At roughly 5’ 4” tall, the petite, blonde Maggie Parker looks more like a rodeo queen than the fearless cowgirl she’s become.
Out of Fort Gibson, Okla., the 19-year-old Parker made pro rodeo history last month as the first female PRCA bull rider to compete and win money against a field of 37 men in the daring sport. PRCA is the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, headquartered in Colorado Springs.
On June 2, Parker rode out 8 seconds on a bull named “B-12” at a rodeo in Bennington, Kan., eking out a score of 70, which was good enough for sixth place and a little history in the making.
On July 4, Parker tried her luck again at the 68th Annual Rodeo of Ozarks in Springdale, and while she was thrown from the bull shortly after leaving the chute, she quickly jumped up and limped out of the way after sustaining a slight blow to her left shin from the kicking bull.
This was Parker’s eighth try this year on the professional circuit where she’s earned just $460 for her gritty performances.
“People think I’m crazy but it’s something I have wanted for a long time,” Parker said following her riding attempt at Parson’s Stadium. “When you feel that power underneath you, it’s awesome and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. It’s like dancing in rhythm with the bulls, you have to relax and let them lead because you can’t control them.”
She began training for this dangerous profession about four year ago and works with David Bailey stock contractors on a ranch in Fort Gibson when she’s not traveling to rodeos. Parker spends roughly 15 days of the month traveling for more riding opportunities and left Springdale shortly after her event because she is to ride in Hamel, Minn. this weekend. Though Chap’s has come through with some apparel, Parker is seeking other sponsors to help with travel costs.
While Parker isn’t the only female bull rider in the country, she was the first to earn money which will allow her to purchase her PRCA membership card — a $1,000 investment. Parker came within one second of winning enough to buy the card earlier this year, but she remains dedicated to that primary goal.
She is a Michigan native but calls Fort Gibson home these days and said her parents have never seen her ride. She became interested in the sport after watching it on television when she just 16.
While still in high school she regularly drove her 1972 pick-up truck two hours to a practice pen to learn how to mount the bulls. After graduation she moved to Edmond, Okla., to learn the horse shoe trade. She also spent seven months training for the rough and tumble sport in California with 1970 World Champion bull rider Gary Leffew.
Leffew, who told the PRCA press following the Bennington ride last month, “If there’s going to be a girl make it in professional bull riding it’s going to be her. She has the heart and grit in her soul that it’s going to take to get it done.”
He said, “I had her switch hands, where she could learn to build all new habits, and I wanted her on at least 100 bulls before she entered rodeos. She is about halfway there, but is entering anyway, so any wins between now and her 100 will be a bonus.”
Parker said she’s in the sport for the same reason the guys are: “I love doing it. I didn’t set out to prove anything, except to myself.”
She draws inspiration from a famed Oklahoma Cowboy named Freckles Brown, who rode the famous bull, “Tornado”, in the 1967 National Finals — the only cowboy to do so in 220 tries.
“Freckles Brown was an amazing person and even though he’s not here today, he set a great example for us all to follow,” Parker said.
Bull riding is physically brutal and Parker’s had a few minor injuries along with way with cracked ribs, a broken foot and routine bumps and bruises. Despite the physical aspect of bull riding, Parkers says it’s at least 85% mental most of the time.
When she’s taking position on the bulls’ back, Parker clears her head and let’s muscle memory take over the moment the chute opens.
“Hearing the whistle blow after being in sync with a hard bucking bull for eight seconds is the best feeling in the world,” she said.