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Tom Mix Wedding, Part 2


Yesterday’s Dakota Datebook was on the anniversary of the wedding of Olive Stokes and Tom Mix. The nuptials took place before a Billings County Justice of the Peace on a Medora ranch in 1909.

The courtship had been brief, barely a month. After New Years, Olive and Tom made a twenty-mile ride along the Little Missouri to the Bill McCarty ranch, as Olive continued a leisurely horse-buying trip. She writes, “In the afternoons Tom and Bill generally had target practice on the brown prairie chickens that rested in clusters on the stockade. Tom was a crack shot.”

“The evenings were full of song, a frontier tradition I was used to and loved. We sat before the great roaring fire while Bill played the banjo and his hired man Mack strummed a guitar. We must have covered every old favorite that week. Tom was partial to Stephen Foster and he sang the famous ballads in a rich baritone voice full of emotional nuances.”

“At last”, Olive continues, “the final selection of horses had been made and there was simply no excuse for me to stay on at the ranch house. Tom and I returned to Medora, where we were swept up in another round of activities.”

It began with a dance at the Cowboy Hotel. Tom was oddly absent, however, and Olive was escorted by one of her ranch hands. Although she was stunned that Tom had left her, she was determined to enjoy her last night in Medora.

She described the evening, “I flitted around the ballroom floor, laughing brightly and telling myself that I was having the best time of my life. When I speak of ‘ballroom’ it was really the dining room of the Cowboy Hotel, but the chairs and tables had been pushed back against the wall and the floor had been waxed, and there were plenty of lanterns and bunting to bring gaiety and color to the place.”

After the dance, she and her escort returned to the ranch house. She recalled, “there was a full moon and the stars glittered like diamonds.” What Olive didn’t know was that she was about to be ambushed – not, as one might think, with a proposal for marriage, but with the wedding itself! Tom Mix, in inexplicable cowboy fashion, had put together the necessities for a wedding. He evidently didn’t think it was necessary to consult the bride to be!

Olive’s narrative continues, “He led me through the immense living room and into the spacious kitchen. As usual some of the ranch hands were sleeping on the floor along the walls, snuggled up in their round-up beds and apparently utterly oblivious to anything.”

“When I entered the kitchen, followed by Tom and Katrine, Mattie, the housekeeper, was placing a big cake on the kitchen table which was already laden with cold cuts of meat and different edibles. Something over my head attracted my attention and I looked up to see some Chinese lanterns dangling from strings tied to the beamed ceiling.”

And believe it or not, Olive fell for it. They were married then and there. Not surprisingly, this was to be one of five weddings for Tom Mix.

If you’re still wondering “Who’s Tom Mix?” you’re not alone. Today, if you asked, “Who’s Tom Cruise,” or “Who’s Harrison Ford,” or John Wayne, or Roy Rogers, you might get incredulous reactions of “where have you been?” Well, back in the ’20s or ’30s, Tom Mix was as big a name as any of these stars. He was a ranch hand, turned Wild West showman, who made it big in Hollywood as a cowboy-actor-stuntman in silent movies and even a few talkies. But that was after his memorable month in Medora, and that’s another story…


Olive Stokes Mix, with Eric Heath, The Fabulous Tom Mix, (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc.), 1957.