She rode over the grasslands with her rifle always handy, and during a feud with a neighbor shot the horn off his saddle while he was sitting on it. Those who knew her said she wouldn’t have missed if she was aiming at him.

A Handbook for Ranch Managers

They sure as hell don’t make ’em like her anymore. — jtl, 419


by Scott Thybony at Knau

Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference Manual  It’s time for Scott Thybony’s latest Canyon Commentary. Today, we hear the story of Cecil Creswell, a former Harvey Girl and the only known female cattle rustler in the 20th century. Scott takes us to a stark, desolate landscape where Creswell lived alone on land she homesteaded.

Harvey Girl-turned-cattle rustler Cecil Creswell
Credit The archives of the Old Trails Museum/Winslow Historical Society

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian ViewShe sat alone at night in a two-room house built with her own hands, reading Shakespeare by the light of a lantern. Her paintings of Southwestern landscapes covered the walls, and stored in a box were a few hand-written manuscripts. She had arrived in Arizona when she was 17-years old and went to work at the Harvey House in Winslow, wearing a starched white pinafore over a black dress. But now she no longer owned a single dress, and all she had to eat was meat stolen from other ranchers. The Harvey Girl had turned cattle rustler.

The site of the Creswell homestead near Winslow.
Credit Scott Thybony


Reconnaissance Marine MCI 03.32f: Marine Corps Institute The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other Misfits Combat Shooter's HandbookThe story of Cecil Creswell has brought me to the site of the ranch she homesteaded. Walking about the wreckage of her home, I think about a woman living alone on the edge of a dry river and the hardships she endured.

Like many of the Harvey Girls she soon married, but unlike most she soon divorced.  Her second marriage ended badly when she discovered her husband was already married. During an argument in a Winslow corral he drew a knife and stabbed her. And he kept stabbing. Despite being badly wounded she was able to grab a rock and knock him out cold.

The Essence of Liberty: Volume I: Liberty and History: The Rise and Fall of the Noble Experiment with Constitutionally Limited Government (Liberty and ... Limited Government) (Volume 1)  The Essence of Liberty: Volume II: The Economics of Liberty (Volume 2) The Essence of Liberty: Volume III: A Universal Philosophy of Political Economy (Liberty: A Universal Political Ethic) (Volume 3) Eventually she filed a homestead claim on a barren quarter-section of land outside town. The Harvey Girl became a hardscrabble rancher and worked the place alone. She dug a cattle tank by hand and headed into the mountains to trap mustangs, breaking them single handedly. She wore men’s clothing and a cowboy hat pulled down to her eyebrows. Riding into town she would tie her black stallion to a parking meter and trade for groceries, having no money. And when her food ran out she began rustling cattle.

She rode over the grasslands with her rifle always handy, and during a feud with a neighbor shot the horn off his saddle while he was sitting on it. Those who knew her said she wouldn’t have missed if she was aiming at him. “I know you are a crack shot with that rifle of yours,” the judge told her, “but I cannot tolerate you shooting at your neighbor with the darn thing anytime you chose.” Cecil had to surrender her guns for six months.

“All of the men feared her because she had nothing to lose,” said Winslow historian Janice Griffith. “She’d just as soon shoot them as anything, and they knew it.  She had been mistreated too many times to entirely trust men, but just because she didn’t trust them doesn’t mean she trusted women either. She wanted everybody to leave her alone.”

An investigation into missing livestock ended in the winter of 1954 when the sheriff and his deputy drove out to her place to serve a warrant. They were joined by livestock inspectors who discovered stolen calves in her holding pen. Before taking her to jail, the deputy let her go into the house alone, and suddenly the men heard what sounded like a door slamming. It was a single rifle shot. The sheriff and his deputy found her body inside, and continued searching the house. They were surprised by how spotlessly clean she had kept the place, the way a Harvey Girl might.

Over time Cecil Creswell had grown more reclusive as the loneliness and isolation set in. In her final years, she rarely spoke more than a few words to anyone. In this place of solitude she was left with little more than an endless sky pressing down. I head back to town the way I came, leaving the land to keep its own.



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You might also be interested in the supplement to this Handbook: Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference Manual.

About Land & Livestock Interntional, Inc.

Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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  1. Reblogged this on and commented:

    They sure as hell don’t make ’em like her anymore. — jtl, 419


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