Dixie’s grandfather had put on the first rodeo in western Oklahoma. Rodeo was a major part of the family’s life. By the time Dixie was ready to debut they were in the East with Colonel Eskew. Her first job was putting a high school horse through his paces. She was five and a half years old. Shortly, she was trick riding on her 36 inch Shetland pony named Tom Thumb. She could do vaults, croupers and other ground work to the amazement of the audience. This little darling, no bigger than a minute, was a favorite of the fans.
The family always got attention when they performed, but behind the scenes there was much work to be done to keep the acts at their best. Monte and Opal kept their three children on a ‘short leash’. Each child was responsible for their own costumes, which were elaborately designed. They had to make sure there were not rips or tears, and they had to keep their costumes clean by washing and ironing them, or using a dry cleaning solution on some fabrics. Their mounts had to be washed and groomed often, and the tack had to be in good condition for each performance. Once the chores with costumes and horses were complete Opal instructed them with their school lessons. That left very little time for play. Also their parents made sure they did not participate in activities that might cause injuries, or possibly a broken bone, such as ice skating or roller skating. They were not permitted to swim because of the possibility of a bad sunburn. Having to miss a performance meant less money for the family.
The people who witnessed their performances were, in awe of their agility and speed with which they rode in their elaborate costumes and well-groomed horses. No doubt, the children seeing them were envious of their ‘charmed life’. Traveling from town to town, wearing sparkling costumes, getting applause and the excitement of racing around an arena had to impress local youngsters whose day-to-day lives seemed mundane in comparison. The Reger children were important ‘bread-winners’ to the family, which was extremely important in the mid-to-late thirties, as the Depression was ravaging the country.
Eventually they left Colonel Eskew and the family performed at rodeos produced by others. They located on a ranch near Woodward, Oklahoma, where the growing children performed various ranch chores. Dixie began to rope, and in time even began to compete in roping events. She only had four years of public schooling, and actually missed the first month each year and the last month due to their rodeo commitments. When asked what she thought she missed growing up in rodeo she said, “The biggest sacrifice for me was missing the chance to go to school every day like most kids.”
By Dixie’s teenage years there was much talk about staging all-girl rodeos. As early as 1942 one was held, and through the next few years the momentum to give the ‘fair-haired sex’ their own arena. A rodeo for girls here and one there, but not until 1948 did the Girls Rodeo Association actually form. Dixie was right there in the middle of those women promoting the idea and making it happen. Not only was she a founding member and held several offices including Vice President she competed in most all the events, and was the GRA rodeo clown and bullfighter, too.
When Bill Mosley entered Dixie’s life things changed. He stole her heart and they were married in 1953. Dixie retired from her hectic rodeo responsibilities and they settled in Amarillo, Texas, where Bill was a cattle buyer. They had three children, Judy, Clay and Paul, and she immersed herself in parenting and wifely duties as seriously as she had been about her rodeo responsibilities. After her days in rodeo, especially the early days when as a child she had such major responsibilties, she found family and home chores easy and rewarding. She volunteered for her children’s school activities, church work and loved her companionship with Bill.
Don’t think she hasn’t had her share of problems. She is a two-time breast cancer survivor. She’ll celebrate her 86th birthday in October. Husband, Bill, has also had his share of health problems including a broken hip. Her devotion to him is evident in everything they do these days, whether it is going to the gym or just merely staying in their comfortable home together. Bill’s devotion to Dixie is just as strong. Thank goodness they ‘found’ each other!
Dixie was inducted in to the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1982 and has always participated in their activities. She was honored by the Rodeo Historical Society by inducting her in to the Rodeo Hall of Fame, in Oklahoma City, in 2003. She was given the American Cowboy Culture Award for Pioneer Woman at the Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, TX in 2004. She has also attended numerous Rodeo Clown Reunions as an Honoree and is the only woman eligible to do so. She began her rodeo clowning, along with all her other abilities in the arena, when she was 11 years old.
She was asked to participate a few years ago in a Seminar for Nurses and Medical Personnel at Texas Christian University as a speaker about her days in rodeo and being a breast cancer survivor. I attended and the entire auditorium was totally silent as the nursing community listened as she talked and showed photographs of her unusual life.
The honest and straight-forward amazing cowgirl has said, “I’m glad I had the experiences I did. I got to travel and see sights none of my school friends had the opportunity to experience. Our mother always saw that we got to museums and special things at each rodeo location. Since I don’t know what my life would have been like if I hadn’t been in rodeo I’ll take the life I’ve had.” Yes, she’s an amazing cowgirl through and through!