 1948, after he won the contract to become the official photographer for the professional rodeo at the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show in Fort Worth, Texas, now the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.
Cathey became closely associated with the GRA at the prompting of his close friend, legendary cowgirl Tad Lucas. His photographs and articles as the organization’s publicity director fostered the GRA’s growth and success.
The book was meticulously researched, compiled and written by Cathey’s two sons, Craig W. and Gordon Cathey, including a detailed index and bibliography. The stories and legends paired with Cathey’s amazing photography make this book appealing to any fan of rodeo, or of women in sports.