the fall of 1882 the citizens of Winfield, Kansas, were planning
their first agricultural fair, and they needed some unusual
entertainment to attract the necessary crowds. They presented their
difficulty to Colonel George W. Miller, who had just finished a
cattle drive up the Chisholm Trail, and who still had with him a
group of cowboys. With customary ingenuity, the Colonel proposed an
exhibition of roping and riding events, which was enthusiastically
received by the people of Winfield.
years elapsed before the next round-up show was held. It was also
directed by the Millers at the 101 Ranch, and marked the modern
beginning of those thrilling displays of western skill and daring—the
rodeos. Since then this form of entertainment has been adopted in
many places throughout America, and since 1924 an International Rodeo
is held in London, England, many of the prizes being won by men who
participated annually in the 101 Ranch rodeo arena. The Miller
brothers frown upon the use of the word “rodeo,” and
remain true to “round-up” as the best and most
suggestive name for these wild west sports.
the early part of 1904 Colonel Joe Miller went to St. Louis with
Frank Greer of Guthrie and a few other Oklahoma newspapermen to
induce the National Editorial Association to hold its 1905 convention
in Guthrie. He promised the editors a big wild west show if they
would come. Accordingly, in order to prepare for the big event in
1905, the Miller brothers held a round-up in the fall of 1904, just
to see whether it could be done. They were gratified with the result.
came the National Editorial Association to Guthrie, Oklahoma, June 7,
8, and 9, 1905, and the big round-up June 11, at the 101 Ranch.
Geronimo, the old Apache warrior, a government prisoner, came up
under guard from Fort Sill and the Poncas on the ranch appeared in
full regalia. A huge pasture was fenced off for the sports, and
the people came from almost
everywhere. Trains began to arrive from all directions and
discharging their loads at the exhibition grounds, returned and were
sidetracked in the Ponca City yards. Altogether there were thirty
regular and special trains, many of them double headers, and all
loaded even to the roofs of the cars. One hundred section men looked
after the tracks and cars, and the station masters from Newton and
Oklahoma City aided the local forces—handling the trains and
special trains carrying the National Editorial Association
arrived about noon, and so far as could be ascertained nearly every
member was present, not even excepting those from Maine and Vermont!
after two o’clock the procession, nearly a mile in length and
escorted by the Miller brothers, came in at the east entrance.
In the lead was the cavalry band, behind which came the
famous old Indian war chief, Geronimo, hero of a hundred battles with
the whites. He bowed and smiled and enjoyed immensely
the attention he attracted from the mighty throng of people
as he passed around the arena. Following this came other bands and a
long precession of cowboys and Indians, the latter
wearing their sacred finery. The pioneer wagon train, drawn by oxen,
brought up the rear. The parade was
a thrilling and spectacular sight such as few people will ever
again be permitted to witness in these days, and fortunate indeed
were those who were inside the great amphitheater.1
the parade the arena was cleared and the program carried out as had
been advertised. The large herd of buffalo, which
had been secured at great expense, was turned into the enclosure
and representation given of the genuine buffalo hunt, a thing of the
past for nearly forty years, and which will probably
never again be seen in any country. Buffaloes, which were so numerous
on the plains years ago, were now almost extinct, the only large herd
in existence being the one on the 101 Ranch. Over two hundred Indians
took part in the chase.
followed bronco busting, Indian ball, the roping contest and
Indian war dance and pow-wow. The performances of Miss
Lucile Mulhall and her trained horse attracted the most attention.
Miss Mulhall had the reputation of being the best and most daring
horsewoman in the world, and her achievements
aroused a mighty applause from the vast throng. After the program
began, one event followed the other in rapid succession and
there was not a moment when interest lagged or the crowd became
restless. As a closing feature of the day a wagon train was attacked
by the Indians on a hill south of the amphitheater,
and the spectators were given a chance to see what an Indian raid
meant to the pioneers. In the gathering dusk
the burning wagons with howling Indians riding fiercely about them,
caused a feeling of awe to settle over the entire assembly and there
was hardly a person present but felt the blood tingle in his veins at
1 101 Ranch Records, 1905.
competent to judge say it was the largest crowd ever assembled up to
that time in Oklahoma. When the parade began
at 1:30 P.m., on Sunday, there were 65,000 people watching and
it was an intelligent and good natured crowd, no fault being found
with such small and unavoidable inconveniences as always occur where
there are large gatherings.
the round-up was being planned, absurd stories about it became
current. One was that Geronimo had offered a prize of
$1,000 to anyone who would permit himself to be scalped on the
occasion. Another was that the Millers were to sacrifice thirty-five
buffalo in one grand battle. The Indians, according to
the tale, were to be turned loose among the herd with bows and
arrows to show how their ancestors hunted the buffalo. The story
reached New York in credible form and, forthwith, Mr.
Dan Beard, the well-known editor and lover of wild life, telegraphed
to Colonel Joe Miller inquiring if the herd were to be killed by the
Indians. Receiving no reply, Beard telegraphed
the President requesting him to stop the slaughter, who, in turn,
telegraphed the Governor of Oklahoma to send troops up to the 101
Ranch to prevent it. The troops came to the ranch at public expense.
And here is Colonel Miller’s explanation:
had requested the Adjutant-General of Oklahoma to permit two
companies of soldiers to come up at my expense, which would
have been about $1,000. The soldiers would have been glad to come,
but the Adjutant-General refused. I was wondering how I should
handle that crowd of 65,000 people without soldiers, when Mr. Beard’s
telegram came. I saw a way. I said nothing. The troops came at the
expense of the territory.”
Saturday afternoon, in presence of the delegates of the National
Editorial Association, a single buffalo was killed. It had been the
plan of the Millers to kill but one bull, for a feast of buffalo
meat, and, to add picturesqueness, to kill him by the chase instead
of merely shooting him at the slaughter house. The old bull was
driven from the herd and chased by the Indians up in front of the
‘White House’ where he was finally killed. The editors had buffalo
meat for dinner that evening.
1904 down through the following years the Miller brothers continued
holding the annual round-up at the ranch. A
rodeo arena was constructed at the headquarters with a seating
capacity of ten thousand and was the finest and largest in the
Southwest. The program always included all kinds of roping and
riding, bulldogging, Indian dances and other western events.
of the fact that the rodeo, as a form of entertainment,
originated on the Ranch, and that the best known cowboys
of the country have been employed on the ranch at some
time, many of them becoming prominent in the moving picture and rodeo
world, the Miller brothers felt that the 101 Ranch
was the logical place for holding world championship contests.
Therefore, beginning with the 1924 round-up the annual winners
of the roping and riding contests were proclaimed the world champions
and silver medals were awarded that to that effect.
round-up was always scheduled for the early part of September and
continued for three days, including Labor Day. It
was not put on as a money-making proposition but solely for amusement
of friends and also to keep in training a good sized bunch of cowboys
and cowgirls, in order that the old regime would not be forgotten.
1920 round-up was arranged as a benefit for the Chamber of
Commerce band and all the preparations for the event were
made by the members of the band committee in conjunction
with the Miller brothers. In providing a band for Ponca City and
making possible the open air concerts that were being held
weekly, the Chamber of Commerce had expended several thousand dollars
and it was desired to reimburse this fund, if possible, through the
estimate of moving picture men and others, experts in estimating the
size of big crowds, was that more than eleven thousand people
attended the round-up Sunday, and that approximately twenty-five
hundred automobiles were on the ground; or in other words, there were
more than $2,500,000 worth of automobiles in the buffalo park, where
the roping arena was built.2
round-up had been widely advertised and people came from many cities.
The ticket sellers reported persons from Chicago, Kansas City, St.
Joseph, New Orleans, Shreveport, Fort Smith, Dallas, Denver, Wichita
Falls, Santa Fe, Omaha and other points, and cars were on the ground
from as far west as Anthony, Kansas, Enid and Hennessey; north to
Wichita; east to Bartlesville; and south to Oklahoma City, Stillwater
and Guthrie. Cars began arriving at eight o’clock in the morning. The
Millers were assisted by many notables, including Colonel Zack
Mulhall of former show fame; C. K. Williams, the moving picture
producer; Henry Grammar, H.
Cornett, the Shultz brothers, and various others whose names were
always read in connection with successful round-ups.
largest wild west show in the history of the Southwest, celebrating
the thirteenth anniversary of the opening of the Cherokee Strip, was
held September 16, 1906, at the Ranch.
The display of cowboy horsemanship and cattle roping was simply a
postscript to a book that had been written. The occasion gave
opportunity for a reunion of old-timers, and they came by hundreds.
Fully fifty thousand people attended the celebration, twenty
excursion trains on the Santa Fe railroad bringing in the crowd. Two
thousand people took part in the program, including five hundred
cowboys and a thousand Indians.
Indians smeared themselves with paint, adorned themselves with
feathers, glittering armlets and wristlets of German silver, slung
their war shields across their shoulders, and armed themselves with
spears, bows, arrows, and guns. Among the Indians were men who in
younger days had been on the warpath. The younger Indians were
mere imitators, trying to do things as the old men had told them they
should be done. It was noticeable that the old men painted not only
their ponies, which was in accordance with the old custom of the
2 Ponca City News, September 7, 1920.
tepees in the Indian camp at the 101 Ranch were in shape and
equipment just the same as they were in former days. Notwithstanding
the fact that the Federal government had provided houses for its
Indian wards, the latter preferred living in their conical canvas
tepees, and remained in them throughout the summer and a greater
part of the winter.
Indian women and children enjoyed the spectacular show with possibly
greater interest than did the white persons. They sat in groups in
the grandstand and each place was a blaze of brilliant calico dresses
and gaudy handkerchiefs. When kodaks were pointed in their direction
many of the mothers would hide their babies beneath their shawls. The
superstitious Indian fears the kodak for the reason that he
believes a photograph steals away at least a portion of the soul
of the person whose likeness is taken, and that sickness and death
old Indians in Oklahoma had abundant reason for remembering the
soldiers of the regular army, and the younger ones had listened to
tales of warfare until the sight of soldiers quickly attracted and
held their attention. A company of militia from Oklahoma City
engaged in a mimic battle with the warriors in the anniversary
exhibition. A big Indian, fully armed and wearing a war bonnet, rode
cautiously in the direction of the soldiers, dismounted from his
pony and crawled through the grass, spying upon the enemy. He took
the precaution of hobbling his pony with his bridle rein, to
prevent the pony’s stampeding should his owner be fired upon.
the sight of the Indian scout there was a stir among the Indian
women. They watched him intently, and when he returned to his
comrades and the band of yelling Indians charged upon
the soldiers, there was great commotion among the women.
Round and round the company of soldiers the Indians circled in their
attack, the rifles of the soldiers rattling in volleys.
