Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show made at least one stop in Idaho Falls in the early part of the Twentieth Century. A competing spectacle, the “101 Ranch Show” played in Boise on June 17, 1912, a time when wagons were still more common than automobiles on the streets.
The 101 Ranch was a real place, an 87,000-acre spread in northeastern Oklahoma that was the largest diversified farm and ranch at the time, boasting, according to a 1905 Idaho Statesman article, 9,000 acres of wheat, 3,000 acres of corn, and 10,000 head of longhorn cattle. The wild west show was just one of their many enterprises.
During its 1912 visit to Boise the paper carried stories about the “Dare Devil Girls” of the 101 Ranch. The best-known cowgirl appearing was Lulu Bell Parr, who had also appeared in the Buffalo Bill’s shows. Lulu was your typical cowgirl, having grown up in Indiana, moving to Ohio when she got married in 1896. She was divorced in 1902 and by 1903 she was travelling in Europe with Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show.
The Statesman reported that she was one of the most “fearless riders and skillful manipulators of the lariat, [and was] to the manor born, for much of her life has been spent on a ranch, and the ranch life appeals to her as the only one that is really worthwhile.” One could be forgiven for wondering why she was performing in a string of wild west shows if green acres was the only place to be.
Still, she was a superb rider. “Many times,” the article said, “both on the cattle range and in the exhibitions of the 101 Ranch, Miss Parr has courted injury and possible death by her daredevil riding.” The preceding spring, in that well-known Cowtown, Philadelphia, she dared to ride “an outlaw pony that had defied nearly all the cowboys and other rough riders. She made the attempt and would have achieved an immediate victory over the vicious animal if her saddle girth had not slipped and thrown her to the ground. Notwithstanding the fact that she was momentarily stunned and received numerous painful bruises, the plucky little rider attempted the feat again the next day and triumphed over the animal.”
The wild west shows dwindled in popularity. By 1929 they were about dead. Lulu Bell Parr retired, broke and discouraged. She settled in Ohio where she lived with her brother until her death in 1960 at age 84.