Extraordinary, Ordinary Woman
Dorothy Mangum Kinsel
In her own words
I was born in La Salle County on Christmas Day 1929. My two-year-old sister, Jeanie, welcomed me into the family. Jeanie and I were very fortunate to live in the country where a child is never bored.
We lived very near the Nueces River where we had a boat, and we learned to man that boat by paddling. At the time, we didn’t think about what great exercise it was. We thought only about how much fun that boat provided.
We had horses to ride and at times, we packed a little lunch and might visit the neighbors by horseback several miles away. Of course, we had no cell phones when we were young, but our mother trusted us to be home well before dark.
While I was attending Cotulla High School, my English teacher was Miss Mary Reese. Many of you will remember Mary as Mrs. J.W. Martin. After a few years of teaching English and Journalism, Miss Reese married Judge Martin’s son, J.W. I felt that all the students in her English classes were very fortunate. She talked with me about her college years and how much she had enjoyed her four years in Denton attending Texas State College for Women. I owe so much to Mary for being a great influence during the following years of my life. I entered TSCW in the fall of 1947.
Very unlike students preparing for college in this day and time, my mom and I had packed a trunk very carefully with my clothes that I would wear from September 1947 until the end of May 1948. The weather in Denton would be much colder and I would probably experience snow, so we searched for rubber boots. One pair I purchased allowed me to wear my high heels to church. You must understand, we girls either rode the Denton City bus or walked.
The very first semester, I applied for a job and had various jobs all eight semesters. I wish to emphasize how much one can learn working with the public. The Denton business people were wonderful to the TSCW students as well as the North Texas University students.
In the fall of 1950, I received an enormous surprise. Before Texas A&M University at College Station became co-ed, TSCW was the sister school to A&M. A committee from A&M spent the weekend on our campus. Much to my surprise, I was chosen Aggie Sweetheart and presented during the half-time ceremonies on the field during the Aggie - SMU football game. This was an honor and I appreciated it.
In the spring of 1951, I graduated and, of course, my mother and daddy attended the graduation ceremony. In 1957, the name of our university was changed to Texas Woman’s University. I feel very fortunate to have attended all but two homecoming celebrations since 1951. Many times, Mary Martin accompanied me to Denton for the occasion.
While I was still in high school, I met the best looking and the most perfect man. Dan Kinsel Jr. was at home ‘on leave’ from the Navy. Wile he was attending A&M, he volunteered for the Navy. Many of the Aggies joined one branch or the other military services. Dan served off the coast of China during the war (WWII), a very dangerous place to be.
When the war was over, Dan attended the University of Texas. After he graduated, he proposed to me and we made plans to marry after I graduated. In September 1951, we married in First Baptist Church in Cotulla. Brother Jesse Cook officiated.
Dan and his father, Dan, Sr., were in the automobile business selling Chevrolets, Buick, sand Oldsmobiles. They had wonderful and loyal customers in La Salle County. Also, they sold quite a lot of cars and pickups to Mexico as cars were not being made in Mexico during those years.
During the Fifties, we were ranching and no one was prepared for a seven-year drought. To describe those seven years could fill volumes. This experience was challenging and yet, Dan and I had a happy life together, and we have many wonderful memories. Dan III was born in 1953 and Karl in 1957. We were blessed with these two boys. At a young age, they both learned to work cattle and became good ropers.
TYRA stands for Texas Youth Rodeo Association. Dan and Karl were eager to become members. Dan III could drive a pickup and pull a trailer at the ranch, but he wasn’t old enough for a driver’s license, so you can guess who became the driver to and from the rodeos. We did not have anything close to the very fancy horse trailers you see at rodeos today. I could manage a goose-neck trailer and both Dan and Karl were pleased to get to enter the youth rodeos. Their dad would join us for the finals on Saturday nights. ‘Mom’ came in handy to water and feed the horses after the rodeo while Dan and Karl attended the dance.
Youth rodeos are definitely family affairs. We met wonderful people who are still our friends. Dan and Karl enjoy team roping these days, but do not have much time for it. Dan is the header and Karl is the heeler. Dan and Leslie’s daughter, Hailey, has inherited the ability to participate in rodeos from both her mother and dad. Leslie is a talented barrel racer and has taught Hailey well.