Possibly the Indian women were chagrined when the warriors were
repulsed and driven from the field, as they were when they charged a
second time. They talked about it in rapid gutturals, and sometimes
amplified their conversation by recourse to the sign language.
of the exciting features was the roping of wild steers from the open
ranges of Texas. Bill Pickett, the originator of bulldogging, rode
into the arena on horseback, seized a steer by the nose with his
teeth while riding, and, allowing his horse to run from under him,
grappled with the steer until it lay helpless and prostrate on
reproduction of the race for homes at the opening of the Strip was
realistic. Hundreds of men were there who had taken part in the
original race. Farmers came in covered wagons from their homes in the
surrounding country, bringing their wives and children and their
dogs, to participate in the anniversary “run.” When the
word was given each man struck out for himself, his wagon rumbling
and bounding over the prairie, the dogs barking, the bands playing in
the grandstand and the fifty thousand spectators shouting. Twice
around the arena went the homeseekers.
winner was “Aunt Eliza” Carpenter, an old Negro woman
of Ponca City. She drove two fast ponies to a buggy and stood erect
like a Roman charioteer. “Aunt Eliza” was tall and angular,
and many persons mistook her for a man with burnt cork on his face
and dressed in women’s clothes.
old woman, a native of Virginia, was a well known character in
northern Oklahoma. She made the original race and staked a good farm,
but lost it, because of describing it inaccurately at the land
office. She rode her horse like a man and covered twelve miles in
forty-five minutes. For more than thirty years she had owned a number
of race horses, and had followed country circuits, winning many races
and considerable money.
Miller brothers gave to the world a new sport—the terrapin derby—an
annual event that occurred at the 101 Ranch on Labor Day in
connection with the round-up. The idea originated with Colonel Joe
Miller in the early summer of 1924, while he was standing talking
with Lute Stover, a life long friend, and watching several land
turtles crawl about near the 101 Ranch office building.
you remember, Lute,” queried Joe, “that old Æsop Fable of
the tortoise and the hare and how the tortoise, although so
blamed slow, finally won a race between the two because he kept
I remember,” said Lute. “But who ever heard of a turtle of
any kind in a race?”
I don’t know that I ever did,” answered Colonel Joe, “but I
believe it would be an interesting stunt, just the same.”3
thus was born in 1924 the idea of the terrapin derby. “Well, we
didn’t get the idea until pretty late,” says George L. Miller,
“so there were only 114 terrapins entered in the first derby,
but we charged $2.00 entry fee apiece, and decided to give half of
it, or $114, for first money, $68 for second, and $46 for third.”
did you know the terrapins would race?” Mr. Miller was asked.
didn’t,” he replied calmly. “That was half the fun of it
everyone who saw the derby declared it was plenty of fun. The 114
terrapins were put in a cage in the center of a large arena at the
ranch and a large white circle was drawn in a 100-foot radius from
the cage, with lesser circles at the 20, 40, 60, and 80-foot marks.
The terrapin who crossed the outside circle first was to be
judged the winner, the circle being one hundred feet in any direction
from his cage and it being understood, of course, that the terrapins
would travel in every conceivable direction once the cage was lifted.
For that reason the circle had to be divided into eight or so parts,
like a pie, and a judge put at the intersection of each dividing line
and finish line.
next problem was how to make the terrapins race. It was a certainty
that they had no competitive instinct. It was equally certain that
they could not see food—even luscious peaches, of which terrapins
are unusually fond—at a distance of one hundred feet. Did one
whistle to terrapins, perhaps? Nothing like it. The Miller brothers
and various interested friends spent the greater part of one morning
standing one hundred feet away from a group of placid terrapins and
alternately whistling, clucking, whinnying, and even mooing to
them. It was all to no effect.
3 Daily Oklahoman, February 6, 1927.
4 Kansas City Star, August 30, 1925.
whole plan seemed doomed, when George L. Miller, fooling with one of
the terrapins, disconsolately, made a momentous
discovery. The only thing on earth, apparently, that would give the
terrapin a desire to walk was to put it in the sun. It then
impatiently, and almost querulously, would waddle to the shade. Mr.
Miller, fascinated, picked it up again, put it in the sun again, and
once more Mr. Terrapin waddled to the shade, pausing only to take an
aggravated nip at Mr. Miller’s ankle in passing.
found the answer, men!” Mr. Miller shouted, triumphantly.
“Fix it so the cage and the race course are in the sun and the
finish line borders in the shade, and we’ve solved our problem.”
if it’s a cloudy day?” put in Joe Miller, pessimistically.
insurance,” snapped George, with a glare at his brother.
suppose they just stay there indefinitely? The whole thing will be an
won’t all stay there,” soothed Joe, sagely. “Some of them
are bound to amble around and finally cross the line. You’ll find
terrapins are curious, just like human beings. If it takes them some
time to reach the finish, and if they amble around a bit, that all
adds to the uncertainty of the race and the interest in it.”
day of the race dawned brilliantly and the afternoon saw five
thousand persons in the stands at the ranch arena, all “pulling”
mentally and vocally for their favorite entry. Each terrapin had been
named by its owner, and each had had a glaring white number painted
on its back—in regular racing motor car fashion. Some of the men
had trained their own terrapins in their back yards for a couple of
weeks, and laid high wagers upon the speed of their animals. A band
was playing, visiting Indians were livening things up with their
tribal yells, and everybody was highly excited—except the
terrapins. They seemed in a placid stupor that worried George L.
they just stay that way after the cage is lifted,” he whispered
to Joe. “Suppose they don’t go anywhere at all?”
will be their owners’ bad luck,” the latter answered blithely.
Clancy, a gentleman known from the Cherokee Strip to the Rio Grande
for the mammoth capacity of his vocal cords,
announced the derby in stentorian terms and then Fred Olmstead of the
101 Ranch went out to the cage in the middle of the arena to act as
starter. Mr. Olmstead’s chore was to see that all the terrapins were
comparatively wide awake when the barrier was lifted, or, at least,
were on their feet. It instantly developed that he had been given the
most onerous task of the day.
you ever try to keep 114 terrapins on their feet and off each other’s
backs and generally in apple-pie racing order? No? Then you have no
idea of what Fred Olmstead had on his hands.
all back-breaking, dizzy, impossible jobs that was the worst,”
he says. “I would get them all set ready to go and then Jenny
Lind would take a bite at Marie Antoinette and I would
have a first class fight on my hands and have to pull them apart. I
would get them straight again and then Star of the Night would fancy
he saw a shady spot directly under Easter Bells and would try to
burrow down to it.
I stooped over and picked up terrapins and put them down and turned
them over and moved them around until I felt more wilted than my
collar! At last I waved my handkerchief, the man on the side
line pulled the rope that lifted the cage by a pulley, and the
terrapins were free to race.”
occurred the best and funniest part of the whole affair. There
was one terrapin whose owner had trained it painstakingly in the
back yard for two weeks and it was supposed to be a “racing
fool.” That terrapin calmly drew in its head and legs when the
carrier went up and went to sleep for the afternoon, refusing to
move an inch. Other terrapins got into personal combat with each
other and turned the contest from a race to a fight, at least so far
as they were concerned. Still other racers hurried around and around
the original cage site and would not venture outside its bounds.
Still more waddled in good style out to the first white line, became
suspicious of the way it glared up at them, and promptly retraced
their steps to the society of their companions. A few of the
animals—a fairly respectable number at that—ambled steadfastly
for the finish line and its inviting border of shade, and these were
the ones among whom, it soon appeared, the race lay.
couple of terrapins got clear to the finish line and became distrustful
of it, sitting with their front feet upon it, but re-fusing to
venture over. How like Tantalus they made their owners feel—with
victory and a good sized money purse just on the tips of their
fingers, and not being able to grasp it!
these turtles were thinking the matter over, “Shingles,” a
nondescript-looking animal, entered by Harry Cragin, President of the
Ponca City Chamber of Commerce, fairly fell over the finish line and
collapsed exhausted, but supremely contented, in the shade.
behind him, and to the accompaniment of shrill yells of triumph from
all the Indians present, arrived “Ponca Agency,”
entered by George Hoyo, superintendent of the Ponca Indian agency.
Third came lumbering in “Zev,” entered by Charles Hurford,
a Ponca City merchant. The two terrapins who had been sitting
complacently near the line finally decided to cross after these three
pioneers, but met only the maledictions
and supreme of their aggravated owners.
ended the first terrapin derby on the 101 Ranch, and it was such a
success that the spectators clamored for another one. The second
derby was held on a scale that dwarfed its pathfinding parent. Entry
blanks were sent out all over the country and entries poured in by
the hundreds. At first it seemed as though the several hundred
terrapins that were in a stone pit on the ranch would be enough to
satisfy all who wanted to enter the derby, but this number was soon
exhausted and the Millers had to send out their Indians and cowboys
on a terrapin drive to round up more animals.
visitor to the 101 Ranch was taken to the terrapin pit and given a
view of the five hundred animals waiting to have numbers pasted on
their backs and be assigned as entries in the terrapin derby. “Pick
a turtle and have it run for you,” challenged George L. Miller.
“The winner is probably right in that bunch, if you have eyes
enough to see him.”
was a fascinating thought, at that. There, for $2.00, a man could get
a chance that might repay him a thousandfold, and the sporting
element of the thing was present, too. “Here goes nothing,”
sighed the visitor, taking two $1.00 bills out of his pocket, and
then he looked around to try to find himself an active terrapin.
day was dark and humid and the terrapins lay somnolent,
none evidently having the least ambition to “go places and see
things.” The visitor was about to restore his $2.00 to his
pocket when a cowboy behind him drawled:
mister, one of them there terrapins is about to bite a chunk out of
visitor looked around hurriedly and, sure enough, there at his heel
was squatted probably the smallest terrapin in the place, with head
extended from his shell, obviously ready to take an aggravated nip at
the visitor’s sock. He picked the terrapin up and, instead of
immediately drawing its head and feet under its shell, as terrapins
usually do when molested, it struggled and wrestled around for dear
life, moving all four feet in a rapid if ineffectual effort to go
somewhere and get there quickly ! When he placed the terrapin on the
floor, it made tracks for the side of the pit, faster than he had
imagined a terrapin could travel. “Hi yi!” shouted the
cowboys delightfully. “Look at that old terrapin travel! That’s
a runnin’ fool, mister. He’s just as liable to win the derby as
not. Grab him off, man!”
visitor was fascinated. He rescued the terrapin from the side of the
pit, put it in the center once more, and once again it lumbered to
its retreat. There was another rescue and this time the terrapin,
apparently irked exceedingly at the various paces that were
being demanded of it, decided to take the matter of warfare into its
own hands and proceeded to attempt to ascend the visitor’s body
between the trousers cuff and the hose, a move that made the visitor
go into an eccentric dance that was punctuated by violent kicks with
his left leg.
the terrapin had been routed and the delighted cowboys had stilled
their gusty applause, the visitor seized the animal firmly about its
middle and marched up to the ranch house with it.
he announced to George L. Miller, depositing the terrapin
unceremoniously on Mr. Miller’s desk. “Write me out a receipt!
