REEVES, CONSTANCE DOUGLAS [CONNIE]
REEVES, CONSTANCE DOUGLAS [CONNIE] (1901–2003). Constance "Connie" Douglas was born in Eagle Pass, Texas, on September 26, 1901. She was the only child of William Constant Douglas, a state district judge and Ada (Wallace) Douglas. Connie's maternal grandfather, Alfred Wallace, was raised on a ranch near Marathon, Texas. Connie credits him for her love of horses. At age five Connie received her first horse from her grandfather. She learned to ride both English and Western saddles during her happy childhood in western Texas. At the age of sixteen Connie and her family moved to San Antonio. She was determined to follow in her father's footsteps and become an attorney. She was one of the first women to attend the University of Texas at Austin's school of law.
The Depression interrupted her plans of becoming an attorney, forcing her to take a job as a school teacher in San Antonio. While teaching English and speech at Main Avenue High School, Connie started the first pep squad in Texas. Thomas Jefferson High School opened its doors in 1932. Connie went there to teach physical education. She formed a second pep squad, this time with a novel idea. The girls wore western-styled uniforms, consisting of blue flannel skirts, a blue bolero jacket, red satin blouse, a pearl grey Stetson hat, and a lasso rope attached by a loop at the waist of their skirt. The name of the squad was the Lassos. The girls were taught to twirl their lassos by Johnny Reagan, a trick rope artist from England. It was a thrilling sight to see 128 girls twirling their lassos in unison. The Lassos began performing at all state and local conventions held in San Antonio in addition to major athletic events.
The Depression took its toll on Connie's family. Her teaching salary was the primary source of income. To bring in additional income, Connie joined Harry Hamilton, a teacher and her fiancé at the time, as a riding instructor at his family's horse stables. Connie began showing her horses at local horse shows. It was not long before her horsemanship and knowledge of horses were well known in the area. In 1936 Connie was asked to join Camp Waldemar as head riding instructor. Camp Waldemar is a girl's camp on the Guadalupe River in the Texas Hill Country near Hunt. It opened in 1926 under the direction of Ora Johnson who had dreamed of developing a camp for young ladies to help them grow into fine noble women. For more than sixty years, Connie taught more than 30,000 girls the love of riding.
Jack Reeves, a cowboy and former rodeo participant, took care of the camp horses. Connie and Jack's mutual love of horses lead to their friendship developing into a love that lasted forty-three years. They were married in 1942. Jack died in 1985 with Connie by his side. They never had any children. Connie wrote a book about her life with Jack, I Married a Cowboy, which was published in 1995.
In 1998 in honor of her contribution perpetuating the ideals, history, and heritage of the American West, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City bestowed upon her the Chester A. Reynolds Memorial Award. She was the first woman to receive this honor. She was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1997. Though she was 100 years old, Connie participated in the parade for the opening of the Hall of Fame in Fort Worth in 2002. That same year, she was presented the Freedom Forum's "Free Spirit Award."
Connie understood the dangers of horseback riding and reportedly was bucked off at least once every year of her life. She had many injuries as a result of her time spent with horses. She had pins placed in one leg after it was shattered from a horse's kick. In order to correct the limp that resulted when her leg healed, Connie had special built-up boots designed. She had to wear these special boots the rest of her life. In 1994 at the age of ninety-two, Connie took a group of women riding when suddenly the horse in front of Connie began to buck. Connie moved her horse closer to help the rider when her horse began to buck. Apparently the riders had disturbed a hornet's nest; Connie was thrown off her horse and landed on top of the hornets. Connie's injuries included three broken ribs, a partially collapsed lung, a broken wrist, and numerous hornet stings. She was taken to a San Antonio hospital where she stayed for nine days. Since her injuries were work-related, Camp Waldemar filed for Texas Worker Compensation Insurance. Representatives were certain that someone at Camp Waldemar had made a mistake when listing Connie's birth date as 1901. Connie became the oldest claimant they had ever had at the time.
On August 5, 2003, Connie was thrown off a horse for the last time. She was riding her favorite horse, Dr. Pepper, when for an unknown reason she fell over the horse's head. As a result of the fall she fractured her neck. Friends were certain that she would survive her injuries but twelve days after her fall on August 17, 2003, Connie Douglas Reeves passed away. She is buried at the Camp Verde Cemetery in Kerr County, Texas. Connie wanted the girls she taught at Camp Waldemar to understand that if they took responsibility for their own lives, limits would fall away before them. Her motto, "Always saddle your own horse," exemplified this belief. A full-size statue of Connie stands on the stable grounds at Camp Waldemar in her honor.
Connie Reeves, I Married a Cowboy (Austin: Eakin Press, 1995). St. Petersburg Times Floridian, September 7, 2003.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Cindy Jones, "REEVES, CONSTANCE DOUGLAS [CONNIE]," accessed January 20, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fre68.
Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on May 9, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.