Saddlesore

How Fort Worth's rhinestone socialites bushwacked the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame

As Formby recalls it now, the rather complex issues of licensing came down to one big question: Who was going to be in control, Delamarter or the Hereford board?

The issue hadn't been resolved when the board voted to move the entire museum to Fort Worth.

"Margaret [Formby] and the board never included me in the final negotiations," Delamarter says. "They gave away the museum and didn't get anything in return, not even a secure job for Margaret. Those are shrewd business people down there [in Fort Worth]."

As in the past, Delamarter flew in and catered the induction luncheon during the museum's first year in Fort Worth, but didn't seem to hit it off with the new crowd. "Kit wouldn't take a meeting with me," she says. Negotiations continued through the two parties' lawyers, but no agreement has been reached in more than two years.

In an apparent attempt to break the stalemate, the hall of fame filed a lawsuit in February asking a Tarrant County judge to sort out the 10-year agreement Delamarter and the hall reached in 1988, especially as it relates to merchandising rights.

"Sherry forgets she was fighting with Margaret about this, too," said Kit Moncrief in an interview last week. "I think we have settled with Sherry in the last few days."

Not so, said Delamarter the next day.
The last thing she was offered, she says, was the right to keep the name on her two current restaurants, but there would be no more lending of museum items to the restaurant, as had been done in the past.

"We had personal relationships with people in Hereford, and we don't have that now," says Joel Gordin, one of Delamarter's New York partners. "The doors have pretty much been closed," he says, adding that, like a lot of people, he has never met Kit Moncrief.

So what do the cowgirls think about these cross-continental dust-ups, all the hurt and disappointment felt by their old Panhandle friends?

There's a lot of unguarded straight-shooting on this subject--that's the cowgirl way.

"I think it stinks right now," says Norma Sanders, one of the first women cattle auctioneers, who was inducted into the hall in 1989. "They did Margaret Formby a real nasty turn, they gave Shelly Burmeister the gate, and tried to get rid of Sherry; they moved in an Easterner to take over things. I don't think it's right."

Sanders, of Texico, New Mexico, says the Hereford hall was "doing fine," except that it ran out of space. But in Fort Worth, "This bunch haven't stuck a spade in the ground."

Lynn "Jonnie" Jonckowski, a bull-riding champion who went on to do modeling and sports commentary, says, "A lot of the people who were there were like family, and they aren't there anymore. If they cleaned house for the good, I haven't seen it yet."

Jonckowski, who lives in Billings, Montana, says she asked the hall several months ago to ship back her mementos--trophies, chaps, a bull rope, and the like.

"I'm honored to be in it, and I'll probably give them back sometime, but not right now," she says. She finds it disturbing that the people in charge "never ranched, never rodeoed, never even sat a horse."

Sheila Kirkpatrick, a hat maker from Wisdom, Montana, who was inducted in 1992 as a Western heritage honoree, says that many of the women the museum honors "followed their hearts more than the dollar."

The gatherings in Fort Worth have "been getting a little ritzy and a lot pricier. I know they have to pull in the big shots to scare up the dollars, but it has lost a lot for the honorees. We show up in clothes we've had for 10 years."

For this year's induction, which is no longer being called The Rhinestone Roundup, the Fort Worth organizers appear to be making an attempt to respond to complaints about costs.

Gone are the $100-a-night rooms and $65 meals of the past two years. This time the words "complimentary for honorees" are all over the advance schedule. Perhaps trying to recapture some of the casual feel of years past, Riley is hosting a dinner at her River Oaks house, which was Tad Lucas' house two generations before.

And there are those who say they're optimistic about what might come of the hall in Fort Worth.

"I sort of expected this, that it would be totally different in a large community," says Dixie Mosley, the former rodeo clown from Amarillo. "I'm sure as time passes, we'll get to know the people down there."

Says Joan Wells, a 49-year-old Nebraskan honored for her expertise in the fast-vanishing art of trick roping, "I'm willing to see what they want to do, but I support Margaret Formby and her ideas. I am sorry things can't be the way they used to.

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