Hailey was a member of the rodeo team at Texas A&M and enjoyed every minute. Hailey was very active in the Cowboy Church during her college days. She gives all the glory to the Lord for her ability to ride. She tells me that ‘Sister’ is the star and she is only the jockey. Hailey Kinsel Lockwood won World Champion Barrel Racer for 2018 and 2019. I felt very fortunate to be in Las Vegas to see her win and to celebrate with her. I am saddened that her grandfather isn’t with us to enjoy the accomplishments of our grandchildren. Because I am the grandmother of a champion barrel racer, I subscribe to Pro Rodeo magazine plus Barrel Horse News magazine, which is the best way to keep up with Hailey, her lifestyle, and her friends. Some barrel racers continue to compete well into their second half of life. Donna Kay Rule is 62 and still winning. Mary Walker is 61 and is a very good barrel racer. I also subscribe to the Cowboy Channel.
My husband taught me so many things as well as gave me confidence. He actually, in his heart, believed I could accomplish whatever needed to be done. He had a saying, “You’ll figure it out,” when I would ask how was I to do a task he asked of me. I can think of three examples.
Quite a few years ago we were in Goodyear, Arizona, shipping some cattle. Dan was sitting on top of the cutting chute, and he motioned for me to come over near him. In a loud voice, he asked me to pick up a man named Blasingame at the Phoenix airport. Dan couldn’t finish sorting the cattle in time to meet his plane coming from California. I knew not to say, “Honey, I don’t know Mr. Blasingame, nor to ask where the Phoenix airport was.” I knew he would say to me, “You’ll figure it out.” Remember, GPS had not been invented at this time, and another difference from these days is that once you found the airport, you could walk into the terminal and all the way to the planes without any questions asked. September 11th changed all of that.
I found the number of the flight arriving from California and walked out to the gates while the passengers were disembarking. These days the passengers walked down steep steps from the plane. I noticed one man wore good-looking cowboy boots. Nervously, I approached this man and said, “Pardon me, are you Mr. Blasingame?”
He removed his nice-looking Resistol straw [hat] and replied, “Yes ma’am, I am.”
I said, “I am Mrs. Kinsel, and Dan is still sorting your cattle at Goodyear.”
We went to the baggage area, retrieved his bag, and luckily, I found where I had parked. We had driven about thirty minutes toward Goodyear when he asked, “Mrs. Kinsel, how did you recognize me?”
I had always learned to first tell the truth. I told him, “I didn’t know how California cattlemen dressed, but in Texas, he would be wearing boots, so I just guessed.
He laughed, and I relaxed a little. The palms of my hands perspire when I get nervous. You see, Mr. Blasingame had already paid for the cattle, so it was very necessary that I find him. Dan seemed to know that I could deliver him.
Another time, Dan and I were in the state of Durango, Mexico, where we had a ranch. Jack Horton was from Texas and a friend of Dan’s. Jack’s wife was Hispanic and knew no English, and my Spanish was terrible. Jack and Dan had arranged for quite a few cattle cars and had paid for them. They and some cowboys were going to our ranch to load and haul the cattle in trucks to the depot where the cattle cars were. As they were leaving, he told Jack’s wife Maria and me to make sure no one moved those cars!! Folks will do this sort of thing in Mexico— pay a little more and take the car. It’s called ‘mordido’ [meaning ‘bitten’ in English]. Yes, it’s wrong, but too often acceptable by some.
Now I wanted to ask Dan, “What will Maria and I do if the cars start moving?” But I knew he would say to me, “You will figure it out,” so there was no use in asking. At this point, I didn’t know the men would be gone for the next three days gathering and loading the cattle.
Maria and I could discuss the weather, and that’s about all— you know— frio [cold] or caliente [hot] and my vocabulary in Spanish is over for the day. She and I played a lot of Chinese checkers. I offered to help in the kitchen, but Maria had a cook, so she didn’t enter the kitchen at all. About three times a day we drove down around the cattle cars to make sure they were still there— more importantly to let the train employees know that we were checking on the cattle cars.
We loved the ranch for many reasons, but number one was that it had a rainy season. Imagine you can tell from my experiences, my Dan and I had a great trust in each other and he taught me so many things that have truly been beneficial to me the past years when I have lived alone.
Another time, Dan was in Durango at the ranch. He called one morning and told me how much he had missed me, and asked why didn’t I drive to Monterrey and meet him? He would have to go back to Durango in the car, and I could fly from Monterrey back to Laredo. I knew I could count on my mother to keep Dan and Karl. They adored staying with my parents. I told Dan I could meet him at the Ancira Hotel. I took a sandwich and a Coke or two and didn’t plan to stop. A lady alone would not consider this now because of the drug cartels. I felt safe, and because Dan wanted me to meet him, that gave me the confidence to do it. All went well.
