Imagine the wide open places with rocks and sagebrush marking the landscape. Trees or cactus reach to the blue sky like bandits when the posse catches up with them. As the music crescendos the horses and riders thunder through the foliage. Shots ring out, riders duck as they desperately try to find a shelter of some sort or outrun the bullets.
They finally find a place to call a halt. The horses are breathing hard as they stand with head down, glad to stop their frantic gallop. The riders group and wonder what to do next. This is their land, their cattle and homes; why are they the ones on the run for their lives? Their cattle are scattered and easy pickings for the cattle baron and his hired guns to round up now.
Sounds like a premise of an old western TV show or a John Wayne movie doesn’t it? But this is real life for the Bassett sisters, Josie and Ann. They lived all this and more while trying to keep their ranch going as well as help their neighbors keep their ranches too.
I was thinking their lives were like the good old westerns and they were, but it’s opposite; the movies and old westerns must have gotten some of their material and story lines from the Bassett sister’s real life adventures. It’s thrilling to read about them and their antics, but they were also just living out their days trying to make a living.
Ann had a death threat and both she and her sister were accused of cattle rustling, and even though Josie was tried twice for the crime, she was acquitted. The sisters lived their ranching life mostly in Colorado in a place called Brown’s Park. Their mother, Elizabeth was quite the cattle rancher too. One of her hired hands was Butch Cassidy. Josie was a young teenager and Ann was only eleven, but they were known to fight over his affections.
The sisters lived long lives of cattle ranching and all that went with it back in that era. They also saw the end of the wilderness and their way of life, but they never gave up their pioneer spirits or the lessons learned.
Read more about the Bassett sisters in the book Cowgirls edited by Erin Turner.