by Heather Blanton
Some girls dream about princess dresses and tea parties. And then there are girls like Kittie Wilkins. Yeah, she liked the more genteel, refined things in life, like her piano, but all that was a poor second to her beloved horses.
Kittie, who became known as the Horse Queen of Idaho, was born in Oregon in 1857, but moved with her family to Idaho where they began ranching. As Kittie grew, so did her skills with horses. Astounding skills. She rode as if she’d been born in the saddle. Passion, skill, and an effervescent personality combined to make Kittie the perfect woman for building a successful horse operation.
By 1880 her father had invested a fair amount of time and money in horses and the payoff was beginning to stream in, especially in the form of his daughter. By ’87 Kittie was making spectacular contributions. Not only riding, roping, and breaking horses better than most of the hands, she was the head salesperson and marketer. Newspapers loved the story of the pretty little filly, pun intended, who could not only do a man’s work but excelled at it. Kittie loved playing to the male reporters who were stunned but, in most cases, also admiring of her success.
For thirty years plus, the Wilkins Horse Company at Bruneau's Diamond Ranch supplied thousands of horses for customers all over North America. Thanks to Kittie’s leadership, it built and maintained a sterling reputation. Sales were strong for decades and the Diamond Ranch counted some pretty impressive customers among its fold, such as the US Army and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
One cowboy later wrote about Kittie’s tough reputation, “If a man weren’t a good rider when he went to work for Kit Wilkins, he was a good rider when he left or he wasn’t riding at all—unless in a hearse.”
Now that’s how you make a cowgirl … a supportive father and a little burning determination.
If you’d like to learn more about Kittie, allow me to recommend a couple of fascinating articles: http://cdapress.com/columns/syd_albright/article_4dd5755c-a08d-11e5-9fac-97c77a19e031.html and https://ruralwomensstudies.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/meeting-miss-kittie-my-friendship-with-kittie-wilkins-the-horse-queen-of-idaho/