She was a Bronc Busting Marine!
Hello friends. It is a clear, cool morning in Colorado, with a real feel of fall. I love fall; it is my favorite season.
This has been a week of real turmoil and introspection for me, perhaps triggered because a long-time and close friend is dying of end stage Parkinson’s. I’m grateful I could say goodbye last week, but it was gut wrenching.
Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day, asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I have been asking myself that same question! “Where are you going? What do you want to do with the precious days that remain in your life?” My answer has been, “I don’t know!”
I'm still searching for answers and have some vague goals, like wanting to live, learn, experience, write, play, laugh, and love. I'll keep exploring and make a plan to find my way.. In the meantime, maybe a walk in the mountains today will help!
The women I research and write about always give me inspiration and they all knew how they wanted to live their lives, and did so! This is probably why I am so drawn to them. Much of my life has been lived by necessity and choices that I had to make to raise children and survive, not always the choices of my heart. Most of these women always seemed to know and live accordingly.
I want to share one such amazing woman today who has a chapter in They Roared. I hope she inspires you.
Minnie Spotted Wolf was born in 1923 in western Montana, near the community of Heart Butte. She was a member of the Blackfeet Tribe. Her parents owned a ranch, so Minnie grew up helping with the myriad of chores that were required, such as cutting fence posts and training horses. She had a natural ability with horses and drove a 2-ton truck. “I grew up cutting fence posts, driving a two-ton truck, and breaking horses.”
The United States became involved in WWII, Minnie met with a Marine recruiter, who was very patronizing and discouraging. He said that the military was just “not for women.” She was disappointed but did not give up. When Minnie turned eighteen, she was accepted into the USMC Women’s Reserve, which was established in 1942. Commanding General Thomas Holcomb made the following statement about these women: “They are Marines. They don’t have a nickname and they don’t need one. They train in a Marine atmosphere at a Marine Post. They inherit the traditions of the Marines. They are Marines!”
Although the recruiter's negative remarks lingered in her mind, Minnie had no trouble adapting to military life. Her day began at sunrise with drills, vigorous exercise, and a diet designed to build up new recruits. She gained fifteen pounds and was no longer “skinny.” Her life on the farm had prepared her well for boot camp - “It was hard, but not too hard.”
Even though she was small and weighed only 110 pounds, Minnie drove heavy equipment-loaded trucks with ease and grace after completing boot camp. The International M-5H-6 was one of the vehicles Minnie drove and had a 5,000-pound capacity and six-wheel drive.. Her amazing vehicle handling skills got her the coveted job of driving generals and other high-ranking officers..
Minnie gained notoriety for the various transportation-oriented duties she performed.
She was also a bit of a celebrity, as well as an inspiration, becoming a role model for many. Minnie Spotted Wolf, a 20-year-old full-blooded Blackfeet Indian, did a man's job before the war, and even had a comic strip named after her. The comic strip was called "One Little Indian" and appeared in the magazine for teens, Calling All Girls.
In 1947, Minnie retired from the military and returned to Montana, where she married and raised a family. In 1955, Minnie earned an AA in elementary education, and later a BS in elementary education. She taught for almost thirty years at reservation schools in her home state of Montana.
Minnie took great pride in both her heritage and her military career. In an interview with the Great Falls Tribune, her daughter, Gerardetta England, said, “She wasn’t in the military just for herself but for the Indian people. She wanted others to know who she was and where she came from.” Also, according to her daughter, “She usually kept a horse near where she was working, and she could outride guys into her early fifties.”
Press coverage of her wartime service included headlines like Minnie, Pride of the Marines, Is Bronc-Busting Indian Queen.