The Gallop Report

A Long-Lived Cowgirl

June 1, 2012

The oldest member of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame dies at 107.

Isora Young ropes a calf. Photo courtesy of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on America’s Horse Daily in the spring of 2011, as Isora DeRacy Young was about to celebrate her 106th birthday. Sadly, we’re updating and re-publishing the story after Isora died on May 30, 2012, at age 107. (See her obituary here.) She was the oldest member of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and was thought to be the oldest woman in Texas.  

In the July 2011 issue of America’s Horse, three independent, spirited members of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame defined what “cowgirl” means to them, talked about the biggest risks they’ve ever taken and more. 

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame sent us another story, which is a look at another cowgirl hall of famer who has that same strength of character: 

When Isora DeRacy Young saw her first day of life in 1904, it was without the fanfare that she later experienced as an independent woman who developed a national reputation in the rodeo arena, as well as a rancher and business woman. 

Isora of Stephenville, Texas, who celebrated her 107th birthday May 20, 2012, was the oldest living member of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. She may also have been the oldest living woman in Texas following the death of Eunice Sanborn of Jacksonville, Texas, in January 2011, at the age of 114. Isora passed away May 30, 2012, in Fort Worth, with a memorial service to be held June 4.

The Texas Legislature honored Isora with a proclamation May 20, 2011, and flew a flag over the Texas Capital that was later presented to her. 

A more recent photo of Isora Young. Courtesy of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

Isora was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1979 and was honored for her role as a champion calf roper and barrel racer from a time when women in rodeo were very rare. She began competing in the early 1930s and was promoted as one of only two cowgirl calf ropers in the world. She followed the rodeo circuit all across the country and aided in the organization of the Girls Rodeo Association (the precursor to the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association) until she retired to ranching. 

“Isora is a great testimony to the resiliency of women raised in the West,” said the museum’s executive director, Pat Riley. “Women of today can learn so much from her life that included fame, a long marriage and the birth of her entrepreneurial spirit.” 

Isora, who lived independently with a cat named Sugar, was profiled in Erath County Living, where she spoke of a life that did not include public school until she was 15 and being named a deputy sheriff in Reeves County, where she carried a pearl-handled revolver while she collected taxes. 

She married I.W. “Dub” Young in 1939, and the two traveled throughout the West competing in rodeos before buying a ranch near Stephenville. After leasing their ranch in 1947, they moved to South Dakota to ranch and continue rodeoing until their retirement from the sport. The couple returned to Erath County, and Isora began an income tax service business. When Dub died in 1976, Isora had 400 customers and moved to Stephenville. 

“I wanted to stay on the ranch, but Dub told me when he was gone, I should move to town,” she told the magazine. “So that’s what I did.” 

She enjoyed a family that includes three granddaughters, six great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren. 

“I’ve sure had fun,” Isora said last year. “I can eat anything I want, and I really like spicy food. I haven’t been sick that much; my hearing and eyesight are not what they used to be, but I can still get around all right. I’ve got wonderful memories, but all my old friends are gone.” 

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame honors and celebrates women, past and present, whose lives exemplify the courage, resilience and independence that helped shape the American West. The museum fosters an appreciation of the ideals and spirit of self-reliance they inspire. 

Holly Clanahan

Holly Clanahan
Editor, America's Horse magazine