The wind howled across the massive arena that housed a performance of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show in North Platte, Nebraska. Everything that wasn’t nailed down was rolling past the stands, which were filled to overflowing with cheering spectators who were not willing to let the elements prevent them from enjoying the most popular show of the time.
Despite the blowing dust, all eyes were fixed on the action before them. A pair of riders sped past the mesmerized crowd, spurring their animals on in a horse race. One of the horses fell back a bit, allowing the other animal to pull ahead. The lead didn’t last long. The rider leaned forward and pressed the trailing horse to go faster. Back and forth the race went until they slowed their horses almost to a stop and hopped off the animals’ backs in mid stride. The audience happily applauded the act. The riders reached the finish line at the same time. When they removed their hats, the crowd gasped. The exceptional riders were women.
Georgia Duffy and Della Ferrell were members of an elite group of Western girls billed as Beautiful Rancheras. Della was from Colorado, and Georgia hailed from Wyoming. Della joined the Wild West program in 1887; Georgia, in 1886.
The two women appeared in relay races acts together and separately performed rope and riding routines. They were expert horsewomen whether riding astride and sidesaddle. A courier for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West called them “graceful representatives of physical and equestrian beauty.”