Forty-two years ago, a young E. Jean Carroll entered the magazine world with this absolute barn-burner of a feature chronicling the annual Miss Rodeo America contest. A fitting debut for a legendary career.

A lot of people are dubious about these contests. The banner on the bosom, the high-heeled hobble, the ramble down the runway. But in a very particular way, this pageant can tell you something special about these women and the way they grew up, about what someone taught them once, about a certain way of life. I mean there are things here that can cloud the issue, and it can all make for a clash in styles. But you should remember that these rodeo queens have roared into the arenas of Ranger, Texas; Ringling, Oklahoma; Roundup, Montana; and Rifle, Colorado, on the foulest, greenest, dumbest, and rankest of horses, shot their salutes to the crowd, and raced out to standing ovations. I want you to remember that Miss Rodeo America 1980 laid a leg over 200 head of weirdo horses and ran the rail in 300 rodeo performances. “Ah, the arena is a little wet, ma’am,” they told her in Oregon. “The rain has made it a little slick. And that horse there don’t like to see his reflection in no mud puddle. Makes him hoppy.