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The First of the "Cowgirls"
Lives With Her Memories
of Past Glory

The Daily Ardmoreite, 20 Jan 1931

A chill March wind shakes the vines that cling to the old ranch house, and the dead leaves, curled like skelton fingers, scratching up and down on the rotting boards and around the windows, make me shiver. I tuck the muffler closer up under my chin and begin to hum that old, sad reframe:
"Massa's in the cold, cold ground."

But Zach Mulhall, master of the ranch for half a century, is not in the cold earth. He lives in the cold tomb of gray stone that he built fifty years ago. I can see it, beyond the corner of the house, out in the center of a xx field in which Zach Mulhall trained Will Rogers and Tom Mix and his own son and three daughters to be the champion riders and rope throwers and twirlers, broncho busters and bulldoggers of the whole world.

Of all that gay crowd of cowboys and cowgirls the only one left upon the ranch now is Lucille Mulhall, and she is not gay any more. In her face is such a look of sadness that it brings a lump into my throat, as she goes from room to room of the big ranch house. I remember her more than thirty years ago, when, a beautiful girl, she went with her father's Wild West show to a fair in St. Louis. It was the sort of show that came to be known in later years as a "rodeo," and since then it has ceased to be a rareity, but then it was all new and startling.

Will Rogers was with it as a rope-twirler, and it was his start in the show business. Lucille gave exhibitions of rough riding, of roping and tying wild steers and riding steers. She was the first "cowgirl" to appear in public. Later, along with her two sisters, she went with her father's show to Madison Square Garden, in New York, and the newspapers and magazines printed pages about them. She was full of life and fun then, but now-

Roped a Lobo Wolf
She takes me into the big room that was called the "parlor" in the old days. It is the room in which President Roosevelt used to sit by the hour and listen to Zach tell stories of his adventures when all of what is now Oklahoma was wild, unfenced and unsettled country, a haven for the adventurous spiritis of the whole world. Lucille rummages in a drawer and brings forth a bundle of musty and faded newspaper clippings.

"Here are some of teh things they wrote about me then," she says, as she unfolds and smooths them out. Here is a page from the old New York Herald, with a streamer across the top in bold letters:


"When the Mulhall cowgirls came to New York, the brilliant life of Broadway and Fifth avenue felt a momentary shock of amazed disturbance," this page article began, and then it went on to say,"

"You may catch a buffalo or a coyote and put it on exhibition at the zoological garden, but you can't catch a cowgirl and make her live in a Harlem flat or in a Mahhattan brownstone front. The cowgirl cannot live under a roof or on the pavements of a great city. She cannot exist in the heated and perfurmed air of the luxurious hote." And so on.

The article tells of the many wonderful things these girls had done away out in Oklahoma - how they chased and lassoed lobo wolves and drove a herd of cattle 300 miles across the open prairie.

"That is true, we did that," says Lucille. "Father put me in a convent in St. Louis to cure me of my wild riding, and I came hom on a summer vacation while President Roosevelt was visiting at our ranch. We were talking of the lobo wolf one night. Roosevelt was telling how Ernest Seton Thompson, hunter and author, had written of its ferocity and wisdom, and I said that I had often run them down and shot them from horseback. Roosevelt smiled until his teeth gleamed in the lamplight.

"Yes, Lucille," he said, "but did you ever rope a lobo wolf?" I said I had not, but I knew I could do it. He challenged me to rope one and bring it in for him. I did so, while he was there. I ran it down, lassoed it and then got off my horse and beat it to death with my stirrup iron. I gave the pelt to Roosevelt and he took it East with him, and for a long time it adorned a spot in the White House. I saw it later when I was President Roosevelt's guest at the White House. He never tired of showing that pelt to visitors and of telling them how a cowgirl friend of his captured it."

Drove Herd of Cattle 300 Miles
[unreadable paragraph]

"This reference to our driving a herd across the prairie pertains to the time when my sister, Mildred, and I did that. Father had a herd of 700 steers out in the Texas Panhandle country and he was so tied up that he could not go to drive them in. I proposed that Mildred and I do it, and he consented. We rode horseback from the ranch here to the Panhandle, taking with us of course, a few cowboys, and we drove those cattle the 300 miles to this place. It was rainy weather and bad going, but we didn't lose a steer."

