The following section is extracted from Casey's biography given to IGRA in 2007
My sincere gratitude to Norma White for this presentation and documentation she has diligently represented.
Sharon A. Norman
A.K.A. Casey Jackson
Sharon Ann (Casey) Norman now resides in Frederick, Colorado (actually Evanston, Colorado - of which Sharon is Mayor). An outstanding woman, Sharon's pioneering journey began on January 8, 1944, when she was born during a blizzard, on a ranch 20 miles south of Rapid City, South Dakota. Her love for animals and the rodeo grew on that ranch at about 6 years of age, when she began riding horses and steers. At the age of 10 she was riding, branding calves after they were vaccinate and castrated. Rocky Mountain Oysters (roasted over a fire on a stick) was the frequent lunch during this time.
She was spirited, inquisitive and fearless. Those traits, she believes, is what got her where she is today - even though it wasn't the easiest way to achieve success! Their modest home was always cold in the winter, and the first goal she set as a child was to have as much heat as she wanted and shirts with sleeves that covered her arms past her wrists when she became an adult. Sharon achieved that and much, much more.
Sharon's father (Ernie Norman), according to Sharon, "was a tough son-of-a-gun!" He was a good dad, saved her life on numerous occasions, and he taught them so much. Because Sharon was more the "outdoor" type, she spent most of her time helping and learning from her father. Together, they built the buildings on their property. He taught her mechanics, plumbing, maintenance, and building construction. She can change her brakes, change her oil, do a tune up and knows everything about hydraulics on a tractor.
She attended a one-room school with a fireplace, until the 8th grade. There were only 4 or 5 students and they sometimes slept at the school. In grade school, Sharon belonged to the track and field team - running long distance races and high-jumping. In high school, she continued track and field, adding gymnastics, softball and basketball. She managed to excel in these activities, along with her daily chores of milking 8 cows, separating milk and making butter. She did this in order to buy clothing for school because her family was very poor.
In 1960 Sharon was crowned Ranch Days Rodeo Queen. She had taken First Place in the parade events and competition in the rodeo (barrel racing, keyhole racing, best dressed, and best horse performance). She was so determined to participate in this event that she rode her horse (Flip) to the competition and slept in the horse stall because her family could not afford a hotel room. Her father drove the stock truck to the event and that's where her show clothes were stored. Many times, she changed clothes outdoors in the mud.
Sharon and her friend, Lorraine, were to demonstrate a bull riding exhibition; however, Lorraine backed out. Sharon's name had already been announced; therefore, she was committed. Although she had ridden horses, bulls and steers for quite some time, this would be her first time on a Brahma Bull! She was so frightened she was crying, but told them to open the chute anyway.
She doesn't remember the chute opening or the ride, she just kept thinking huge, huge, huge, this bull is huge! It was like riding an enormous ocean wave (a short ride), or dancing where the bull led and you had no choice but to follow - the next thing she knew she was on the ground, and could only appreciate the good taste of the dirt. Thank God for being back on the ground!
In 1961, at Triple 'T' Ranch (Custer, South Dakota) Sharon was dared to ride a buffalo - when they said she couldn't ride one, her only response was, "Put him in the chute!" The buffalo did not buck, but he sped her around the arena several times before she "bailed". She remembers that his backbone was not a comfortable place to sit. That day, not only did she ride the buffalo, but she also won the Little Britches Rodeo.
During this time her only regret was that her mother had not been around to see her do these things.
In 1951, Mr. Norman's appendix burst on Christmas Eve - it was her mother's (Bella's) birthday. There was a blizzard, but Bella attempted to go into town and get a doctor for her husband. In her rush, she only wore a light coat, and her hair was in pin curls. She failed to make a tum 4 miles southwest of Caputa at about 7 p.m.
The car flipped several times, seriously injuring Bella. Her face, arms and legs were cut; her ribs were broken, and some of the pins in her hair had been pushed into her head. Brave and determined, Bella attempted to return home - it is believed she steadied herself by clinging to barbed wire fencing because her hands were badly cut. She collapsed only a mile away from home. The next day, after neighbors and the Sheriff discovered her frozen body, they found dog tracks in the snow. The family dog (Topsie) had run back and forth to the home and Bella, trying to tell the children of the emergency, but with their father ill and at ages 10, 8, 4 and 18 months, they did not understand. The neighbors took Mr. Norman to the hospital and he recovered. But, Christmas was never the same for them again for quite some time.
