She was a real champion: young, strong, gutsy, with a mane of braided blonde hair flying behind her. Fame followed her from the U.S. to Canada and back again: from Kansas to Calgary, from Broadway to Spirit River, from Texas to Brooks, she was hailed as a World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider.
She was also known as Goldie St. Clair, Champion Lady Bronco Buster of the World. She started out, in 1890, as Irene Wooden but something, probably her golden hair, won her the name Goldie. Goldie Wooden was a fearless rider. She rode for the challenge, the thrill, the show.
When she was just 15, the Miller Brothers hired her to be part of their Wild West Show, Ranch 101. It the perfect career move for Goldie. In the rodeo, all she had to do was what she loved: ride bucking horses. Sometimes she did it 8 times a day. The “Champion Lady Bucking Horse Rider of the World” was a sensation!
Other shows followed, bringing more applause, experience, adrenaline… She met her husband, Burney St. Clair, at one, and at another teamed up with Will Rogers for a western show in Broadway. Goldie St. Clair riding a bronc was the closing act. Goldie’s particular style of glamour captured audience admiration everywhere she went.
She was also winning awards everywhere she went. One championship prize was awarded to her by President Teddy Roosevelt, along with personal congratulations. At the Calgary Stampede, she was given a horse named Ray Knight in appreciation of charity rides she had made.
It was in Calgary where Goldie had a ride turn seriously wrong. The raging bronc Red Wing smashed her along the wall, badly scraping her leg through eight bucks until a pick-up man got her out of the saddle. Goldie was hardly daunted: the only thing that stopped her was fainting. A little later, she came back to the arena and rode eight more times.
It shouldn’t have been surprising since, the year before in Philadelphia, Goldie had cheated more serious injury. Roan Mare, “the worst type of man killing outlaw horse”, had fallen on her, crushing the pommel into Goldie’s head. She was reported to be “near death”, but the “man killer” wouldn’t get the “Champion Lady” down for long.
The St. Clairs must have liked Canada on their rodeo visits. They moved to the Peace Country with Goldie’s parents and brother, homesteading 12 miles from Spirit River. They farmed and ranched here for fourteen years.
After that the St. Clairs moved around a bit more and then went their separate ways, Burney to Texas and Goldie to Southern Alberta. She and her second husband operated a ranch for many years.
Goldie St. Clair, World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider, died in 1956, aged 66. She survived every wild, crazy, bucking horse she ever rode, doing what she loved for her entire life.