Wild cowgirl story hits Frisco
September 24, 2009
Kay Turnbaugh didn’t know she had a complete story until she met Goldie Griffith’s grandson, who held the newspaper clippings of how Goldie tried to kill his grandfather. You see, Goldie was a fiery, obstinate cowgirl. She got married in front of 8,000 people during Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. A few years later, standing in the streets of Denver, she aimed her gun at her husband, and fired several shots, all of which missed. As officials hauled her off to jail, she wasn’t afraid to shout out how much she wanted to kill him.Goldie became a wrestler in the days when it was unacceptable for women to be athletes, much less fighters. She grew up with a mother in the entertainment business, so it was no surprise that Goldie became one of the popular bronco-busting cowgirls in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.Later, she became a rancher, owned several restaurants in the mountains of Colorado, trained dogs for World War II and applied to be the first policewoman in San Francisco. She became one of Nederland’s famous residents and is now buried in Boulder’s Green Mountain Cemetery.Like Goldie, Turnbaugh set up home in Nederland (where she now still lives) and started her own business. For 27 years, she owned the town newspaper, which consumed her life. As a reporter, she wrote about Goldie several times; when Nederland residents showed up at the annual Old Timers Days, stories about Goldie abounded.After Turnbaugh sold the newspaper, she considered writing a book about the history of Nederland, but when a friend suggested she write about Goldie, she started looking into the icon’s life. The process took her on a four-year journey, which included researching the Wild West, bronco riding, mining history, the Great Depression, the Home Front during World War II, ranching and what it was like to be a woman living alone during those times.”I think what intrigued me the most about Goldie was how tough she was,” Turnbaugh said. “She would get knocked down, and she’d always manage to find a way to get back up.”Turnbaugh’s greatest challenge involved the mounds of research to validate residents’ stories and two tapes of oral history Goldie herself left behind. Goldie used a number of show names and was married twice, so “it was like researching five different people,” Turnbaugh said. And, though Goldie is listed in a Who’s Who book for film actresses, none of her movies remain; they were all melted down for their silver content.But, through rigorous research, Turnbaugh did confirm all of the tales in her true account of Goldie, titled “The Last of the Wild West Cowgirls.” She also found some to be suspect, such as a story about Goldie’s first husband riding with members of the Butch Cassidy gang.Of course, Turnbaugh’s favorite Goldie story is when she tried to kill her first husband.”I even found where it happened in Denver and hung out there on the street one afternoon so I could get a feel for it before I wrote that scene,” she said. “I doubt if the houses on that block have changed much since that day in 1916.”Filled with historic photos of Goldie’s many adventures, “The Last of the Wild West Cowgirls” is a page-turner that revives Goldie’s headstrong spirit, as if she were still alive. It’s the next best thing to sitting in a Nederland saloon, listening to Goldie herself regaling customers with her enterprising ways.