In the recess of a bay window in this old-fashoned parlor is an ancient grand piano and, as I touch its ivory keys, Lucille lays a hand upon my wrist.

"Dont," she says, "I don't want to hear it. Let it sleep. Here is what I wanted to show you," and she takes from the piano top a boy's size cowboy boot with high heels. Age has shriveled and browned the leather of it. The top, which was once of brilliant red morocco leather, is faded.

"That boot has stood there for fifty years," she says. "It belonged to my little brother, Logan, who died long years ago. Father loved him more than any other child he ever had, and he had a pair of cowboy boots made for hi. It almost broke father's heart when Logan died. He couldn't bear to bury Logan in the cold ground so he xx ... build that tomb you see out there. It cost him $3,000. When mother died last spring we put her in there, and when father died last fall we placed him there, too. This county you are in now is Logan County. Father had it named after my brother, Logan, the boy who wore this boot."

Defeated Old Cow Hands at Roping

,,,signed photographs of all the famous frontiersmen of the Southwest, and mementoes of her travels with Wild West shows over all America and Europe. On the piano top are coiled the very ropes with which she made these records, and there are ropes that were used by Will Rogers and Tom Mix when they were cowboys on this ranch.

Outlaw a Welcome Friend
It was in this house, and in this very room, that I first saw Henry Starr, the most daring outlaw the Southwest ever produced. It was years ago. I came to this ranch to interview Zach Mulhall about a rumor that President Roosevelt was going to make him governor of Oklahoma. During the day I spent here, a young man was curled up in a large chair in the bay window of this room, steadily reading a book. Zach introduced him as Henry something. I have forgotten what. As he got out of the easy chair to shake hands, and later, when he came into the dining room for his dinner, I noticed that his hair was black as any crow's wing; his eyes were so black they sparkled, his skin was swart, as if he had a dash of Indian blood in his veins; but the most striking thing about him, that I remembered long after, was his litheness. He was thin and straight-limbed, and he moved with the elastic, willowy suppleness of a panther. He scarcely spoke to me as good-hearted Zach Mulhall introduced him as: "A friend of mine from down in Texas."

I did not suspect then that he was Henry Starr, the "lone outlaw" who, single-handed, had held up and robbed so many banks in Oklahoma that the bankers were in a panic, and that then, as he curled up in an easy chair, his feet under him, Indian fashion, reading, there was a price of $5,000 on his head.

A few years later Henry Starr, leading a gang, held up and robbed two banks at once, in Stroud, Ok., and Henry was shot and captured as he was leaving town with the money. I went to see him in the jail in Chandler and the moment I laid eyes on him I recognized him as the lithe human panther I had met here in this ranch house. I remained in Chandler several days, seeing Star hourly and writing a story about him twice a day.

Meanwhile outlaws of other days and friends of outlaws, and men who were famous as outlaw chasers dropped into Chandler from all around to say "Howdy" to Henry Star, for Star was considered the "king of 'em all." Those men gathered in the sheriff's office to "chaw" and smoke and talk. Among them was Zach Mulhall, whose best horse Starr had been riding when he was captured.

"How did Starr get my horse?" repeated Zach. "Why, I've known Henry ever since he was a boy; knew his father and mother before him, and all his folk. So, Henry, like any other Oklahoman who is my friend, is welcome to come to my house any old time and stay as long as he will, the longer the better. I have a hundred horses up there at my ranch and any friend of mine is free to borrow one whenever he wants it. That's always been the law of the range. So, Henry, wanting a horse, just borrowed this one from my stable, without asking my leave, and when I heard he had been downed and riding a fine blooded horse, I came down here to see if it was one of mine, and sure enough it was. I'm taking my horse back home, but before I go, I'm stopping here to see if there's any way I can help my friend, Henry Starr."

That's the sort of a friend Zach was to all his friends, whether they xx or what.

Once Had 80,000 Acres
Lucille and I went out to see the family tomb, and as we stood on the lee side of it, out of the way of the cutting March winds, said:

"How much land did your father have here once?

