by Shirley Morris
©2009 All Rights Reserved
Rodeo cowgirl, rodeo queen, movie queen, Mabel Strickland was the whole package. The most photographed of all the early cowgirls, Mabel was equally at home in the rodeo arena as she was on the silver screen.
After winning title for the World Champion Lady Rider at the Cheyenne Frontier Days, she went on to perform in the World Series Rodeo at Madison Square Garden in New York and competed in the trick riding event with a dozen other cowboys and cowgirls. Mabel was performing a trick in which she goes under the horse's neck and grabs the saddle on the other side as the horse gallops around the arena. Somehow, she lost her grip and fell beneath the belly of the galloping horse. She was injured quite severely and newspapers reported her as "near death". She did recover and went on to win several more championships.
Years later, Mabel established herself as a sought after movie actress and stunt woman in Hollywood. In 1936 she signed for a supporting role in the film, "Rhythm On The Range" with Bing Crosby. A set was duplicated to look like the arena at Madison Square Garden where she had been so badly injured in 1926. As Mabel walked out to the set, she fainted in front of a gate that looked just like the one where she was trampled. She was rushed to the hospital where physicians reported a hemorrhage had reapeared at the site of the old internal wound! She recovered once again and finished the movie on schedule.
Photo courtesy Linne Mackenzie