Friends of the Public Library host Texas legend Annie Golightly
Author to discuss her new book and how it felt to be the only woman on the Great American Cattle Drive
BY TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor
May 13, 2007 - Life has never been dull for 75-year old Annie Golightly and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Golightly will talk about how she’s lived life on her own terms, her new book, “Dreams and a White Horse,” and her life as the only woman on a 6-month long cattle drive at the Sulphur Springs Public Library on Thursday, May 24.
The Hunt County native is one cool drink of water. Whether she’s dressed in sweats or her trademark starched white shirt with turned up collar, tight Levis and enough sterling and turquoise to open a jewelry store in Santa Fe, you know she’s the real deal.
There’s not an ounce of pretense to her. She’s been to more than one rodeo and she suffers no fools.
She’s the embodiment of all things Texan. She’s lean, flinty, talented and incredibly balanced for someone who has led such an up and down life.
Golightly was born Annie Milford on September 25, 1931, in Hunt County. Her mother died and the family split up when she was only 18 months old. She grew up with her aunt, uncle and paternal grandmother, whom she called “Ma.”
Even though her grandmother was of Cherokee ancestry, “Ma always told us we were Irish,” Golightly said. “Being a squaw was lower than being a dog in those days.”
Golightly says she cannot remember a time when she wasn’t singing.
�Honey, I was singing when anybody would listen,� she said. �I was in all the senior high plays when I was just in grade school.�
Golightly married early. The first union ended in divorce, leaving her with one child, Lea.
Then, in 1953, she married an army officer. They had one child, Lynda. The officer was killed in a one-car accident in Germany 11 days before Golightly and her young children were to join him.
In 1957, she married Kenneth Smith. They had three children, Kenny, Keely and Sandy. Smith was killed in a car accident in Plano in 1967.
Widowed and with five children to raise, Golightly spent 17 years as a singing bartender in the Dallas area. One night, her boss told her to get out from behind the bar and get on the bandstand.
�I had a $50 guitar and I knew three chords,� Golightly said. �I played there a couple of months, but then the food and beverage man from the Marriott near Market Center came in and offered me a job playing cocktail hour.�
She stayed at the Marriott for three and a half years and then moved to Fort Worth.
�I played somewhere in Fort Worth for 30 years,� Golightly said. �I began at the Starting Gate. It was a memorable little place.�
While playing at The Starting Gate, Golightly rubbed shoulders with some pretty memorable people.
�I played in a golf tournament with Chuck Connors, Bob Crosby and Leslie Neilsen. They wanted to go to the club that night. It was a small place. Itty bitty, really. The ceiling was only 7�. Connors stood 6�6�.�
According to Golightly, the low ceiling didn’t seem to bother Connors.
�He got surrounded and people were wearing him out with autograph requests,� she said. �Connors told Golightly �this is better than Hollywood ever thought about being.��
Golightly took her new last name while singing at the Marriott.
�I knew this cowboy named Golightly,� she said. �I promised him I wouldn�t ever get put in jail or beat up any old men if he�d let me borrow his name.�
That was in 1970, and she says, “I’ve never been in jail.”
�I cut two albums,� Golightly said. �The Light Crust Doughboys were my back-up band for both of them.�
After a spate of bad luck, which included building a larger, more elaborate club and watching it fail financially, Golightly moved to a 4,400 sq. ft. dream house in Palo Pinto County.
�The house was on garden club tours and was featured in Better Homes and Gardens,� she said. �I lost it in the flood of 1990. There was five and a half feet of water in the first story.�
In true cowgirl spirit, Golightly refused to let her losses get her down.
She picked herself up and moved into a 550 square foot efficiency apartment in Fort Worth and promptly enrolled in junior college.
�Hell, I couldn�t go anywhere but up,� she said.
She also took up painting during this time in her life.
�I found a great teacher and asked her to teach me how to paint people and creatures,� Golightly said. �I like to paint something that�s breathing.�
Golightly’s portraits of cowboy actor Sam Elliott are impressive. She’s painted golf legend Arnold Palmer, too.
She graduated magnum cum laude from Texas Wesleyan College in 1994 with a bachelors in creative writing.
Then, a new chapter in her life began on March 7, 1995.
�I joined 30 young cowboys from six states on a six-month cattle drive from Forth Worth to Mile City, Wyoming,� Golightly mused. �I went even though they told me they weren�t taking any women with them.�
Golightly was at a rodeo in Weatherford when a cowboy she knew came up to her and said, “We’re going to take steers to Wyoming. We want to have a rodeo in each state we go through and we want you to sing at the rodeos.”
To heck with singing at the rodeos, said Golightly. She wanted to go on the drive. Not only that, she wanted to write a book about the experience.
�It took me three months to talk organizer Bud McCaslin into letting me go and I had to pay my own way, but I went,� Golightly beamed. �I was the only working woman and was the oldest person on the trail, too.�
Stories from the cattle drive and Annie’s life have just been published in her book, “Dreams and a White Horse” (Seasons of Harvest Publications – April 2007 - $20).
Golightly will speak at the library Thursday, May 24, beginning at 7 p.m. Copies of her book will also be available. Admission is free. Call 903-885-4926 for details and reservations.