As for my favorite pastimes. I learned to shoot a rifle from my daddy. Later Dan gave me a .243, which I truly enjoy. It was made in Finland and is light to handle. Dan, Dan III, Karl and I enjoyed hunting together. We all have treasured memories of white tail deer hunting.
Leslie Vesper and I learned to ski and organized a ski group here in Cotulla. For about 30 years we took at least one trip each February. The first mistake we made was our first trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It wasn’t a place for beginners. On our last trip together, there were nine ladies, and we went to Telluride, Colorado.
Heart of Texas Tour is owned by a great friend, Karen Bluethman, who lives in Austin. She and I worked together on Texas Woman’s University’s National Alumni Association for many years. When she started her travel business, she included me on the guest list. I was privileged to make several cruises, a trip to Ireland, plus a number of visits to the interior of Mexico when it was safe to travel there. My sister and I went to the Holy Land with Coker Methodist Church from San Antonio— a highlight of my life. In 2008, I traveled to four countries in Africa. We stayed part of the time in safari camps and part in lovely hotels.
First Baptist Church, Cotulla, Texas, is my priority. If you didn’t know, Baptists are famous for “calling meetings.” At present, I serve on the Repair and Maintenance Committee. Our current church building was built in 1948, so this is a busy committee.
A very great satisfaction in my life was helping to organize a Young Adult Class (YAC) in First Baptist Church, Cotulla. Pastor Bill Sluder, Bill Cotulla and I were concerned that so many great couples were bringing their children to Sunday School, but our church wasn’t providing a class for the parents. I am not a Bible scholar; Bill Sluder and Bill Cotulla are, in my opinion. Still, I offered to teach the class as well as help organize the socials once a month.
Dorothy Mangum Kinsel
Click on the large photo to enlarge & begin slide show
Generational Rodeo Competitors
Dorothy & Dan
Dorothy & Donna at one of the YAC parties in 1981
We started in the preacher’s office around a card table— Roxie Walker, Richard Diaz, and me. We received a lot of help with our domino parties, fishing events, Chinese Christmas, game nights, etc. I have Donna Van Cleve to thank for creating the invitations. Donna and Jamie Jones were the photographers at every event. The YAC had as many as thirty-four attendees at many of the parties. From this group, quite a number became Sunday school teachers as well as members of the church. There was a feeling that all of us were allowing the Lord to lead, and we were listening and following. This could happen again in our church. This project takes a lot of effort and time, oh yes, and energy, plus constant prayer.
An organization I have been a member of since the 1970s, and continue to be active in is South Texas CattleWomen, which has 110 members from 22 countries committed to the Beef Industry. We work very hard to provide beef for three children’s homes. [Check out the video on the STCW's home page]. The Woman’s Club of Cotulla began in 1923, and the organization still meets once a month. I enjoy this organization, and my turn to entertain is only once a year. Several years ago I was awarded a 50-year pin. Also, I serve on Cotulla’s Main Street Committee, which meets once a month. Our committee has great plans to improve downtown Cotulla, and gradually, this will be accomplished. These are just some of the organizations and activities I’m still involved with.
In my earlier life, I never even thought about the possibility that I could be left without my best friend, my dear husband. I think about it now and realize that perhaps God knew and allowed me to be prepared to “figure it out,” as Dan would say to me.
Editor’s note: I have known Dorothy Kinsel since my family moved to Cotulla in the late 1960s. She is one of the most beautiful women, inside and out, I have known in my life. She could be the poster lady for Second Wind because she continues to maintain an active role in so many worthwhile organizations and activities. If you didn’t do the math, this extraordinary lady is 90 years old, and she looks and acts decades younger. This account was her words written out in ink on notebook paper, and it required very little editing. I think it is a good start to her memoirs, because I know she has many more stories to tell.
I and so many others have learned so much from Dorothy over the years, and especially during the time I attended her young adult class and activities. Some of us stayed members well beyond our young adult years, too. : ) Anything Dorothy is asked to do or sets her mind to accomplish, she always does it well. If you are fortunate to be on the receiving end of one of her letters, it’s usually a packet of clipped or copied articles and photos that made her think of you or things she wanted to share with you, as well as a hand-written letter. What a treasure they are to receive.
Dorothy, you are loved by many, and I’m so honored to say that you are my friend.
Donna Van Cleve
Dorothy Kinsel's Memoirs
Extraordinary, Ordinary Women
Photos provided by Dorothy Kinsel & family