When Connie Reeves was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 2002, she didn’t think she was deserving. But after some consideration and persuasion, she agreed that she probably knew a lot and had certainly done a lot to qualify for this honor.
Connie Reeves was 85 at the time. Born in 1901 on the Texas/Mexican border, she grew up swimming in the Rio Grande and riding horses with cowboys. Her grandfather gave her her first horse when she was 5.
She was one of the first women to study law at the University of Texas but dropped out to help her family struggle through the Depression. She and her husband managed a 10,000 acre ranch owned by President Lyndon B. Johnson. She could herd steer, shear sheep, kill rattlesnakes and cook for hungry cowhands.
Always a practical Texan, Connie didn’t let a challenge temper her plans. When she ended up with one leg shorter than the other after falling from a horse, she did the sensible thing: she had the heel of one cowboy boot raised.
Her greatest contribution was certainly teaching others. For 67 years Connie gave riding lessons at Camp Waldemar and taught about 36,000 girls to ride.
At age 101, one could still find Connie Reeves riding horses. Her favorite horse, Dr. Pepper, a 28-year-old paint.
”I still ride alone,” Mrs. Reeves said in an interview with National Public Radio. ”Sometimes I’ll just get on the horse and go down to the river. We’ll just ride up and watch a little baby fawn nursing or watch the birds in a nest. As long as I’m alive, I’m going to be trying to ride a horse.”
On one such ride, Connie was thrown from Dr. Pepper and broke her neck. While recovering she passed away of cardiac arrest.
Meg Clark, the owner of Camp Waldemar, said Connie and Dr. Pepper frequently when on trail rides together, their ages had not slowed them down one bit.
”That was how she wanted to live her life, and that was how she wanted to end it,” Clark said. ”She wanted to be on horseback.”
Connie Douglas Reeves, 1901 – 2003
Photos courtesy Jamie Williams (black and white) and Jill Johnson (red chaps)
Video courtesy American Cowgirl (.com)