May 20, 1921
Seligman, Yavapai County
November 6, 2016 95) (aged|
Buffalo, Johnson County
|Resting place||Churchill County Cemetery in Fallon, Churchill County, Nevada|
|Residence||Kaycee, Johnson County, Wyoming|
Rancher; Cowboy poet
|Spouse(s)||Frank H. Sicking (married 1940-1974; his death)|
|Parent(s)||Oscar and Mayne Connell|
Georgie Connell Sicking (May 20, 1921 – November 6, 2016) was a rancher and active participant in cowboy poetry gatherings throughout the American West. A Wyoming resident in her later years, Sicking was inducted in 1989 into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. Described as "a cowboy who just happens to be a woman", Sicking was 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 C. Connell (1886-1950) and Mayne Connell, operated a ranch at Knight Creek. Her mother, who had been cooking on Dutch ovens, headed to Seligman a month before Georgia 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, Mrs. Connell gave birth the next day, not the next month as had been expected. Because the Connells had hoped for a boy whom they would call "George", the newborn girl was instead named "Georgie".
Mayne 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. A surviving sister, later Emma Jane Brocchini, lived with their mother. Another sister, Ada, married. Her late 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." Another surviving sister was Sammie Brockenbury of California.
Cowboy culture and poetry
Sicking preferred 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 described 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 Henry 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, Joe F. Sicking (wife Nancy) of Winnemucca, Nevada; Sue Jarrard (husband Charles "Sonny") of Kaycee, Wyoming, and Edward Sicking (deceased).
Sicking's poem, "Blood, Sweat, and Tears" highlights the difficulty of operating a ranch without financial backing and inheritance. Frank became a brand inspector in Fallon, while Georgia became a successful barrel racer. She described her husband 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."
Georgie was widowed at the age of fifty-three when Frank was killed in a woodcutting accident on their ranch. She subsequently worked at various stockyards and ran her own herd of sixty Brahman cattle, roped wild horses, and frequented livestock auctions. When the Nature Conservancy purchased the water rights surrounding her Nevada land, she sold the ranch and began to spend 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. In 1994, she received the "Gail Gardner Award" for "Outstanding Working Cowboy Poet". This honor is named for Gail I. Gardner (1892-1988), an Arizona cowboy who was later the postmaster of Prescott, Arizona.
Though legally blind, she still performed at several cowboy poetry gatherings. In 1985, she participated in the first annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. She was a featured contributor at the Bar D Ranch Cowboy Poetry site in St. Helena in Napa County in northern California. She always memorized her poems.
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". Her last poem, "When I Get to Heaven," was featured in the October 11, 2016, issue of the Kaycee Voice. Sicking received the Pioneer Woman Award at the National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration in Lubbock, Texas. She published three books of her original poetry and a compact disc of cowboy poems.
Later years and death
In retirement, Sicking rode her horse "Monty" along the Powder River into Kaycee in Johnson County, Wyoming, where she shared many of her stories of the Old West. 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. ..."
Sicking died at the age of ninety-five at Johnson County Memorial Hospital in Buffalo, Wyoming. She is interred beside her husband at Churchill County Cemetery in Fallon, Nevada.
- "Obituary: Georgie Sicking". Inside Northern Nevada. November 14, 2016. Retrieved November 20, 2016.
- ""The Last of the Old-Time Cowboys": Interview with Georgie Sicking, Fallon, Nevada, August 22, 1992". americanfolk.com. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
- "Oscar C. Connell". Findagrave.com. Retrieved November 20, 2016.
- "Honored guest: Georgie Sicking". cowboypoetry.com. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
- "Judy Andreson, Cowgirl Georgie Sicking: No apologies for a life well-lived, January 28, 2010". Retrieved January 30, 2014.
- "Frank H. Sicking". records.ancestry.com. Retrieved January 31, 2014.
- "Gary Watkins, Confessions of Red Meat Survivors: Georgie Sicking". Range Magazine. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
- "Featured at the Bar D Ranch: Gail Gardner". cowboypoetry.com. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
- A Mare Among Geldings. getcited.org. p. 107. ISBN 0964414147. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
- "Georgie Sicking, Cowboy Poet". Facebook. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
- "Frank Henry Sicking". Findagrave.com. Retrieved November 20, 2016.