Sharon readily admits that of all the children, she was "the worst". She was game for anything - absolutely anything! Whether it was throwing eggs at one another, knocking each other off horses, getting hung, riding two horses Roman style (and trying to get both horses to jump a fence at the same time), or anything that was new, exciting and challenging!
Sharon confesses that for each punishment she received, she deserved! Her father saved her life more than once, and then, according to Sharon as she spoke lovingly of her father, "tried to beat the 'BeJesus' out of me"! She doesn't regret anything that happened to her and rolls with laughter when she imagines what Social Services of today would have thought back then! The next morning after each punishment, the children would look at their "bottoms" in the mirror and compare who had the most hand prints. Because she knows it was all done with love, she has fond and humorous memories of those "good ol' days".
One way that Sharon's father provided for the family was by raising and selling steers. It took him quite some time to learn the reason his beef was not bringing in as much money as he thought they should - even though he was feeding them well. It turned out that when he was out working the ranch, Sharon was riding them.
Casey Tibbs lived 90 miles north of the Norman's ranch, and was good friends with Ernie Norman. Known as "The All Around Cowboy", he was world-renowned for his saddle bronc and bareback riding. He noticed Sharon riding horses and bulls without proper equipment and gave her a pair of his spurs (which she has to this day).
Throughout the years, however, he gave her much more - becoming her mentor, he worked with her regularly and developed her skills in bareback bronc, and bull riding. She learned quickly and soon earned the nickname "Casey Jr." When he knew that her potentials were set in motion and she was on the road to becoming all that she could be, "Jr." was dropped and Sharon officially became "Casey" Norman.
One day, Sharon was 18 years old and hauling hay, when she saw a sign that said, "Join The Navy, See The World." She went to the recruiter's office and tried to enlist, but in her jeans and cowboy boots, she looked 12. She went home and told her father that she was joining the Navy - his only response was, "Yeah, right". When she finally convinced him that she was serious, he went with her to prove her age, only to find that she needed a high school diploma or G.E.D. in order to enlist.
Sharon had a dilemma because she was not a high school graduate. She admits that she was not fond of all her subjects, History in particular. There she was graded a double "F" - she didn't care that Christopher Columbus went around the world - "Good for him! That was him, this is me." And she wanted to work with her father, learn to build things, ride horses, broncs and bulls, and fix tractors!
Her turning point came when she became ill during one of their cold winters and missed several weeks of school. When she returned and attempted an algebra make-up test, she found she could not do it and wrote across her paper, "NO USE". She was graded a triple "F", written in red. When her father signed the paper, he asked for a red pen because he didn't want to change the colors on her test and report card. That was the end of Sharon's high school education.
She dropped out, but because of her rodeo bronc and bull riding talents, soon received a call at home from M-G-M. They had seen her picture in the newspaper, read about her accomplishments and wanted her to be an extra in a movie. She went dressed in her everyday jeans, boots and cowboy hat. When she and one of her friends arrived, they began to feel out of place among all the other women dressed in their fancy gowns and thought surely they didn't stand a chance - they were among the first 3 chosen as extras! The next thing she knew she was offered a chance at being the stunt woman for Debbie Reynolds - small-framed, and long, blond hair. Who in the world wouldn't?!! Debbie Reynolds, and a part in "How The West Was Won" - another rung of the ladder - befitting a pioneer woman (not yet aware of her life path).
At 17, she had to be inside the 18-wheel prop truck by 5 a.m. daily. There, she was made up to have wrinkles (she jokingly adds that they wouldn't have to do that today). Sharon dressed identical to Debbie Reynolds, so that when the shoot began, and the stars would encounter a dangerous scene, Sharon could quickly and easily step in as Debbie Reynolds. During the shooting of the bison scene, Sharon worked with 600 stampeding buffalo in Custer State Park - and the stunt personnel had already been warned (as they were in each situation), that if they fell, there would be no way to help them.