This is my entry in the derby.”
said Mr. Miller. “What is its name?”
replied the visitor, the name occurring to him on the spur of the
the second derby was run in 1925 with 1,679 entries; the third in
1926 with 2,373 entries, and down through the following
years, always with increasing entries. What made the sport popular
was the fact that there was no profit in it for anyone. Every dollar
of the entrance money was distributed in prizes. No percentage was
held for expenses since it was a sporting event entirely, conducted
in such a way that no unfair practices of any nature could enter into
it. Only land terrapins were permitted in the derby—the kind common
throughout the Southwest.
many diversified resources of the 101 Ranch made it the natural show
place of the Southwest. There was ranching in all its old-time
picturesqueness. There were thousands of cattle and horses, the
unblocked trails and the cattle pastures, the unchanged cowboys, the
round-up camps, the rodeo, the corrals, the buffalo, and many tribes
of Indians, living undisturbed in wigwams, lodges, or rough
houses. And withal there was the western hospitality and cordial
generosity of the Millers. They never asked for credentials.
They never kept a guard at the door to keep out human hankering for
food and good cheer. They had as much use for butlers and servants to
formally announce arriving guests as a tamale vender has for a board
of directors. “Come one, come all”—that was the
hospitality of the Millers at all times.
of this hospitality, men, women, and children from all walks of life
came in ceaseless numbers to observe the diversified resources
of the 101 Ranch and to enjoy its fascinating charms. “It was,”
says Corb Sarchet, “one continuous entertainment of guests,
social, political, business leaders, writers, explorers, actors, the
prominent men and women in every line. Presidents of giant railway
systems mingled with the cowboys and donned their regalia, pleased at
the chance. Admiral Byrd rode the elephants; John Philip Sousa joined
the Ponca Indian tribe; Mrs. Mary Roberts Rinehart came for
atmosphere when she was ready to write her Lost Ecstasy
Teagle sat on the floor with a bust of Geronimo, the Apache chief, in
his arms to be enlightened on the price of crude oil; Will Irwin and
his wife, Inez Haynes Irwin, came for a day and remained a week;
William Jennings Bryan shook hands with Tony, the monkey; Sidney
Smith drew Andy Gump on the White House walls; Teddy Roosevelt was
delighted; Will Rogers sang cowboy songs all night long with
Mrs. Pawnee Bill at the piano; Fred
Bonfils came to see the terrapin derby; Jack Mulhall was on hand to
star in the moving picture—Nancy Astor, John Ringling, Randolph
Hearst, William S. Hart, Irvin Cobb, Rex Beach, Richard Bennett,
General Bullard, Charles Curtis, William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill),
William Allen White, Helen Gibson, Bacon Rind, Art Gobel, Will
Hayes, General Savitsky, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., James E. Garman,
Warren G. Harding, Roy Howard, Ezra Meeker, Colonel Zack
Mulhall—what an array! Unceasingly they came—each found the same
welcome, each was enchanted, each had seen a fairyland.”5
National Editorial Association, with its several thousand
members, visited the ranch twice, in 1905 and 1925. The
Oklahoma Press Association members were the ranch guests
in 1922. The National Realtors were there in 1926, and the American
Association of Petroleum Geologists in 1927. Crippled
children workers were there, too. When members of the
Oklahoma State Board visited Lew Wentz at Ponca City in 1927, George
L. Miller entertained the entire membership at dinner.
The state Sunday school convention, the state florists, and many
other similar groups were entertained from time to time on the ranch.
cowboy’s occupation in Oklahoma is gone, but the cowboy himself,
the genuine, simon pure article, remains the last of
his generation and his time. When he takes his final departure
down the long, white trail, his campfire will never be relighted.
Save in the Texas Panhandle, in limited portions of Western
Oklahoma, and in the big grazing pastures of the Osage Indian
reservation, the cowboy now lives on a farm. He wears high-heeled
boots, spurs, a broad hat, rides a good saddle and carries his
lariat, but these things are mostly a matter of old habit.
one of the most unusual groups entertained on the 101 Ranch was an
organization of these old cowboys, known
as the Cherokee Strip Cowpunchers Association. Its members were
veterans of the time when it was necessary also for the cowboy to be
an Indian fighter whenever the occasion demanded.
5 Daily Oklahoman, December 16, 1934.
were about four hundred members of the Cherokee Strip Cowpunchers
Association in good standing. It was organized
on September 6, 1920, on Cowboy Hill in the buffalo pasture of the
101 Ranch. The majority of the members, of course, were from Arizona,
Colorado, Kansas, California, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Oregon,
and Washington. Every man was a cowpuncher during the time that the
Cherokee Strip was a cattleman’s paradise and known in history as one
of the greatest cattle domains that ever existed. Reunions were held
at Cowboy Hill on the 101 Ranch at the same time the annual
round-up and terrapin derby were held.
association was organized for the purpose of bringing the veterans
together annually, thus promoting a better fraternity among
those, who in the distant past, prior to 1893, shared their hardships
and were brothers to each other under all conditions. A further
purpose was to foster that spirit of fellowship by organization,
making it possible in the years remaining to meet at least once
annually. The first of the members was secured through many
difficulties by the secretary, but it was re-arranged and added to
gradually, and in addition, the secretary collected all available
data about the members, living and dead, and the organization itself,
so that he could supply the information to those who desired it.
reunions of the association were wonderful meetings, where the
members brought their equipment for camping out and told tales of
things that happened, and sang the songs that they sang while riding
the range prior to ’93. Each night there was a campfire with plenty
of barbecued meat and cider on tap, experience meeting that ran far
into the night with stories of the round-up, brushes with the
Indians, necktie parties for rustlers, and all the memories that were
connected with chaps, lariat, and spur.
were assembled the men who had ridden the Chisholm Trail, who knew
Pat Hennessey and Bat Masterson and Jesse Chisholm personally, who
visited Abilene and Dodge City and Caldwell when they were wide open
border towns, who had driven the herds from Texas to Kansas, cut the
wire fences of the persistent homesteaders and then protected them
against Indian attacks—men who, because of their lives in the open,
were still young men in physique despite the fact that they were
cowboy ever bought a horse blanket in those days,” was
a story told at one of the campfires. “The Ponca Indians buried
their dead on top of the ground and they would place beside the body
handsome saddle blankets as well as other equipment for the warrior’s
happy hunting ground. I can tell the world now that very few of them
ever used a saddle blanket after death, for the cowboys got them
Banta of Billings, Oklahoma, was the first President of the
Cowpunchers Association, but at the second meeting, Colonel Joe
Miller was unanimously elected president for life, truly a
distinction, with Oscar Brewster of Crescent to continue as
secretary-treasurer. The association grew to such an extent that it
was necessary to name an executive committee to help out with the
work, and also a “ladies auxiliary.” The old boys had
learned the worth of the ladies since the days they “yipped”
it across the prairies of the Cherokee Strip. The wives of all the
cowboys were eligible to membership. President Joe Miller named
Ike Clubb of Kaw City, Hugo Milde of Kaw, Link Barr of Dover, George
Laing of Kingfisher, and Monte Tate of Oklahoma City as his executive
committee. Some of the members, who attended the reunions, were past
eighty years old, having been men of past middle age when the Strip
the old cowpunchers met they invariably called upon Oscar
Brewster to cook a few dozen pans of biscuits, for Brewster was
a famous chef in cowboy camps prior to ’93. There never
was a cowboy camp in which hot biscuits were not served regularly.
“That was because the packages of baking powder put out in those
days carried a recipe on the can telling how to make biscuit,”
said Brewster, “and every fellow that ever cooked in a cowboy
camp learned how to make them.”
one of the early reunions, Colonel Zack Miller said: “Boys,
the 101 Ranch is yours, anywhere you say, make camp. If you want the
White House location, we can move it. We will
give you a lifetime lease on as much land as is needed for your
accommodation.” They selected the site on the bluff on the south
side of the Salt Fork River adjacent to the pavement and bridge.
The site today is known as “Cowboy Hill” and is set in
bermuda grass, shrubbery, and trees. Here the old cowboys held their
annual reunion, reliving the old days of the Cherokee Strip.
men from the east, whose fathers’ wealth ran well into the millions,
came to the ranch almost every season as far back as 1905 to spend
their vacations, taking this opportunity to learn to ride, to rope,
and to take part in the regular ranch activities. The Millers
“educated” four hundred such young men during the four
summer months, or approximately one hundred each month. They employed
all their horses and cowboys in this line of work during the
summer months, and the cowboys themselves always expected a regular
circus of a time training the tenderfeet. Cowboys came to the 101
Ranch from all parts of the West to be assigned places on the
“faculty,” and among those who “taught” were
several Rough Riders and some of the champion ropers and riders of
will furnish them a good mount and saddle,” says Colonel Joe
Miller, “and put them in camp down along the Salt Fork River. We
will let them sleep out of doors, eat from the tail end of a wagon
and live the regular cowboy life, but of course without much of the
work of it unless they really want to work; then they will be given
all they want. We’ll send some of the cowboys who are pretty good
fellows—good story tellers and all that—over to take care of
them, and have a cattle round-up once in a while for their benefit.”
in a circle in a shady grove on the banks of the Salt Fork, near the
White House, were a number of comfortable three-room cottages in
which the young men lived during their stay on the ranch. They ate
their “chuck” in common in a dining hall twenty-four by
fifty feet in size, their waiter being an unusually dark complexioned
negro. One cottage was used as a library and club room. The
apartments were adorned with college pennants, cowboy pictures, and
such other things as attracted the fancy of college students. The
dude ranch, thus, was a reality on the 101 Ranch from 1905 to 1909.
cowboy outfit was purchased by the “dudes” and some of the
outfits caused old-time cowboys to stand wide-eyed in astonishment.
