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Come Join Us! June 27, 2016

By Pennee Murphree, Former Quadrille de Mujeres Member

In 1975, I went to the Annual Dust Bowl called Maricopa Stagecoach Days, a small community mini-Gymkhana, mini-rodeo that raised money for the community. As I watched the various events, as well as my four bored children who by now were covered with six inches of dust, two of which were having an asthma attack, an announcement was made that Maricopa’s famous (I had never heard of them) Quadrille de Mujeres were riding next. (Could anything famous come out of Maricopa??) Then fourteen crazy women blasted into the arena and proceeded to tear it up on horseback. (Boy, the dust really flew then.) Speed, beautiful horses, precision (well, almost). Beautiful costumes (one zipper pulled apart during the performance and the gal’s blouse almost came off) and pretty ladies. I dusted off my kids, headed home for a bath and decided that was the kind of community service I’d like to do. I set a goal to ride with the Mujeres.

Believe me it wasn’t easy. I was a 35-year-old mother of four, working with my husband, Pat, in farming. As if farming wasn’t bad enough, I had found a new challenge in the Mujeres, and, brother, I got one. With Pat’s encouragement and help in hooking up the horse trailer, I was off to “drill.” I hadn’t been riding seriously for years and had never pulled a horse trailer, so I had a lot to learn in more ways than one. I did have a beautiful Quarter horse given to me by my dad. Ginger was the right color, sorrel, and size. The Mujeres actually liked Ginger and put up with me.

By the way, you don’t just “join” drill, you are invited, and after intensive abuse the gals vote on horse and rider. They continued to abuse me for several years and finally decided that I could (If I was a good little girl) ride in the parade, with the first being Tucson’s Fiesta de Los Vaqueros. They were even considerate and told me a week before the parade so I would have time to make a costume (four, actually) get hats, tack and so on together. Parades are really a miserable experience. You stand in line for hours waiting for the Parade to start. The hours drag on and the horses go crazy. It’s generally burning hot, raining, or freezing cold. Your hat is pinned to your head so tight you think you’re going to die. If you lose your hat, that is like the biggest sin ever!!! But, you wave and smile and hold your tummy in as if this parade was the most important event in the country.

My next step, riding flag, was explained to me as being a very important advancement. Cruel and unusual punishment might be a better description. While the drill proceeds, hell bent for leather to the tune of “The Orange Blossom Special,” the flag girls dodge in and out, taking their lives in their own hands, all the time trying to keep a hold of the flag. Your hand shakes almost as hard as your legs, which by now you can hardly keep in the stirrups. Several years of performing as flag girl and I was beginning to think there might be a better way to end it all!!!

But, alas, how could I turn down another promotion, this time in “drill” proper. Well, you are told who your partner will be and what position you will ride. You’re told everything in “drill.” Those I have referred to as “they,” the leadership, the “Drill Directors” have never heard of democracy. “They” demand concentration, hard work and practice, practice, practice!!! “They” don’t notice bruised legs, smashed fingers, aching backs or wrecked horse trailers, just be there! “Drill” comes first!!!

There was great glory. Riding with the Mujeres even got my picture in the newspaper. Of course, you couldn’t tell the gals apart, but I was there! One sure way to make the papers is to hit the ground, get knocked out cold and lay there while the rest of the team finishes “Drill.” That happened to one gal. Thank goodness she had friends and family to drag her out of the arena. You never, never stop drill during a performance no matter who or what hits the arena floor!

So even with my desire to ride with these gals, finally, I woke up and began to wonder where my brain was on that fateful day when I first saw the Mujeres. Yes, we have a roaring good time “drilling.” If you are female, can stay on a fast Quarter horse, have time to practice every Tuesday, are slim and trim, (we all start out that way), don’t bruise easily, can make financial sacrifices (Uniforms, hats, tack, horse trailer, boots, tiara and on and on and on), love rodeos and an occasional parade and have good health insurance … Come Join Us!!!

 

Editor’s note: Quadrille de Mujeres Director Judy Blair regularly passed this commentary out to new girls newly minted into the drill team. It was, she suggested, the best description of what someone could expect as a member of the Quadrille.

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