She and her stunt partner (Ms. Lucas) had to run approximately 100 yards to a dugout for safety from the little tent they were in when the bison stampeded. They took off running - one as fast as the other; the bison folded in around them, and just as Ms. Lucas was about to dive into the dugout, Sharon stepped on her costume and pulled her entire skirt off- but not a soul cared because everyone, especially them, was happy that they had made it to the dugout unharmed!
In another scene the raft was designed to break apart because they were to appear as if going over the rapids. Sharon remembers that they "pulled the stars, and of course they were in nice calm waters, and added us fools (stunt girls) to do the "over the falls" scene, and the water was very, very cold". The warning in this scene was that you had a chance at 3 catch ropes over the falls - if you miss them all you go down the falls and there is no one that can help you! Well, after missing the first 2 catch ropes (and thinking, "Holy !*#!), Sharon managed to grasp the third, pull herself across the overhead rope, and get pulled to safety!
When she was asked if she could do a rider pick-up stunt, she said she had been doing rodeo all her life - hell yeah, she could! Although she was a little concerned amid a herd of stampeding horses when the rider didn't show up right away, she managed to pull the stunt off successfully. Although she faced many dangers and challenges, Sharon found this fascinating! She loved it and couldn't get enough of it, so it was a dream come true when the director wanted her to continue as an M-G-M stunt woman in Hollywood. She was ecstatic when she called her father with the wonderful and exciting news!
Being the quiet, non-emotional, but wise man that he was, he did not attempt to discourage Sharon. She remembers that he only said, "You know about the birds and the bees, but not people, and sometimes bad things can happen". When she hung up the phone, his words reverberated, and she got very scared. She had seen some of the ways of the movie industry, knew that a few of the guys had their "eyes on her", and knew her father was right, he had always been right. She could only imagine what would happen if she went to Hollywood, did not conform to Hollywood standards, and became penniless, ruined and shamed. She heeded his warning and declined the offer. She also knew that if she ever wanted to, she could return.
Instead, she went to the School of Mines to obtain her G.E.D. After completing that, she decided to "Join the Navy, See The World!" That's when another adventure in her life began: In February, 1962 she joined the Navy as a recruit. She was on the drill team and soon became Master at Arms of her barracks. She swam a lot and attended classes to learn the military way. Sharon admits that she needed that discipline and appreciates everything that she endured and conquered.
On her 5th week of Captain's Inspection (Baltimore, Maryland during a blizzard) she was in dungarees. Earlier, she had tossed a chambray shirt that she wore only once, into her locker. During the inspection they discovered the shirt, and called it "filthy". The next morning, she had to take that shirt, wave it over her head, hop like a bunny, and announce to the entire base, "I am a pig"! No more disgrace for Sharon - thus, the benefit of her father's perseverance, determination and disciplinary training.
As a young girl on the ranch, Sharon wanted to do any and everything. It was no different for her now in the Navy because no matter what it was, she volunteered, and was chosen. In July, 1962, Sharon entered the Navy Swimming meet for the 50 yard Free Style, 100 yard Free Style, and 50 yard Dash events. She became Champion of the 50 yard Dash and 50 yard Free Style events. Even though she was involved in various activities, her love for the rodeo had not dwindled.
The uniqueness of Sharon and her way of thinking is shown in one incident when she was stationed in Arlington, Virginia. In her spare time, Sharon would go to rodeos and ride bulls. That may have been fine in the West, but she was stationed on the East Coast, and it just wasn't lady-like. When her superior, Captain Baker, learned of this routine, Sharon was given a direct order to stop participating in competition bull-riding!
The following weekend, she returned to the rodeo and told the owner that she could not ride a bull in competition, but saw nothing wrong with riding a steer in exhibition. It did not take long for this news to reach Captain Baker, and Sharon received a Captain's Mask (disciplinary action).
On the day of her hearing, when she was accused of disobeying a direct order, Sharon replied, "No, sir, I did not; I didn't ride a bull in competition, I rode a steer in exhibition. The Captain asked what the difference was, and Sharon replied, "Well, one's castrated". The Captain stood up, tipped the front of his cap and walked (chuckling) out of the courtroom. The Commander told Sharon to step back, tum right, and move out. As she did this, he advised her that he "never wanted to see her in his courtroom again. Dismissed!