The boys chose their own hours for arising. When ready for the day’s
jaunt a genuine cowboy would bring a bunch of ponies from which the
riders selected their mounts. The Miller brothers trained polo ponies
for eastern markets, and in this sport the “dudes” were
more proficient than in roping cattle.
general safety and to insure their return to their parents, each
boy, upon his arrival, was photographed for purposes of
subsequent identification should he become lost. After he had cast
off his “store clothes” and arrayed himself in sombrero,
blue flannel shirt, chaps, high heeled boots, and spurs, he was
photographed a second time to permit his being traced and located
should he wander away in his ranch outfit. The “dudes” were
a good natured lot of young men and enjoyed immensely the ranch
life provided for them.
the hospitality and cordial generosity of the Miller brothers it was
found almost impossible to accommodate the throngs of visitors,
tourists, and sightseers who flocked to the 101 Ranch. So eager were
they to witness the operations of the vast domain and so absorbed did
they become in the sights and scenes that the White House and its
adjoining structures were fairly over-run with strangers. Newcomers,
finding every living space occupied, sometimes brought along tents
and “roughed it.”
overcrowded condition became acute during the summer, but the
Millers solved the problem of caring for these annually invading
throngs by establishing a camp, operated solely in their behalf and
for their comfort and welfare. On the north side of the Salt Fork, a
tumbling branch of the Arkansas River, a dozen commodious cottages
were erected. Electric light wires were stretched into every room
from the central station of the ranch system. Adjoining, an assembly
eating hall, in the charge of culinary specialists, was constructed.
A clubhouse of ample proportions was placed a few hundred feet away
for indoor activities. The Millers called this unusual adjunct,
the south side of the Salt Fork, opposite the camp, there was a forty
acre lake stocked with bass and crappy, known as Red Lake. During the
migrating season the lake literally swarmed with ducks and
geese, as the Millers always protected them on their flights. There
was also a game preserve in which buffalo, elephants, elk, deer,
and other wild animals were kept.
Camp was a success from the start and had devotees and converts
to its charm from many sections of the country. Every diversified
enterprise of the ranch was opened to
their observation and, if they desired, their participation. They
participated in the round-ups and rode for miles over interminable
prairies with the cowboys; visited the homes and camps of the Indians
and watched the performance of strange savage and religious dances
and other weird ceremonies and rites; learned how to brand and dehorn
and ship cattle by carload to the great stockyards; hunted the
furtive coyotes, prairie dogs, wild birds and animals of prairie and
forest; watched and sometimes tried the hazardous operations of
subduing bucking horses; shot with rifle, shotgun, and pistol at
moving and stationary targets; lolled in hammocks under the
great spreading shade trees; played polo on the smoothly rolled
prairie; gathered in the evening around campfires to tell the
romantic doings of the day or sought early rest in the seclusion
of their rooms. Everywhere was abounding, buoyant life and vitality,
engendered by the health-restoring spirit of the plains.
many years the 101 Ranch had been the wonder spot and show place of
Oklahoma. Frequently the Millers gathered their cowboys and horses
and steers and buffaloes into a private area, summoned a few score of
the Indians, whose primitive homes dotted the grassy bottoms of the
ranch, and gave impromptu amateur entertainments. The fame of these
spectacular displays soon spread throughout the country. In 1907,
when the Jamestown Exposition, Norfolk, Virginia, was promoted,
President Theodore Roosevelt invited the Miller brothers, as the
most famous representatives of the cattle raising business, to give
an arenic display of its features.
the show from the Oklahoma prairie was the triumph of the fair was
remembered by all who attended. The brothers hurried back, recruited
another show from the abundant resources of their ranch, and
sent it on to Brighton Beach, New York City, where for six weeks it
broke metropolitan records. Before the first snow of winter had
whitened the 101 Ranch ranges, the Millers and their men and women
and livestock were back from what they all called their “spree”
with no notion but that their experience as “show people”
was over. But the reputation their entertainment had achieved had
made too deep an impression. They resisted all overtures, and
propositions came to them from many flattering sources, until
Edward Arlington placed his plans before them. Then they capitulated
and the 101 Ranch wild west show became a permanent factor in
the world of amusement.
years, Colonel Joe Miller had cherished a vision of what he would
like to do in the way of preserving frontier customs and
conditions. Now he had his chance to realize his dream. “Boys
ten years old and younger have never seen a genuine wild west show,”
said Colonel Joe, “and we are going to make it possible for them
to see one.” After much thought and planning, he began to
prepare a real wild west show, one that
would present actual ranch and frontier life as it really existed in
the early days, but which was fast passing away.
result of this planning and dreaming was the 101 Ranch wild west
show, one of the greatest educational and entertaining
enterprises of its kind in the world, and the only one that portrayed
ranch and frontier life as it actually existed in the days of the old
west. The first exhibition was given in Ponca City, Oklahoma, April
Hutchison declared a legal holiday between the hours of 11 A.M. and 6 P.M. in
honor of the inaugural performance
and the opening of the first annual tour of the Miller brothers 101
Ranch wild west show. The great amusement enterprise gave
performances afternoon and evening on the show grounds on Grand
avenue and introduced itself to the public in a triumphant street
was announced by the three Millers and their partner Edward Arlington
that all was in readiness for the gala day. The
finest circus train in the history of tented amusements was there.
Wagons, tents, poles and all the other manifold physical equipment
were on the lot; and at the 101 Ranch, performers by the score were
awaiting the summons to the full dress rehearsal on Monday
tented show ever took the road under more happy auspices and
felicitous circumstances than this tremendous organization
which bore the name of the Miller brothers and was
recruited solely from Oklahoma. The eyes of the entire amusement
world were focused upon it. From its very nature and
source it was the only true typical representative wild west show
before the public, and predictions were heard on every hand that its
career would be one of uninterrupted patronage and popularity.
the engagement in Ponca City the show visited Guthrie, Oklahoma City,
Winfield, and Wichita. It then made appearance
for two days in Kansas City and followed with an afternoon
performance in Fort Madison, Iowa. On the evening of April 23,
it began a two-week engagement in the big Coliseum in Chicago. St.
Louis was booked for a week and then the show started on a
one-day-stand tour for the season.
Miller brothers ransacked the great Southwest for famous performers
in the fields of spectacular western endeavor.
Every cowboy, cowgirl, every lasso wielder, every man or woman who
aimed a pistol or gun was an admitted champion. The personnel of
the arenic department of the organization numbered nearly two
hundred persons. Many of them were familiar to the residents of Ponca
City for deeds of skill and daring. Colonel Zack T. Miller was in
active charge of the performance and no one was better equipped by
nature or experience for the important task than he.
of the feature numbers of the program was a reproduction of the
massacre of Pat Hennessey and party, one of the saddest
chapters of Oklahoma history. Cheyenne Indians fell upon
Hennessey and his companions July 4, 1875, as the freighter was
traversing the old Chisholm Trail. Every white traveler
had been foully murdered when W. H. Malaley, U.S. marshal,
and his band reached the massacre. The 101 Ranch show re-enacted the
tragic prairie drama in all its details. To give
added realism the Millers secured the presence of Mr. Malaley who
went through his movements exactly as performed at the scene of the
original massacre. Chief Bull Bear of the Cheyennes was generally
accredited with being the author of the murder. He, too, was in the
101 Ranch show arena.
dances and other weird aboriginal rites and ceremonies were one
of the features of the show. Scores of red men reached
Ponca City at the time of the inaugural performance and took their
places in the ranks of the performers—famous old chiefs, warriors,
squaws, papooses and pretty dark skinned girls.
Texas steers, superb blue-blooded buffaloes came direct from the 101
Ranch. The Millers secured droves of these nearly extinct animals.
They were among the four-footed novelties of the show.
of the principal attractions of the show was Colonel Joe Miller
himself. He had been a ranchman for many years before
the wild west show was introduced to the public. He was
born and brought up on the ranch in the old days. His father went
down the trail to Texas in 1871, the first time, covering
the whole country from the Rio Grande to North of 36, and- on many of
these trips was accompanied by the son, Joe. While on these trips
with his father, he saw the last of the buffalo on the staked plains
of Texas. He saw the country literally
covered in places with buffalo bones. He saw the immense herds
of cattle grazing throughout the west.
was unafraid and was one of the cowboys who did things during the
border days. Old time cowboys say he never drew a six-shooter in the
old days except when necessary, and that he never asked another
fellow to ride an outlaw horse that he had not ridden himself. Among
all the cowboys there was none who could surpass him in roping a wild
steer in a roundup and among the Indians his word was law. It
was these experiences in driving cattle continually with his
father that made it possible for him, more so than any other living
person, to put on the road a wild west show of the character that the
101 Ranch was producing.
was because Colonel Joe Miller had seen the last of the buffalo herds
on the plains and the land covered with buffalo bones that the Miller
brothers took such an interest in attempts to preserve the
buffalo. They saw the herds vanishing one by one, the prey of
ruthless hunters who swarmed from all over the world, and sadly
contemplated the approaching extermination of the one
distinctive American animal. Through the years the brothers struggled
tirelessly to preserve this superb animal and they owned the
largest private herd in America. In what was known as “buffalo
pasture” on the 101 Ranch, there ranged many of these buffalo,
contented and happy, producing the pure-blooded herd used in the wild
west show. The “buffalo hunt” was presented in a realistic
manner before the people of the country, to millions of whom this
event was only romance and fiction.
the early days of the 101 Ranch, the long-horned steers roamed the
ranges by the thousands. But because of the difficulty of
fattening them for market, the Millers and other breeders
discontinued their production, and the breed vanished quickly. They
are today as few in number as the American buffalo. The Miller
brothers were among the few persons in the country interested in
their perpetuation. They ransacked the Southwest in their quest for
the animals, and assembled a large herd on the 101 Ranch. The steers
used in the wild west show were the finest specimens of the home
herd, with horns as long as six and seven feet. They were the real,
lean, rough, bony,
untamable cattle typical of the Texas trails of years gone by.
of the cowboys with the wild west show were permanent
employees of the Miller brothers, hired for their ability on the
range and round-up and used in the show arena only at intervals.
There was a constant procession of cowboys traveling
from the 101 Ranch to the show, and back again. The exuberant
young men who struggled with the bucking bronco for the
amusement of the public one day might be branding calves on the
ranges of the 101 Ranch the next week. They were at once the most
daring, most skillful, most graceful, and most useful horsemen in the
to roam and range upon their wiry, fleet-footed cow ponies, for days
and nights over miles of unclaimed country,
the cowboy became, perforce, the pilot of the would-be pioneers,
the scout of military expeditions, the leader of colonies and
boomers, the Nemesis and prosecutor of ferocious Indians
bent on devastation and ravage. All of these roles of the cowboy were
depicted realistically in the 101 wild west show arena.
with the 101 Ranch men came a company of Mexican cowboys, and
appropriately, for the cattle industry in America had
its birth in Mexico. The herds of long-horned, wild cattle drifted
across the Rio Grande and out upon the Texas plains. One by one the
swart-faced Mexican riders dropped aside and adventurous
young Americans leaped into the vacated saddles and rode the trails.
