Georgie Connell Sicking (born May 20, 1921) is a retired rancher and active participant in cowboy poetry gatherings in the American West. A Wyoming resident, Sicking is a 1989 inductee of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. Described as "a cowboy who just happens to be a woman", Sicking is known for her old-fashioned feminine values and self-determination.
Sicking was born in rural "brush country" of west central Arizona in Seligman in Yavapai County, some forty miles from the larger city of Kingman. Her parents, Oscar and Mayme Connell, operated a ranch at Knight Creek. Her mother, who had been cooking on Dutch ovens, headed to Seligman a month before Sicking was expected to be born so that she could be rested for the delivery. However, after she reached Seligman in a Model T in a drive over rough roads, Sicking was born the next day, not the next month as had been expected. Because the Connells had hoped for a boy whom they would name "George", she was instead given the name "Georgie".
Mayme Connell taught her daughter to ride a horse at the age of two. To keep up with the child, she designed a leather harness and tied it to a tree near the house to anchor Georgie so that she would be in view.By the time she was five, Georgie had her own horse, "Buster," whom she could mount by feeding the animal a biscuit. As Buster lowered his head to eat the biscuit, Georgie would climb on his head and neck and ease down to his back.
Her parents divorced by the time Sicking was in her late teens. She dropped out of school. Her sister, Emma, lived with their mother. Another sister, Ida, married. Her younger brother, Clyde, procured a ranch job. At first Georgie could not find a ranch job because she was female: "It was a country where they didn't ride mares, and they didn't hire women."
Cowboy culture and poetry:
Sicking prefers to be called a cowboy, rather than a rancher, because for years she did the same kind of work as her male counterparts: "Since I was a little girl I knew I was born to be a cowboy ... Back then they thought women couldn't do it, and they weren't supposed to do it. Women were meant to stay indoors."
Sicking considered herself a "top hand," which she describes as
a puncher who can do every job on the ranch and do it well. Whether it's ridin' broncs, breakin' colts, or mendin' fence, each one of 'em has to be done right, and everyone has his own way of doing it. A top hand, you never doubt the work he's gonna do, you know you can rely on him in any situation, and you'd choose him as your partner. That's a top hand, and everybody that wears a pair of cowboy boots is not a top hand. In fact, they're few and far between and it takes a lot of work to get there. ...,
Being accepted as a woman and a cowboy out in a camp is no easy task. I've seen a lotta girls try the same thing, but they think the way they do it is to drink and talk rough, but that doesn't cut it. The first thing I did was make them respect me as a woman--and then they had to respect my ability. And that was true. ... I watched how I dressed, how I walked, how I talked. There was times I could be deep, and there was times when I wanted to laugh but I had to keep a stone straight face. ...
Georgie married Frank H. Sicking (1909-1974), a native of Muenster in Cooke County north of Dallas, Texas. The two operated several ranches in Arizona, California, and Nevada before they settled down on an unimposing spread near Fallon in Churchill County in western Nevada. There the couple reared their three children. Her poem "Blood, Sweat, and Tears" highlights the difficulty of operating a ranch without financial backing and inheritance.Georgie described Frank as a "real cowboy" who even performed household chores while she was out riding the herd: "He was always there when the chips were down."
Sicking was widowed at the age of fifty-three. She then ran her own herd of sixty Brahman cattle and frequented livestock auctions. When the Nature Conservancy purchased the water rights surrounding her Nevada land, she sold the ranch and began to spent her time in poetry, a pursuit that she had first began when she was seventeen. In her lifetime she has penned some seventy poems and has received many awards. Nevada honored her for having ridden 100,000 miles on horseback and for being the first resident of the state inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas. She received the "Gail Gardner Award" for outstanding work in the genre of cowboy poetry.This honor is named for Gail I. Gardner (1892-1988), an easterner who came west to become a cowboy and was later the postmaster of Prescott, Arizona.
Though legally blind, she still performs at several cowboy poetry gatherings. In 1985, she performed at the first annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. She is a featured contributor at the Bar D Ranch Cowboy Poetry site in St. Helena in Napa County in northern California.
Sicking's biography, by Glorianne Wiegand, is entitled A Mare Among Geldings. In 2004, Greg Snider and Dawn Smallman of Far Away Films produced Ridin' and Rhymin', an hour-long documentary about Sicking's life. Among her poems are "To Be a Top Hand", "Old Bay", "A Time for Remembering", "Be Yourself", and "Housewife".
In retirement, Sicking rides her horse "Monty" along the Powder River into Kaycee in Johnson County, Wyoming, where she shares many of her stories of the West of yesteryear.Sicking said, "I know I have enjoyed the best of two worlds. I know what it is to rope a wild mustang and have him hit the end of the rope, and I know what it is to rock a baby. I think I've truly lived. ..."
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license