Shortly thereafter, while working at a photography center as a typist, she began modeling for the Navy, participating in fashion shows, and appearing in "All Hands Magazine". Sharon was the poster girl for the Navy, appearing on recruiting billboards nationwide, "Join The Navy, See The World".
In November, 1964 Sharon was one of the NPC people featured at their professional trade show - one of those seeing Washington. The show was by Chief Carlisle and was a colorful exhibit featuring a model sailing ship with pictorial sails showing the Navy at work; a bridge which crossed over an aerial photograph of steaming ships with a formation of planes arching over the bridge. Beyond the bridge were large photographs of the Naval personnel seeing Washington.
It was also in 1964 that she was interviewed by 2 Japanese Officers because they wanted to send the news of her being a lady bull rider home to Japan. They had never heard of or seen a 'lady bull rider'! Major Dittman (Owner of White Oak Stables in Virginia) had also informed the Boy Scouts of America that Sharon would be conducting an exhibition and invited them to come. They were very interested, and after seeing her, sent a letter to thank her for her support of their Scouting program.
In 1973, she had a friend who taught golf in Vail, Colorado. President Ford and his physician, Lucas, were coming to play golf, and Sharon was invited to help out. She accepted, met President Ford, and drove the golf cart for Dr. Lucas, and Alan Greenspan (the Financial Advisor for the United States of America).
Later, she attended dinner with Dr. Lucas and Mr. Greenspan. She hoped they would not want to talk politics! They didn't; instead they talked about the ranch and she was quite comfortable with that!
After 3 years, Sharon left the Navy, with an Honorable Discharge, to explore a new way of life and expand on her personal expectations. During all these years, the only things she ever "gave up" on was a high school diploma (but earned her G.E.D.), and secretarial positions. After briefly holding down one, she discovered that she hated them, so she packed her bags and headed for Colorado, to begin living the life of "Casey" Norman.
Her spirit of adventure had only been heightened and she continued trying for any and everything. She tested diesel trucks, raced cars, sold a new make of wine pouches to sporting goods stores, took karate, and continued to earn her place in the rodeo circuit. In 1960, she won the men's Champion Bull Riding Contest in Denver, Colorado.
At Arapahoe County Fairgrounds in early 1980, Casey was the Arena Director. Just as the rodeo was ending, Casey urged her chute boss (Tom) to ride double with her on a bull, and he readily agreed. When the Announcer heard what they were going to do, he announced, "Our Arena Director, Casey Norman has lost her mind!"
They drew an enormous Black Angus bull. Tom 'tied in' and Casey mounted behind him, clinging to his belt. The gate opened, and they were off! They didn't quite make the full 8-second ride, but there were lots of cheers and excitement for the attempt they made.
Casey was featured several times in the "CGRA ROUNDUP-A Monthly Newsletter" for her participation in the CGRA held in Reno, Nevada in August, 1982. The comments pertaining to Casey are:
- "To all who worked, contributed and participated - Thank you for helping make my dream come true:
- John King - for his continued support
- Art White - for his patience with a tough job
- Casey Jackson - for accomplishing her own personal dream"
- "Even the announcers acknowledged that Colorado's spirit was something else. We early on realized we had an especially talented entrant in the person of Casey, but when it became apparent that the whole crowd began to adopt her as their special person, we knew it was more than Colorado pride, but an appreciation for real skill developed over a lifetime of effort."
- "That Sunday morning saw the completion of the postponed events from Saturday...." "Once again, the events and the crowds enthusiasm were dominated by Casey, in whom our pride grew as the day progressed. But we were so proud of all of our entrants,..... "
- "The high point came for Colorado when Casey was given the All Round Cow Girl Award for her outstanding performances on both days. Congratulations Casey, we all love you!"
- " ... The highlight of the rodeo, of course, was the 3 entrants who represented Charlies (as well as our community) in the wild horse race event. These 3 CGRA members were Casey, Ron Jesser and Tom Phillips. Our THANKS to these 3 outstanding people for making us sooooooo proud!!!!."
Eventually, Casey became aware of an available position with Martin Marietta.