The Millers brought from the ranches of the sunny southern republic
several dozen who
were the pride of Mexico, to compete with American cowboys in the
saddle and with the lariat in the show arena.
riding was as common and familiar a pastime to the ranch girl as was
hoop-rolling to the girl of the east. She went
everywhere on horseback. She could execute an equine quadrille
or a Virginia reel, and then gallop twenty miles without feeling
a suspicion of fatigue. She could rope and tie a steer,
ride a bronco, and lodge a bullet in a target bull’s eye as she
galloped. She “kept company” on horseback and many a
piquant retort and pert speech gained point from the accelerated
gait or sudden demivolt of her horse, respondent to impatient or
emphatic pressure of dainty heel or cut of quirt.
and adjoining ranches. They could rope from horses running at top
speed, swing gracefully from the saddle and pick a
fallen handkerchief from the ground, mount and subdue bucking horses,
and use gun or pistol with the nonchalance and proficiency of the
most expert cowboy.
these girls from the Oklahoma prairies rode astride their horses, the
sidesaddle being unknown in the stables of the Miller
brothers. The western woman was frequently in saddle for
hours at a time. She acted as mail carrier and purchasing agent for
the household, and the trading points were generally miles
distant from the ranch house. Often she joined in the
round-up of the cattle, in which she was as proficient as the cowboy,
and it was not unusual for her to take a twenty-mile jaunt
for visit or festival of the plains. No woman could have endured
these long rides in a sidesaddle, with its impossibility of changing
of these cowgirls made their first visit to the crowded cities at the
time they performed in the show arena. Never did they
dream of Dame Fashion’s demands, as illustrated by their sisters
of the city. Some of these ranch belles had never seen a parasol and
could not understand why one should not welcome the
tan which accompanied buoyant health. Lorgnettes, vanity bags,
dresses entrain, and turban bobs were beyond their puzzled
comprehensions. The plaits, coils, and tresses of fashionable
coiffure evoked their curious interest, but no desire for emulation.
fluctuation of the cowboys and cowgirls between prosaic ranch
work and show display had the result of making the Ranch a center and school for many arena stars. Best known
among these, perhaps, was Tom Mix, a product of the 101 Ranch, where
he rode the ranges with the Millers and learned
the many stunts and tricks that have since made him famous as a
moving picture star. Mix was with the Millers on the ranch a long
time and later was with them on the road with the show. Charles
(Buck) Jones was another film luminary whose career began on the 101
Ranch. Several years ago the 101 wild west show was playing at
Galveston, Texas. A backward country boy, just discharged from
the army, approached Colonel
Joe Miller and asked for a job. He was given the only opening—the
task of currying horses for the cowboys. Soon an opening occurred in
the cowboy “string” and Jones was given an outfit and a
horse. He made a splendid arena performer. The list also
included Neal Hart, Vester Pegg, Tommy Grimes, Dan Dix, Helen Gibson,
Mabel Normand, and other well-known stars of the moving picture
world. It can be said without equivocation that the careers of many
of the best cowboys and cowgirls appearing in contests
throughout the country originated at the 101 Ranch.
every other frontier feature of the 101 Ranch wild west show, the
bucking broncos were “the real thing,” in testimony of
which is offered the emergency hospital maintained with the show.
Every day in the season from one to a half dozen cowboys or cowgirls
were temporary inmates as a result of their struggles with the equine
desperadoes. Men and women of less rugged physique and trained
endurance would never have survived the fierce combats.
101 Ranch show broncos were naturally irreclaimable fighters whose
savage and reckless efforts to throw their riders could not be
corrected. They might be temporarily conquered after a prolonged and
often dangerous struggle, requiring extraordinary agility, skill
and courage on the part of their riders, but with every effort to
mount came a renewal of the contest between stubbornness and instinct
on the one side and brains and nerve on the other, and in it the
nobler animal did not always win the spurs.
the performances of the bucking bronchos no two resorted to the
same tactics of defense. One would permit himself to be saddled and
mounted before letting out the deviltry with which his hide was
stuffed. Another would quietly submit to being saddled, but that was
the limit of his sufferance. To still another the very sight of a
saddle was the signal for war; he would start off humping his back
like a mad cat, and land stiffly on all fours with a force of a pile
driver—or he would lie down and stubbornly refuse to budge. Still
another would rear and fall backwards with such reckless fury as to
sometimes beat out his brains. A fifth would kick, strike, or bite
with a savage viciousness rendering him more dangerous than a hungry
these are but illustrations among innumerable efforts of the 101
Ranch show bronco to escape the ignominy of bearing a cowboy or
cowgirl on his back. In some instances, he seemed intent upon
injuring the rider only; in others, he aimed to disable himself;
and in still others, he seemed frantically bent upon committing
suicide. He was a product of the open ranges of the old days and was
a natural actor—so full of fiery and furious vim that he played an
indispensable role in all the western sports of the wild west show.
101 Ranch was in the midst of the great plains tribes of Indians.
Over its vast acreages once ranged hostile Cheyennes, Arapahoes,
Comanches, Kiowas, Pawnees, Sac and Foxes, Poncas, and Osages. Not
only were the reservations of these tribes ransacked for papooses and
their mothers, radiant belles of the wigwam, wrinkled warriors, and
renowned chiefs, but the Millers lured tribesmen from the far
southwest and northwest.
the Indians with the 101 wild west show represented nearly a dozen
tribes. They comprised an ethnological study of fascinating interest.
Crooked Nose, a stalwart brave, was the champion bow and arrow shot
of the Comanches. Flatiron was looked upon as the greatest orator of
the Sioux Nation. It was he who harangued the Indians before they
went into the Custer fight. He was too old to do active work with the
show, but was taken along for good influence among the Indians,
seeming to have power to quiet them when they became restless or
dissatisfied. Flatiron was a member of the Oglala tribe of the Sioux
Nation, and was one of the hereditary chiefs of that tribe.
other Indian warriors who had conspicuous parts in the Custer
massacre were members of the 101 Ranch aggregation. They were
Charlie-Owns-the-Dog, Standing Cloud, and Long Bull. They were always
loath to talk of the slaughter. Long Bull was credited with
being one of the greatest Indian statesmen of history. He made
several journeys to Washington to participate in negotiations with
the white men regarding land claims. Standing Cloud, despite his age,
was one of the fleetest sprinters with the show. Charlie-Owns-the-Dog
was a cousin of Geronimo.
Deer, bowed with age and the responsibilities of his profession,
was the medicine man of the Indians with the show. While the red men
were naturally skillful in curing simple ailments, there were
many more serious diseases which they did not at all comprehend and
for which they had no medical treatment. Such diseases they
believed to be caused by evil spirits, which must be driven away by
the dream power of the doctor.
native dances, ancient ceremonies, and elaborate rituals were
the most entertaining part of the performance in the show arena. The
war dances performed were those which the government had for years
tried unsuccessfully to discourage and check. The Indian children
were prohibited by the federal authorities from watching the
fantastic, savage evolutions in which the old Indians feigned war,
pretending to attack and scalp their enemies, which they entered into
with a spirit of grim reality.
Indian children were one of the interesting sights and studies of the
show. The tiniest of them were securely tied to their boards—the
primitive cradle—from which they gazed solemnly, with unwinking
eyes, upon their new and uncomprehended surroundings. When not slung
on the mother’s back, this board with its human burden was suspended
from a pole or meat-drying scaffold. No attention was paid to the
perspiring youngster, save now and then when it whimpered for
nourishment. Other children, a little older, were freed from this
imprisonment and played on the ground nearby. Despite the irksome
confinement of the board, most of them soon became tired of
unaccustomed liberty and cried piteously to be restored to its hard
surface. They ceased their lamentations only when preparations were
made to confine them again.
children old enough to walk were comical figures, clad in little
smocks that reached their knees. Many had a buckskin string
about their necks, which carried amber beads or an amulet to keep off
disease or the ghost. They ran, played, shouted, and effervesced with
life and spirits, like children the world over.
older boys were armed with bows and headless arrows, and practiced
shooting continually—at a mark or for distance, or vertically into
the air in an effort to make the arrow land at some particular point.
Many of the young braves engaged in sham battles, conducting a mimic
fight much after the manner of
men, except that they used mud balls. The little girls made dolls and
other toys of buckskin, and built playhouses like their white
sisters. They were very timid.
the Indian village that existed in connection with the show, the
Indians were seen as they were in the wilds, not alone for exhibition
purposes, but because they preferred it. The squaws were expert
makers of bead-work, blankets, baskets, and pottery. The bucks made
bows and arrows and would sit for hours, carving out some weird
design, without looking up, or saying a word. Representatives of
every known tribe were in the village and tribes that had waged war
dwelled amicably together, not simply because they wanted to, but
also because they were compelled to, for the Indians were never left
without guards. They had no respect for the white man’s law and had a
beautiful way of settling their own difficulties if permitted to do
in all its reckless and skillful forms was displayed in the
arena of the show. Every performer—cowboy, cowgirl, or Indian—was
a product of the prairie, except the contingent of Cossacks, under
the leadership of Prince Lucca. These members of Russia’s noted light
cavalry were brought to this country by the Miller brothers to
compete in exhibition with the cowboys. The Cossacks did not attempt
the bronco riding feats of the cowboys, but they performed acrobatic
exploits that for sheer, dare-devil achievement were
sensational. Their horses, accompanying them from the steppes of the
Siberian border, were lithe and fiery animals of great speed and
long-horned steer wrestling, or bulldogging, was one of the cowboy
sports included in the wild west show. It was considered by many show
spectators the most thrilling of these sports. It demanded daring,
strength, and speed. The wrestler who threw his steer in the quickest
time, while complying with all rules, was declared the winner. The
steers were numbered, and before each contest each wrestler selected
his steer by lot. When a steer was released from the chute in the
show arena, the animal was given a start across the tape or deadline.
The wrestler’s objective was to ride alongside, leap from the saddle,
grasp the steer’s horns, put the steer flat on his side while using
only his hands, and then raise one hand to signal he had completed
his task. His time was computed from the moment he crossed the tape
until he raised his hand in signal.
this event, each contestant had the assistance of a rider, known as a
hazer. The hazer’s job was to ride parallel to the contestant on the
opposite side of the steer, to keep it heading straight down the
arena. This assistance was necessary to prevent the steer from
turning abruptly away and charging to some distant point at the
critical moment when the wrestler made his jump. The hazer gave no
assistance in the actual bulldogging.
steer had to be thrown by hand, “twisted down,” after being
brought to a stop. If a steer was accidentally knocked down it had to
be let up on all four feet and thrown again. Should a steer start
running after once being stopped and then thrown by the wrestler
putting its horns against the ground, the steer had to be let up and
twisted down properly. A steer was considered down when it was flat
on its side with all four feet and head straight. A contestant was
limited to two minutes. Owing to the size and vicious nature of the
long-horned steers used in this contest, any time under twenty-four
seconds was considered exceedingly fast.