"Well, you know, father came into this country while it was Indian Territory, and he squatted right here on Beaver Creek and went into the cattle business. Once he had 80,000 acres under fence here and the government made him take down all the fence, because it was not yet open to settlers. When this country was opened to settlement, he ran in here and took up this 160 acres here as a homestead and he kept adding to it until he had 5,000 acres. That was when he built up his big cattle business and later went out with his Wild West shows.

"Tom Mix was a cowboy here under father and learned here all the roping and riding tricks that have since made him famous on the screen. I think Tom married his first wife here. Will Rogers learned his stage business with the lariat right here. You see that little knoll over there in the center of the field? I saw him get a bad fall from a horse right there. Will was the same witt, good-natured fellow then that he is now. We all loved him."

"How much land is in this Mulhall ranch now? I asked.

"It isn't large enough to call a ranch any more," she answered. "You know how liberal adn free-handed father was. If he had a dollar he would share it with anyone. Well, in his later years he went into debt and one parcel of land after another went, until it all melted down to the homestead of a few hundred acres. That's all there is left of this once big ranch, and that was tied up so father could not dispose of it, or maybe it would have gone, too.

A Heart Easily Touched
The rambling old ranch house that has sheltered so many distinguished guests and was the scene of so much gaiety in the old days is falling into ruin. I think it has not been painted for years and the corners of the front porch are sagging. All across the front sprouts a vine that was dug out of the bank of Beaver Creek many years ago. It is doing its part toward the rotting of the old frame house.

In the days when this ranch house stood alone on the prairie, far from any other house or town, it was a landmark and place of rest and refreshment for any man and his beast, or any number of men who chanced this way. No one ever hesitated to stop at Zach Mulhall's for a meal or a night's lodging, and there was always a welcome for all who came. One hears many stories here of the generosity of Zach Mulhall, but the best of them all, to my notion, is the following:

One day Zach was at the railroad station in Mulhall, the town named after him, and as the train rolled in and the conductor got off he called Zach's attention to a woman and her six children who were on the train. Her husband had died, she was going back to her father, and she was destitute. She hadn't a cent and neither she nor the children had eaten a bite since the day before, and it was then noon. Zach listened to one of the children wailing. Then he spoke to the engineer of the train, and made a break for his ranch house, about two blocks distant.

Mrs. Marshall had just cooked a fine, fat turkey and it was cooling on the table. Zach dashed into the house, and seeing the turkey he whipped the tablecloth up around it, and rushed out with it and ran for the train shouting:

"Hold that train a minute!"

His wife thought he had gone crazy. She saw him leap on the train. He deposited the turkey, cloth and all, in the lap of the mother of the six children, and she thought he was crazy, too, until she opened it and saw that turkey. Zach walked back to the ranch house perfectly unconcerned until he met his wife at the door.

"What on earth did you do that for?" she inquried. He explained about the hungry mother and six children, but his wife said:

"Zach, you know we've got company for dinner."

"Company, hell! Give 'em crackers," said Zach.

Lucille, sad-faced, fumbling with a box of photographs, sat in her father's easy chair and talked in her peculiar, slow manner of the days when this ranch was thousands of acres in extent, when thousands of cattle ranged it, when 100 cowboys made the place lively, when they had a cowboy band and it went to Washington to the inauguration of President McKinley, when the ranch home, silent now, rang with laughter.

Passing With the Old Days

Now her sister, Mildred, is Mrs. Carmichael, and lives in Florida. Her brother, Charlie, is in Hollywood playing the cowboy in moving pictures and she is alone on the ranch.

"You've heard that song, haven't you? It goes like this," and she recited a line or two of it:

Where is now the merry party, I remember long ago?
They have all dispersed and wandered far away, far away.

"I'd play and sing it for you, but I can't sing any more and I just dread to touch the piano or to hear music," she said.

"Why don't you go to Hollywood yourself and get into moving pictures? You could still ride a wild horse and rope a steer, couldn't you?" I asked.

She shook her head. "Too late," she said. "Just about all that's left of me and this old ranch is a memory. Just as the Oklahoma of the old ranch days is fast becoming a memory, as the pioneers die off. We all will soon be gone."

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