In 1928, my grandmother, Dorothy Dodge McElhinney, didn’t know that her journey on horseback from Laramie, Wyoming to The Pinto Ranch in Southern California would sow the seed for a company called Dude Girl.
When she was 22 years old, “Tod”, as Grandma was affectionately called in college for her ability to out-Toddle everybody (the Toddle was the dance craze in the early 1920’s), hitch-hiked to Estes Park, Colorado on her way to visit a friend in Laramie, Wyoming. Her love for horses, and her raw talent for taming and riding them, earned her a job wrangling and breaking saddle horses, and soon she had twenty of her own.
Throughout college, Grandma wintered her horses on the Wyoming range and thumbed it from Madison, Wisconsin to Laramie each summer to lead pack trips in the Rockies and enjoy the taste of the Wild West. One of the good horsemen that she met in Wyoming asked her to ride for him in a race at a rodeo. She won, beating all the men. And from then on she made a name for herself—and earned the respect of the cowboys—winning almost everything she entered. Each summer Grandma and her girlfriends would ride 50 miles from Laramie to Cheyenne for a particularly big week-long rodeo, sleeping under the stars using their saddles for pillows and saddle blankets for covers. At these rodeos, and as a cowgirl leading pack trips, she earned enough to pay expenses and make it back to school in the fall.
In 1928, Grandma married my grandfather, Dr. Philip McElhinney, who was setting up his practice in Long Beach, California. Grandma didn't have enough money to ship her horses from Wyoming to California (I think this was just an excuse for another one of her Western adventures), so she decided to round up her girlfriends from college and lead a good ol’ fashioned pack trip all the way over the Continental Divide to The Pinto Ranch that she had recently purchased in Southern California. One of the four cowgirls on the trip, and one of Grandma’s closest friends, Doreen Foote, wrote the story of their two-month journey in a book called Dude Girl.
Growing up, I spent much of my time on the Pinto Ranch with Grammy Mac, as I called her. I learned many lessons on the ranch, but it was her thrill for adventure and her competitive spirit that was infused into my being, caught like a fever, and has lead me to travel the globe in search of remarkable places and challenges. Much to my Grandma’s dismay, I have replaced horses with bicycles, but the journeys are just as grand, the adventures just as exciting, the people and places just as memorable. Now, I am thrilled to be sharing my discoveries with you. I hope you’ll join me.
In January 2006, we launched Dude Girl apparel - our designs, like our trips, are our own distinct modern expression of the strength, joy and intrepid spirit that the original cowgirls demonstrated to us. Whether or not you join us for a trip, we are confident you will love the clothing. I think Grammy is getting a kick out of it too.