Zack Miller credits Bill Pickett, negro cowboy of the 101 Ranch, with
being the first bulldogger. “He slid off a horse, hooked a steer
with both hands on the horns, twisted its neck and then sunk his
teeth in the steer’s nostrils to bring him down,” is Colonel
Miller’s version of the Pickett performance. But as he grew older the
teeth and nose stunt was eliminated. He started bulldogging down in
the mesquite country in Texas, where the wild growth made it
impossible to throw a lariat. Pickett was as much an institution with
the Millers as the show itself, and not altogether for his
years ago when the show was in Mexico, the Miller brothers were at a
bullfight. There were some tough bulls in the ring and matadors
maneuvered carefully. But Pickett maintained he could not only throw
one, but could hold him for several minutes. There was a difference
of opinion which resulted in some heavy betting. Pickett’s
responsibility was great, for the Millers had bet the show against
$25,000 in gold that he could hold the bull seven and one-half
minutes. The bet got noised around and the scene outrivaled the bull
battle in Quo Vadis. Pickett
put the bull down, but the Mexicans protested that it wasn’t
quite done, so he held on grimly for fifteen minutes. There was
nothing left finally except to pay off, which the Mexicans did. Bill
Pickett, to say the least, was a great bulldogger!
Pickett was born about 1860 and died April 2, 1932, from injuries
received while roping a bronc on the 101 Ranch. He was buried at the
foot of the White Eagle monument on the 101 Ranch. Members of the
Cherokee Strip Cowboy Association erected a stone marker at his
grave, September 6, 1936. On the day of his death Colonel Zack T.
Miller, who had been his boss for thirty years, wrote the following
Old Bill has died and gone away, over the “Great Divide.”
Gone to a place where the preachers say both saint and sinner will abide.
If they “check his brand” like I think they will it’s a runnin’ hoss
They’ll give to Bill.
And some good wild steers till he gets his fill.
With a great big crowd for him to thrill.
Bill’s hide was black but his heart was white,
He’d sit up through the coldest night
To help a “doggie” in a dyin’ fight,
To save a dollar for his boss.
And all Bill wanted was a good fast hoss,
Three square meals and a place to lay
His tired self at the end of day.
There’s one other thing, since I’ve come to think,
Bill was always willing to take a drink.
If the job was tough, be it hot or cold,
You could get it done if Bill was told.
He’d fix the fence, or skin a cow,
Or ride a bronc, and EVEN PLOW,
Or do anything, if you told him how.
Like many men in the old-time West,
On any job, he did his best.
He left a blank that’s hard to fill
For there’ll never be another Bill.
Both White and Black will mourn the day
That the “Biggest Boss” took Bill away.
roping was always considered one of the interesting cowboy
performances in the show arena. It was a contest of speed and skill,
and was the one sport where a man’s working tool, his horse, becomes
his athletic paraphernalia as well. The objective was to rope, throw,
and tie a calf in the proper manner for branding in the quickest
possible time. Under the strictest rules in cowboy sports, this
was not as simple as it appears.
calves were all of average weight, hence there was no advantage in
that respect. But no man could say with any assurance which way
a loose calf would run. The calf was released from the chute and
given a thirty foot running start before the roper could ride
across the dead-line in pursuit. The roper would cast his lariat and
was allowed to throw two loops to catch the calf. If he missed both,
or if the calf escaped after being roped, the roper retired with “no
after the cowboy had roped his calf, he stopped his horse,
dismounted, and proceeded hand-over-hand down the rope. He laid the
calf on its side, and fastened any three of its feet together in a
tie which the judges deemed suitable—one that would hold. Once the
roper had signaled he was through, he could not touch the calf again
to strengthen the tie. His time was computed from the moment he
crossed the deadline until he signaled “tied.”
rules governed every move, but the foregoing were the ones of most
interest in following the performance. The roper was responsible not
only for his own observance of the rules, but also for his horse
abiding by them. A penalty adding to his time was imposed if the
horse “busted” the calf. Here was high skill and
co-ordination of effort by rider and horse seldom seen in any other
of the novelties of the show was the picture of western life
representing the attack on the prairie schooner. The old wagon,
guarded by a typical frontiersman in coonskin cap and buckskin
clothes, followed by another old character who looked as if he might
have been one of the “forty-niners,” was driven slowly
across the arena by six steers, where the Indians swooped down. The
following gun shots soon set fire to the cloth covering of the wagon,
which blazed up brightly, and in the flames and smoke the Indians and
pioneers whirled around on their horses, fired blank cartridges, and
yelled at the top of their
lungs, making a decidedly vivid scene, which was heightened when
a troop of cowboys dashed on the scene and put the Indians to flight.
valuable part of the performance was an exhibition of the Pony
Express, showing how the mail was carried across the plains in the
early days. The express rider, armed and mounted like the brave and
hardy men who carried the mail before the railroads, slipped off one
horse and on another with lightning speed, hardly losing a minute in
the change of horses.
next feature portrayed the lawless days of the West, when it was
never safe to travel over the plains, even with guards. In this
exhibition one of the original Deadwood stage coaches was used—a
battle-scarred vehicle with many bullet holes along its
weather-beaten surface. Its driver, no less spectacular, was an
old grizzled veteran of the plains. Inside were the passengers, among
them several women, and the strong box of the express company. On top
were two or three vigilant guards on the lookout for trouble.
Suddenly in the distance a band of Mexican outlaws appeared and then
began a running fight between these fierce brigands and those in
charge of the stage. It was soon settled, however, for amid the puff
of smoke and shriek of bullets the brave defenders were soon overcome
and the passengers were an easy prey to the Mexicans, who lined them
up at the point of their huge six-shooters and relieved them of
their valuables. This had hardly been accomplished, however,
when a band of husky vigilants appeared, and after a short battle put
to flight or captured the desperadoes, and escorted the frightened
passengers to safety.
show was billed a “Real Wild West” and that was exactly
what it was in every particular. There was no aerial work, nor were
there any trained seals. It was an authentic show of what the 101
Ranch had been for years on the great prairie region of the
Southwest. In fact every detail was covered which would properly
illustrate life on the great western plains. A. K. Greenland, writing
in the Billboard
date of August 15, 1911, described vividly the 101 wild west
show in action in the great Boston arena:
in the morning, everybody looked up the line of march in the papers,
and eagerly chose the points of vantage in order to observe the Far
West procession. As usual, the Boston
Commons appealed most strongly, so it was there that so many of us
heard a trumpet, then a band. The pageant advances, led
by the pick of Boston’s police department. Next comes a set of lusty
ranchmen, characteristically straddling impetuous bronchos.
A long train of Indians, bedecked in feathers and brilliant
war paint, now jog on before us. Another cowboy band, then a train of
big, heavy show wagons, then the cowgirls,
gracefully mounted, joyously greet you. Forthwith you begin
to picture the West a land of dream and enchantment. The East and
historic New England assume a far less superior station
in your opinion. Here come the Mexicans, preceded by dusky
’Bill’ Pickett. Following them comes the huge, large horned bull,
carrying a human load on its back with the most perfect
docility. There are the Cossacks, the buffalo, more cowboys
and cowgirls, brought to a close by the piping calliope.
enter the arch of the arena, and find our good friends all ready for
duty. Joseph C., Zack T. and George L. Miller were
the first to be greeted. Their genial smiles soon convinced us
that all was prepared and every detail looked out for. There are both
George and Ed Arlington busy and occupied, as is also Will
Brooks, yet ready to chat for a period. As for optimism, George
Arlington is ever the champion, and with pleasure he shows us our
seats at the edge of the hippodrome.
arena tent measures 390 feet in width by 550 feet in length. Three
large horse tents, respectively 40x200, 40x80, and 30x60, have been
prepared for the accommodations of the equines. The cook tent is a
fence-pole top, measuring 60x180. There are 1,100 people and 600
elephants, camels, horses, buffalo, long-horned steers, oxen,
mules, and ponies with the 101 show this year.
last strains of Director D. La Blanca’s well-disciplined
aggregation of cowboy musicians fade away in the roomy realms of the
Coliseum. We hold our breath and even upbraid one another for
disturbing this period of gripping suspense for audible
breathing, when forth comes a blast from the
horn of La Blanca, and Joseph C. Miller steps triumphantly forth to
the heart of the arena. Reverently raising his hat, he introduces his
1911 ensemble to the eagerly hearkening multitude. His
introductory speech is concluded; he motions the director,
and out comes the host of adventures from all the climes of the
No. 1 was now actually passing before them. What a gorgeous review of
arenic performers marched forth in file, led by Joseph Miller himself
on his steed almost white save for some well-placed brown spots on
its haunches. Cowboys, cowgirls, Indian braves and their squaws,
Cossacks and Mexicans, a stage coach, and a trio of burlesquing
harlequins. Soon the arena is cleared for the individual introduction
of the participants.
bugle blows for Display No. 2 and in they all dash, one after the
other, as follows: cowboys from headquarters, Sioux Indians from Pine
Ridge, cowboys from Cowskin Camp, band of Cheyenne redskins from
Oklahoma, cowboys from Horse Show Bend, Snake Indians from the Creek
reservation, a troupe of Russian Imperial Cossacks, followed by
Lucca, their prince, a collection of Mexican and rurales, cowgirls,
Chief Eagle Feather of the Sioux, Pickett, the Dusky Demon; D. V.
Tantlinger, chief of cowboys, and lastly and therefore most
important, Joseph C. Miller.
all make their bow and hastily race for the exit, then one of the
cowboys gives in Display No. 3 a stirring relay exhibition,
attired, armed and mounted, a pouch over shoulder, like the brave and
hardy pony express rider who sped across the hostile plains ere the
shriek of the locomotive had penetrated the Western
No. 4 presents some extremely fancy as well as practical
demonstrations with the lariat, lassoing horses at full speed,
catching runaways, jumping rope, and spinning bizarre figures.
No. 5 depicts the thrilling exploits of some Mexican bandits,
who lawlessly hold up, fight and capture an overland stage
coach, plunder the passengers, empty the treasure safe and prepare to
make away with the booty when they are attacked by a posse of
swiftly-pursuing vigilants, rurales
cowboys. Great was the hand-clapping when Eagle, a gray cowpony,
feigned injury and limped from the field.
No. 7 calls our attention to Pickett, the modern Urus in a
demonstration of courage, nerve, strength and agility in which he
duplicates his feat of conquering a Spanish bull unarmed
and unaided, by forcing the largest of bulls to the tanbark of sheer
No. 8 presents the frolics and pastimes of the boys of 101 Ranch in
which they gambol and disport with the joy of the school boy. They
pick up handkerchiefs and hats while galloping at full speed.
No. 9 is one that attracts the attention of all those assembled, for
D. V. Tantlinger, chief of the cowboys demonstrates the use of
the boomerang for the hunt, chase and battle.
No. 10 gives the boys and girls of the ranch a chance to execute,
a-horse, the intricacies of the quadrille with grace and abandon.
