Spain. September 1932. Alice Greenough, a seasoned cowgirl, sits astride an angry steer. In the place of a saddle, a surcingle, a sort of plastic girdle, has been fashioned around the animal’s back and cinched to his stomach. He doesn’t like it. Alice’s attractive face is focused as she secures a good grip on the flat braided rope tied to the steer’s flank. When she was ready, the bucking chute opened and the angry beast stormed into the arena. The spectators were on their feet, cheering. Alice was quickly thrown from the steer’s back, but not off the animal entirely. He wouldn’t stop kicking and jumping long enough for the rider to drop safely to the ground. Matadors dressed in traditional garb raced to the scene and threw their capes over the steer’s head to slow him. Finally, the cowgirl leapt off.
Thirty-year-old Alice was one of only six people in history, and the only woman, to avoid injury riding a steer with a surcingle. Bullfighting fans erupted with applause at the achievement. Alice bowed and waved at the enthusiastic onlookers.
Alice was born daring. Her parents, Benjamin and Myrtle Greenough, were residents of Red Lodge, Montana. They welcomed their daughter to the world on March 17, 1902. Benjamin was a rancher, and his seven children helped him work the property. Alice learned to rope and ride at a young age. By the time she was fourteen, she was delivering the U. S. mail on horseback to friends and neighbors along a thirty-seven-mile route around Billings. She was still in grammar school when she began riding saddle broncs at local rodeos, and a few years later, she and her sister Marge were hired by the Jack King Wild West Show to be trick riding performers.
Alice won the World’s Championship in women’s bronc riding in Boston in 1933, 35, and 36, and again in 1940 in New York. Her professional career spanned more than twenty-four years. She was one of the stars of the Madison Square Garden rodeo for eighteen straight seasons. She traveled throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada, competing for titles in relay racing, trick roping, and riding. Alice toured England and Australia and in 1934 won the women’s bronc riding event in Melbourne. During her travels, she met with British royalty including King George V and the Duke of Windsor.
Not content with performing solely in Wild West Shows, Alice was eventually hired as a stunt woman for motion pictures and provided riding lessons to the King of the Cowboys and the Queen of the West, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
Alice was married twice, to Roy Cabill and then to Joe Orr. She and Joe created their own show, the Greenough-Orr Rodeo. Their rodeo featured the first woman’s barrel racing event. Not only did Alice help produce the various shows, but she also participated in the acts as well.
Alice Greenough-Orr was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1985. She passed away at the age of ninety-three at her home in Tucson, Arizona, in 1995.