TOM GREEN COUNTY, Texas — A Concho Valley woman who grew up on a ranch just south of San Angelo played a key role in the formation of the Girls Rodeo Association, or GRA, in the 1940s.
Because of that and her success as one of the first women to compete in professional rodeo — Betty Barron Dusek is a member of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
In October of 2010 at the age of 79, Dusek attended the induction ceremony into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas. Just a few months before that she had become a member of the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame.
Dusek’s home near Wall is filled with championship belt buckles, plaques, photos and newspaper articles documenting decades of competition and wins in women’s rodeos across Texas and the southwest.
“I didn’t rope with the guys — but I tied down the same way,” said Dusek about her years of competition.
The graduate of San Angelo Central High School learned to rope calves working on her family’s ranch near Susan Peak from an early age.
“I started roping before — yes a long time, a long time before. Of course on the ranch you had to rope — had to do something, ” said Dusek.
In those days women who competed in rodeos did it all from roping calves to running barrels.
Dusek still enjoys watching rodeos whether it’s from home on television or in person in San Angelo at Foster Communications Coliseum.
Dusek has a place in the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and part of the reason is that she helped create the organization that eventually became the modern-day Women’s Professional Rodeo Association or WPRA.
Dusek learned early the value of a good horse — and a good calf for a winning time.
“Pretty much watching the calf….well you know — your horse has got to be straight,” said Dusek, “but if your calf isn’t good it just won’t work.”
Dusek eventually became a world champion calf roper with 14 titles. In addition to being a champion roper, she played a key role in starting the first organization to oversee women’s rodeo events.
In February of 1948 at the San Angelus Hotel in downtown San Angelo…Betty and several dozen other women rodeo competitors gathered to form the “Girl’s Rodeo Association”. They created the group to set competition rules and oversee women’s rodeo events held during sanctioned rodeos.
Dusek became the calf roping director with the GRA. There were about 75 members during the first year of the organization that eventually became the “Women’s Professional Association” of today.
Dusek, who rode horses until just a few years ago, won a number of champion saddles and even a horse through the years. Dusek recalled a story about the time she and a friend tied during a Texas rodeo — and then after the rodeo ran barrels three more times to determine the winner.
“We tied – and so we ran twice…and we still tied,” said Dusek.
On the third run, Betty lost by a tenth of a second — her friend won the saddle.
“She got the saddle and I got the luggage.”