Next comes in Display No. 11 a very effective number wherein
Edith Tantlinger challenges exhibition with the shotgun. This act is
wonderfully clever and on the opening occasion she made every shot
count, penetrating a clay bird with each click of the trigger.
No. 12 exemplifies the degree of perfection to which the prairie
equine can be educated. This number presents a large number of
well trained high-school horses. The act is climaxed by the excellent
equestrianism of Madame Marantette and Col. Harris, who exhibit
their two high-school horses, Chief Geronimo and Sun Flower, in their
latest departures of high-school stepping. The hit of the act is
the close when on her jumping horse, St. Patrick, she cleared a
structure six feet, four in height and at that nine and one-quarter
inches less than the height for which she is willing to take
No. 13 tells the story of the horse thief of the prairie,
disclosing the marauder taking possession of the cowboy’s mount, his
escape, pursuit, capture and the subsequent treatment accorded
any such miscreant.
No. 14 presents cowboys in military tactics wherein they do some
of the cleverest riding of the performance, finishing with a Roman
three-horse standing mount.
Display No. 15, Princess Wenona comes forth to establish her
reputation as a peerless horseback rifle shot. No such a hindrance as
a bobbing seat a-horse is able to destroy her aim. This is a very
commendable act and deserves to be ranked with the best in the
Display No. 16 the many spectators are treated to an exhibition of
football on horse-back as played by the Mexicans and
Indians. Trick riding forms the basis of the next displays, Nos. 17
and 18, and some very hazardous bare-back broncho, steer and buffalo
mounts are undertaken and successfully accomplished. It is here
that Goldie St. Clair performs her perilous feat of riding the
bridleless broncho as does also the daring Virgin L. Barnett, well
known for his ability in this line. The bridleless bucking buffalo
was successfully ridden by cowboy Tex in Display No. 19.
No. 20 afforded C. C. Lee the opportunity of demonstrating his
skill at bareback shooting. Display No. 21 depicts with realism
the adventures of our pioneer emigrants. The scene reveals their
encampment for the night, their attack by the Indians, the ensuing
battle, the massacre and the vengeance of the cowboys.
blazes forth a reluctant farewell. We step into the street and
solemnly avow that the 101 Ranch wild west show is unexcellable. A
well-disciplined host of acts, of pleasing variety and skillful
dexterity have been collected for the year of 1911.”
the seasons of 1914, the wild west show was on exhibition for
six months at Shepherd’s Bush, London, England. To celebrate the
century of peace between the English speaking nations, the
Anglo-American Exposition was held during that time and was the
occasion for the show visiting England. The Miller brothers went to
an enormous expense in putting before the English public a show which
had never been equalled in the British Isles, for it was wholly
realistic, every member of the show being “the thing” at
his or her own particular game. The realism of the western sports
aroused much interest in the Londoners as indicated in the following
the most attractive feature of the Anglo-American Exposition at
Shepherd’s Bush is the performance which is being given twice
daily in the Stadium by The 101 Ranch Real Wild West.’ This
representation of life in the prairies is a wonderful spectacle and
one which is wholly new to Londoners, and every one of the performers
was born and reared on the 101 Ranch, from which the show takes its
name. This ranch, which
belongs to Messrs. Miller Brothers, is situated at Bliss, Oklahoma,
and comprises some thirty square miles, and over this
area are herds of horses and cattle belonging to the ranch, under the
guardianship of scores of cowboys and cowgirls, who frequently
gather together and hold contests among themselves in lariat
throwing, ‘busting’ bronchos, ‘bossing’ round-ups, and other such
pastimes as form part of the daily life of these people of the
is the first time they have been out of America, and they
only arrived in this country two weeks ago. With them are a number
of Indians, who belong to various tribes, having their
homes close to the 101 ranch property in Oklahoma. Prominent
among the cowboys are Guy Weadick, who, with his wife, gives some
wonderful demonstrations of skill with the lariat;
Johnny Baker, who is the stage manager, so to speak, of
this arenic display; Stack Lee, whose shooting is a thing to wonder
at; and Mr. Zack Miller, one of the famous trio of brothers,
whose horsemanship is a delight to all beholders; and Chester
Byers, the champion roper of the United States. The cowgirls, too,
have their champions, and Lucille Mann, the leading
broncho ‘buster’ of the party, has the distinction of being
the only woman who is able to ride ‘Thunder,’ one of the wildest
and most stubborn of the 101 Ranch horses, which have been
brought over to England, while Alice Lee and Mable Clive
can toss a lariat with the best of the cowboy champions.
is provided under cover for no fewer than ten
thousand spectators, so that whatever the weather Londoners
can witness this alternately thrilling and picturesque performance
under the most comfortable conditions. Exhibitions are given
twice daily—viz., at 3:30 and 8:30—and the performance, which
goes with a swing from start to finish, occupies only about an
hour and a half.”1
Indians, who were gay with fresh paint—ready to take the “war-path”
in the arena—aroused much interest, as did the cowboys,
bucking broncos, but the great attraction was the cowgirls from the
western prairies. This fascination of the Londoners is expressed
rather pointedly in the Daily Citizen
date of July 11, 1914:
Horn Gulch has come to London and settled at the Stadium, Shepherd’s
Bush, where, among the many inhabitants of the wild and woolly west
are a bunch of the most wonderful cowgirls ever seen east of St.
1 Daily Mirror (London), May 27, 1914.
course, there are cowboys, Red Indians, bucking
mustangs, and a hundred and one other centers of interest at the
Stadium, but the great attraction is the wiry but pretty girls who,
in divided skirts, top boots, and wide, grey felt Stetson hats, make
a picture of femininity quite new to this country.
of them talks much; the prairies do not encourage conversation. The
girls do not like the cities, and during their appearance at the
Stadium they intend to camp in the grounds.
most important of the cowgirls is Miss Florence Le Due, of Bliss,
Oklahoma. ‘Say,’ she said to a representative of The Daily Citizen,
‘I won my title at ‘The Stampede,’ Calgary, Canada in 1912, and kept
it the following year at Winnipeg. This is the belt I won,’ she added
as she proudly showed an engraved gold belt which encircled her
is distinctly accomplished in prairie pastimes. She can ’rope’
(lasso) a running horse, steer, or even a man with the best cowboy
going, and she can make the lariat do all sorts of twists, loops, and
turns. And she can shoot ‘some.’
Alice Lee of Dallas, Texas, it is claimed that she is the champion
woman trick rider of the world. Her star turn is to stand in the
saddle and gallop at full speed around the arena, and she also makes
a specialty of falling off her horse, catching one foot in the
stirrup and doing a kind of compulsory frog-march along the ground.
Aldridge, of Greeley, Colorado, is addicted to lying flat on her
horse’s back and firing a Winchester at hordes of imaginary savages.
Willetts, of Chickasha, Oklahoma, is a cow-puncher, and she backs
herself to cut a steer out of a bunch with any cowboy that ever
breathed. Mabel Klein, of Pecos City, Texas; Dot Vernon, of Phoenix,
Arizona; Ruth Roach, of Ponca City, Oklahoma; and Jane Fuller, of
Eagle, New Mexico, are the chief of the other girl champions.
majority of the girls are the daughters and sisters of small
ranchers, and all the feats they perform are practically part of
every-day ranch life.”
Alexandra of England accompanied by the Empress Marie of Russia,
Princess Royal and her daughter, Princess Maud sat in the royal boxes
when the Millers took a bow and then proceeded to stage the most
stupendous wild west performance
the old world had ever seen. Soon after the royal party arrived
dozens of cowboys, cowgirls, and Indians appeared in the arena
uttering their wild cries as they cantered round at breakneck pace.
Then came pioneer scouts and an emigrant train. Claims were “staked
out,” and wild west sports took place. A display of riding by
the Russian Cossacks particularly pleased the Empress Marie, who
pointed out all the details of their costume to her sister. Some
remarkable rifle shooting on horseback also excited the admiration of
the royal party. Queen Alexandra, who was dressed in black with a
small black net hat and a red rose in her blouse, remained for an
hour and a half and evidenced much interest in the performances,
as the following lines reveal:
Alexandra yesterday afternoon paid a visit to the Anglo-American
Exhibition at Shepherd’s-bush for the primary purpose of witnessing
the ’Wild West’ performance given within the Stadium. In four
motor-cars her Majesty and the party by whom she was accompanied set
out from Marlborough House shortly after three o’clock. In the first
car were Queen Alexandra herself and the Empress Marie of Russia,
attended by Sir Colin Keppel; in the second were the Princess Royal
and her daughter, Princess Maud, together with the Hon. Violet
Vivian; the third car accommodated the Countess of Antrim,
Colonel Streatfeild, Prince Chervachidze, and Countess Mengden; and
seated in the fourth were General Sir Dighton Probyn and the Hon.
arrival at the Stadium Queen Alexandra was received by the Earl of
Lonsdale and Sir John Cockburn, by whom the distinguished party
were escorted to the Royal tribune. To the right of her Majesty sat
her sister, the Empress Marie, the Princess Royal, and Princess
Maud; and immediately on the left of Queen Alexandra was seated Lord
Lonsdale. With the greatest interest the Royal visitors followed
every detail of the diversified, and in some respects thrilling,
programme; and if one may judge by the emphatic approval which Queen
Alexandra bestowed on various items, her Majesty thoroughly
enjoyed the performance. More than that, Queen Alexandra took so
many snapshots during the entertainment that her camera had to be
replenished with a fresh spool of films; and before she left the
Stadium she specially requested that the entire series
of photos bearing on the performance should be forwarded to her
in order to supplement her own collection. As the Royal party drove
off, the members of the company—Indians, cowboys, and all—lined
the route and heartily cheered the departing visitors.”2
was a big event for the Miller brothers and set the stage for a tour
of European countries. But the tour did not happen. Europe and the
whole world went to war. To save the horses and mules, worth much
money because of their training, Colonel Zack Miller tendered
all the show livestock to Great Britain for war purposes, provided
the more valuable animals might be sent back to America. England
agreed and the wild west show returned to the prairies of Oklahoma.
Following is a copy of the Impressment Order of the British
Government seizing the horses of the show for war purposes:
National Emergency. Impressment Order under Section115 of the Army Act.
To Zack T. Miller, 68 Holland Rd. W.
Majesty, having declared that a national emergency has arisen, the
horses and vehicles of the 101 Ranch Show are to be impressed for the
public service, if found fit (in accordance with Section 115 of the
Army Act), and will be paid for on the spot at the market value to be
settled by the purchasing officer. Should you not accept the price
paid as fair value, you have the right to appeal to the County Court
(in Scotland the Sheriff’s Court), but you must not hinder the
delivery of the horses and vehicles, etc. The purchasing officer may
claim to purchase such harness and stable gear as he may require with
the horse or vehicle.
