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This Boss Lady Is Queen of Cowtown

By Kate Silver

 

Twice a day, rain or shine, a herd of 16 longhorn steer amble through the brick-lined Texas streets of the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District. They’re guided by a team of drovers dressed in button-down shirts, leather chaps and 10-gallon hats straight out of the late 1800s. Look closely, and you’ll see that the force behind all this is a dainty blonde woman named Kristin Jaworski, who, for the past 10 years, since she was 25, has been the trail boss of the Fort Worth herd.

Whether she’s cleaning stalls, repairing fences or loading up the truck beds of her two Chevy Silverado trucks (a black 1500 and a white 3500) with tack, lumber and supplies, Jaworski (aka “Boss Lady”) never forgets her feminine side. “Regardless of my job, I’m very much a girl. I like my nails done, and I like my hair done,” she says. Some days, she even paints her nails to match her horse: “They’re glittery gold to match my palomino paint horse today!”

And you should see her closet. All told, she owns about 20 pairs of cowboy boots. But like most women she tends to wear the same two or three pairs all the time. “My favorite pair of boots are resourceful,” she says with a subtle drawl. “I can throw spurs on them and ride a horse, or I can shine them up and go to a meeting.”

As the trail boss, Jaworski works to educate visitors and residents about the history of Fort Worth. The twice-daily trail drive commemorates the role of cowtowns along the Chisholm Trail, when thousands of cattle a day traveled through Texas to the north. It’s a true taste of the Old West, as are the challenges that Jaworski encounters on the job. First, there’s the issue of personnel management. Cowboys don’t always take kindly to a cowgirl ruling the roost. “I’ve been called boss lady. I’ve been called the den mother. They like to call me a lot of things,” she says, “and sometimes they’re not all positive.”

Then, there’s herd management. Navigating dozens of animals safely through a crowd of 6,000 people has its challenges. “The steer have jumped ledges, they’ve jumped fences, they’ve run to the creek, they’re run to parking lots, they’ve run to train tracks, they have gotten away,” says Jaworski. Her protocol: Stop the rest of the herd, and the stray will return. “He doesn’t want to be away from his buddies. Keep them within sight, and they always come back,” she says.

Challenges and all, Jaworski loves her job. “I’d been riding horses forever, and I guess I always considered myself a cowgirl,” she says, thinking back to her childhood spent on a mule ranch in Flagstaff, Arizona. “It’s what I did every day of my life.”

As boss lady, of course, she now gets paid for it.

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Kate Silver is an award-winning journalist and editor based in Chicago. Her work appears regularly in Spirit Magazine, Men’s Health, the Chicago Tribune and Midwest Living, as well as on Parents.com.