Dee Douglas, Clovis Wagon Master

Dee Douglas, the Clovis Wagon Master. (Courtesy of Clovis Museum)

This article was published by the Clovis Roundup in 2016. Dee will be 99 years young (residing in a rest home in Clovis) in March. She is donating the historic Academy school that resides on her property (N. Madsen, ½ mile prox from the 1868 Academy Church) to the Academy Community Foundation. The school (built in 1870) will be returned near its original location near the Church.

Dee Douglas (born in 1922) continues to achieve personal and professional goals that inspires and challenges all who know her. She lives in the foothills of Academy. She is known for her grit, determination, and humor.

She graced the cover of “Range” Magazine (The cowboy spirit of America’s Outback) in their spring 2003 edition.

“A Western Lady” written by Larry Turner was the title of her article. The subtitle was “Dee Douglas is a rancher, wagon master, stock grower, softball player, military aircraft repairer and horse trainer.”

Douglas was also featured in “Tough by Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West” authored by Lynda Lanker published in 2012. Author Larry McMurtry (1985 Pulitzer winning novel “Lonesome Dove”) provided the book’s foreword, Sandra Day O’Connor (former Supreme Court Judge) the introduction, and afterword by Maya Angelou (Author and Poetess).

We are quoting a portion of Linda Lanker’s 2003 interview:

“During War II, she learned welding, sheet meal and electrical work and hydraulics to help out with the war effort-a regular Rosie the Riveter. Douglas values the freedom and individuality that ranching brings but sees her life disappearing with the next generation. Her stand on aging:” I don’t think about it. I can’t stop it, so I might as well go along with it. I keep on going and doing things. Keep busy and active and the happier you’ll be.”

Douglas stated in the Range Magazine article about her life of “Rosie the Riveter”:

“My only sis, Eloise and I worked like men. Actually, we could outwork many men”.  Douglas’ WWII job is also mentioned in the book. “Into the Night: Hammer Field, Camp Pinedale, Fresno Fairgrounds, Central California in World War II” by George F. Gruner (Former Fresno Bee Editor).

In 1996, Douglas joined other “wagon masters” to journey from Winnemuccam, NV to Rickreall, OR.  Their two-month trip followed the historic Applegate Trail.

In 1846, the Applegate family left Missouri in search of a more southern route than the Oregon Trail. The pioneers (100 wagons) suffered Indian attacks, stretches of desert, raging rivers, cholera, and inadequate feed for their cattle.

The 1996 wagon train journeyed through 30 days of desert in Nevada. The Federal Bureau of Land management brought in water and hay to sustain the stock. The train would not encounter a city until (200 miles) they arrived in Cedarville, CA.

Douglas loved baseball and during the 1950’s was a member of the Fresno Rockets that won the 1953 Women’s Softball World Championship title. She believes the Geena Davis and Tom Hanks Movie “A League of their Own” reflects her traveling days with her team.

Of her marriage to husband Clay: “Stock and critters are my children. My husband and I never had kids. I wanted a baseball team but we never even got to first base…Give me a day in the saddle or driving a team of horses from a wagon seat and I am content.”

Douglas still visits her family’s ranch on Oregon’s fabled Rogue River (near Merlin, OR).  She spends summer and autumn there. She also enjoys the rustic setting of the log cabin, cooking on a wood stove and the use of kerosene lamps.

Douglas stated: “I’ll keep active until the day I die and I hope I’m in the saddle when that takes place. Give me a good day in open country with a grand view. Heaven couldn’t be better.”

Dee Douglas is an important part of our rich heritage.

Peg Bos is the president of the Clovis Museum on 4th and Pollasky avenues in Old Town Clovis. She not only manages the museum but she also writes her Let's Talk Clovis column in our publication which features and highlight the amazing history of our city and culture. One fun fact about Peg Bos, she was the first female mayor of Clovis from 1984-86.