Charles Carpenter, Sergt.Place Shepherd’s Bush ExhibitionDate 7th August, 1914.
the war period, the Millers devoted their time to furnishing the
government with livestock for war purposes and to building up the 101
Ranch. Following the Armistice, they expanded the oil production on
the ranch and when the production
came in to such an extent, Colonel Joe Miller’s feet got to
itching for the road again. He began dreaming of the big top, a
greater big top than ever before. Day by day he counted the
ranch oil wells and while building up the ranch, he began quietly
building for another show. When the brothers’ bank balance was
sufficient to build any kind of show he wanted he got busy. That time
came in 1924.
2 Daily Chronicle, London, England, June 26, 1914.
S. Tucker, known wherever shows are known, was the man who put the
new show on wheels. The Millers told him they
wanted the best equipped show of the kind that could be built.
They gave him no limit on expenses. Old showmen say frankly there
never was a show on the road with such wagons and
such railroad cars as the Miller brothers provided for the show.
Scores of workmen, skilled in their trades, were assembled
at Marland and big buildings were equipped with special machinery.
The forty wagons which were used in the parade were
all built at Marland. The band wagon, which could not be
duplicated at any price, contained on one side life size wood engravings
of the Aztec Sacrifice
and on the other a life size group
of the landing of Ponce De Leon
was a work of art done many years ago by a famous German wood
carver, and that
was the only piece of old equipment about the show. Nothing was old
about that wagon but the wood carving. The wheels and all other parts
thirty railroad cars to haul the show were new. Most of them were
steel. Even the stock cars were steel and for that reason
were built on the palace car plan. The living cars for the performers
and other employees were strictly up to the best construction plans. But
the climax was reached in the private car of the Miller brothers
which was the home of Joe, Zack and George Miller
while the show was on the road. The car was a veritable palace on
wheels. It had baths, electric lights, library, and in fact every
convenience that the modern home has. It was artistically
designed and furnished.
twice as big as the top of the old 101 Ranch show, the big top and
all the canvas were new. Most of the long staple cotton
used in making the canvas was raised on the 101 Ranch. The timbers
needed were sawed on the ranch and even the stakes and seats were
cook wagons, carrying ice boxes with a two-day supply of ice
capacity, were marvels of construction. They had been built so that
forty minutes after the wagons got on the lot, meals for five hundred
persons would be ready.
lighting was another unusual feature. Never before had such a
lighting system been built for a show. The lights were so powerful
that it was possible to see a pin in any part of the tent when they
were on in full force and still there was no glare. The electric
switchboard had been arranged to give as good a lighting effect for
the spectacles as could be given on the most modern stage in the
was the opening spectacle. It was the story of the pilgrimage of
Fatima, wife of Ali the Fourth, caliph of Egypt. There was displayed
an array of dancers that had never before been under canvas. They
were chosen from the leading dancing schools of the world. They
had been trained for many weeks for their part in the spectacle. The
camels, the slaves, and, in fact, as complete a caravan as could be
reproduced was used in the opening. The setting was especially
designed and was entirely different from the usual circus spectacle.
famous trick riders, ropers, bulldoggers as Mamie Francis, California
Frank, Hank Duman, Reine Hafley, Tad Lucas, Mildred Douglas, Buck
Lucas, Buff Brady, Joss Darrera, Milt Kinkle, Cotton Ashley, Fred
Carter and scores of others comprised the wild west performers. Then
there were the famous clowns, Dan Mix and Joe Lewis, with their mule
acts. Ezra Meeker and his ox-drawn prairie schooner were with the
it is the ballet and the far east acts that constituted the side
departure from the old line of show. Joe Miller went personally to
New York and other cities while Zack Miller went to Mexico City, New
Orleans, and Cuba and their agents scoured the Orient to get the
dancers they wanted.
of the old time circus side show performers were included.
Youth, beauty and grace were the prime requisites of those who wanted
to get on the show. Girls from Ziegfeld’s Follies,
dancers from the famous theaters of Mexico City and Buenos Aires and
Slayman’s famous troop of Arabs were brought
in to the show. An entire troop of Russian Cossack riders and dancers
were imported. And they were the best Joe Miller
could find in Russia. They were all young and trained under the new
conception of art rather than the old circus idea. Among the Indians
were John Last Man, Two Dog, Yellow Boy and few others who were with
the original 101 show. But there
were scores of others. They were mostly Sioux and Cheyenne. The
Osage and Poncas were not good show Indians because,
as Joe Miller said, they were too independent. Most of them tire of
show life. If he had taken them along he would more than likely have
waked up some morning and found his Indians had broken camp by night
and gone back home.
troupes of trained elephants and trained camels, buffalo and elk
constituted the animal section of the show, except, of
course, the horses and steers. The horses used in the wild west
performance for riding were selected over a period of months. They
were outlaws that would buck when they smelled
leather. Any horse that could be tamed was not taken.
was the reason it took several months to pick them. The same was true
of the steers. From the Brahamas on down, they
were a wild bunch that no amount of riding would tame. The Millers
started out to make the wild west section a real wild west show and
nothing tame was connected with the wild west section.
side shows were so different from the old side lines that there was
no comparison. They were absolutely clean and nothing
on the order of the old “for men only” joints was
tolerated. There was not a show on the lot that would offend the
most exacting critic of morality. But there was youth, beauty, and
all of the building of the big show, there was a great deal of fun
and hard work. The hundreds of people gathered
at the ranch from all parts of the world to help put on the
exhibition and played their parts well. Life on the 101 Ranch during
this time was more like a street scene in some foreign city where all
the nations of the world were represented.
big 101 super-wild west show opened in Oklahoma City, April 21, 1925.
The opening exhibition was dedicated to the
Eighty-nine celebration. The Miller brothers were known all over
Oklahoma long before the big “run.” They were frontiersmen
and with them in the show were others of their type who braved the hardships long before the opening of territorial lands to
old show was operated successfully from the fall of 1908 to the fall
of 1916, during which time it made a net profit, after paying for the
entire equipment of over $800,000.3
After reorganization in 1925, the new show did not do so well
financially in spite of the fact it met with tremendous approval
of the people. The show met the greatest opposition any business
ever met, namely: the three cornered fight—the Barnum and Bailey,
Ringling interest on one side, and the American Circus Corporation on
the other. It was a fight to the finish, but the Millers always held
their own in the eyes of the people. The opposition, however, was a
heavy drain on the income of the new show.
addition, the expenses in operating the new super-wild west show were
enormous as a result of the high class performances added in the
reorganization. The income declined increasingly each season,
largely because of business conditions, to such an extent that in
1926 the season closed with a loss of around $119,000.4
With grim determination to succeed, the Millers continued the show on
the road until it finally stranded in Washington, D. C., August 5,
1931, following financial difficulties which led to court
the 1931 season, Colonel Zack Miller started the show out with meager
funds with the hope of renewing interest once shown by the American
Circus Corporation in buying it. The show left Marland, Oklahoma,
with only a small sum in the cash box, struck two or three big days
near home and was able to continue on a schedule that really had not
been seriously planned. During the summer, Colonel Miller was called
back to the ranch for the conference with creditors which preceded
the appointment of the ranch receiver, leaving the show run by paid
advance man always makes or breaks a show. He is out ahead of the
show about two weeks and makes all the contracts. Without
question the advance man broke the 101 Ranch show during the 1931
season. Whether he was paid to do
it by some other show corporation, it is not known, but he would send
the show on a 250 mile jump one night (freight $900)
and the next night 250 miles back to within 50 miles of where
the show had previously been. He would route the show into towns
where the police and firemen were having benefit rodeos
or into towns where most of the population was out on strike
from the mills and factories. Colonel Miller was informed of the
deplorable situation but was too busy at the ranch
with the receivership negotiations to pay much attention and the
needless expense and loss in ticket receipts continued.
3 101 Ranch Records, 1925.
4 W. A. Brooks to Ellsworth Collings, March 7, 1936.
a result, the management, in time, was unable to meet some of the
outside obligations and financial difficulties reached a critical
point when a creditor attempted to attach the ticket wagon receipts
on several occasions. This, of course, completely demoralized
the finances and when the show reached Washington, D.C., the
situation had become so serious that the management could not pay the
show employees. A big business was expected in Washington but,
when the show arrived, the management discovered the advance man had
neglected the billing and that the citizens hardly knew the show was
coming. The Washington appearance was a dismal failure.
the whole thing went haywire,” explains Colonel Zack Miller.
“Led by the very men and women who owed the greatest loyalty to
me and the 101 Ranch, the 392 employees became obstreperous and it
became impossible for the managing executives to protect and
preserve the show property or to accomplish anything that would
relieve the situation.”
employees refused to permit the show to be moved back to the 101
Ranch before they received their back pay, and W. E. Rice, ranch
trustee, under a mortgage of $150,000 received on the show’s
property, asked the district supreme court, Washington, to issue an
injunction without notice to the employees, forbidding them to
interfere with the shipment of the show back to Oklahoma. The
application alleged that the show had already suffered damages, and
that more were threatened unless the court intervened; that the
claims of the employees for back wages could not be enforced
against the show equipment because of the mortgage; that the 101
Ranch had offered to transport the employees back to Oklahoma if they
would pack the show up, and they had refused; and that the employees
had threatened to, and they would, unless restrained, destroy
the property. The court denied the application, but ordered the
employees to appear in court the next day to show cause why the
injunction should not be issued.
employees opposed vigorously the application and, after some delay,
the court granted the injunction, and, without waiting for an
additional court order to prevent interference by the unpaid
troupers, the management of the show secretly imported a crew of
sixty men from Baltimore to pack up the show, preparatory to shipment
back to the 101 Ranch. The importation of the moving crew from
Baltimore caught the troupers by surprise. The show people stood
watching, but no effort was made to interfere with the labor, other
than dropping caustic jibes here and there.
sad elephants, sadder Indians, cowboys and cowgirls, sideshow folk,
spangles, bit tops; wagons and musicless bands —the famous 101
Ranch wild west show moved back to the prairies of Oklahoma. Money
for the gloomy ride was furnished by Colonel Zack Miller and the
unpaid employees were invited to return with the show to the 101
Ranch. In the meantime, Colonel Miller issued the following
statement, putting an end to the show that had entertained queens and
shown in every city of the United States with a population of 25,000
101 Ranch Wild West Show is through. It is through, at least, as a
unit of the Miller Brothers’ 101 Ranch. Colonel Zack T. Miller made
that assertion Monday at the 101 White House during a conference of
creditors of the ranch-farm institution. If the circus, one of the
leaders in its day, ever goes out again, it will be under another
owner or under a complete lease. The 101 Ranch will not operate it
again. If no other disposition is made it will be dropped, said
5 Daily Oklahoman, August 11, 1931.