Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Photo: Fannie Sperry Steele

Fannie Sperry Steele rides a steer at the Gilman Stampede, September 1919.
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, 947-603
Famed bronc buster Fannie Sperry Steele competed in rodeos until 1925. Then she and her husband bought a dude ranch near Lincoln. After her husband died in 1940, Steele ran the ranch by herself for another twenty-five years. She was one of the first women to receive a packer’s license and well into her sixties spent long days in the saddle guiding hunters into rough country. She stocked Meadow Creek before environmental concerns were fashionable, packing six horses with cans of fish over treacherous terrain, stopping at every stream to keep the water cool. She broke her own horses and at the end of the season trailed her twenty-five pintos seventy miles across the Continental Divide to winter pasture. In 1974 at eighty-seven, Steele could no longer live alone and had to move from the ranch. The worst part for her was leaving her beloved string of pintos behind. In 1975, Steele was honored as was one of the first of three women inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame. A few years later at ninety, Steele summed up her life: “To the yesterdays that are gone, to the cowboys I used to know, to the bronc busters that rode beside me, to the horses beneath me (sometimes), I take off my hat. I wouldn’t have missed one minute of it.” Steele died in 1983. She was the quintessential Montana woman: determined, gritty, and independent of spirit.

From Montana Moments: History on the Go

P.S. Remember these rodeo-champion sisters?

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