She began her career as (of all things) a secretary in Plant Protection, but was laid off. However, several months later (because of Women's Lib) she received a call from her Captain saying that Martin Marietta was looking for a female military veteran and he felt she was their answer. When she went for what she thought would be her interview, it had already been agreed that Casey was eminently qualified. She became the only woman included in that program, but only had "one 'go' at proving herself". Her on-the-job training lasted 6-months, and she had the title, Inspector (Meter Maid). Her duties included driving the fire truck, the ambulance, patrolling the buildings and checking badges at the gate - all of which, while others joked about it, Casey took quite seriously.
At the beginning of her new assignment, the Director of Plant Protection came through the gate when Casey was on duty. She later learned that when he reached his office, he called her Captain (Doral Young) and told him to, "Tell that 'boy' to get a haircut!" Her Captain promptly informed him, "That's a female, not a male." "Oh, you hired a female?" asked the Director. "Yes, we hired a female!" Captain Young replied.
Her next position was Corporal, where she dispatched emergency response teams (911), and not long thereafter, was promoted to Sergeant. In order to be a firefighter each individual has a stringent test to pass - in Casey's day, everyone tested the same, and she passed the men's physical in order to prove her abilities. She fondly remembers having to climb a 50-foot ladder with a "donut" (heavy, rolled hose) over her shoulder, running so many feet every so many minutes, and passing the fire truck driving test.
The best thing about this for Casey was the guideline (and the fact that her peers were on the sidelines making bets that she couldn't do it): you had to be 6" off the yellow line(s), and you could not look through the rearview mirror in order to park - Hah! She thought to herself, "This is a piece of cake - come on guys, for God's sake, I've driven stock trucks - can we get to a real challenge, here!"
To test her strength and endurance, she was required to hold as many Scott Air Packs (weighing 30 lbs. each) as she could. When she finally "folded" she had held as many as 9! She was also required to load into an ambulance a 250-pound "mock patient" with a 30-pound resuscitator on his chest, and she would only have one 'go' to get it done. Pretty, and strong! Casey and her partner easily lifted nearly 300 pounds into the ambulance, once again proving her worthiness, and being accepted for who she was.
She drove the fire truck, and ran the ambulance (911s to Swedish), but what were they really doing? She remembers seeing employees from the Engineering Building watching them from their windows and saying "Oh, no - here comes McHale's Navy", because of their inexperience and lack of training. She knew that would not last long and thought, "All we really know how to do now is put on a band-aid, but boy, in these white coats, we sure do look good!" Even the Swedish personnel cringed when they saw that the driver from Martin Marietta was coming.
To demonstrate their urgent need for training, Casey shared these stories:
- They were unloading a patient that had a resuscitator on his chest in the ambulance - as they unloaded the patient he began screaming at the top of his lungs. He had the oxygen tubes from the resuscitator on his chest and in his nose and they were still connected to the tank which was still IN the ambulance!
- Rolling into the Medical Department with a heart attack victim on board, her attendant (Glover) was providing the patient with oxygen. She saw an open bay door and thought she was "good to go". She gunned the ambulance, headed through the bay door, hit the top and scraped everything off the top of the ambulance. Sirens, horns and lights were on the floor - fully operational. When she stopped and went to the patient, Glover had taken the oxygen off the patient and was using it on himself! The hospital staff was in hysterics as they took the patient inside.
- Casey and Glover had a patient they were resuscitating when she noticed the patient's hair was blowing, and her stomach was rising. She told Glover, "Tum the oxygen down, she's blowing up!"
Martin Marietta was growing and the larger they became, the more employees they had, increasing the chances for danger. She and her team went to fires in their uniforms (which were easily flammable), with no tumout gear and wearing street shoes. They didn't have Scott Packs and were breathing toxic smoke each time they responded to an emergency. Casey knew this was not safe, but had no formal training to alleviate the problem, and Martin Marietta did not provide schooling. But, she had a solution - she would learn on her own! She obtained her knowledge and experience on her days off, and by using vacation time to attend seminars and classes.
At night, while patrolling buildings, checking fire systems and extinguishers, and when she was not on fire duty, she began to memorize every single fire system valve and screw in the entire plant. She began learning about the fire truck - inside and out - "... what made that thing tick?" At the end of her shift, she took a manual home to study - on her own initiative, and without mentioning it to anyone.
Casey was eager to learn how to do more, and to do it safely and efficiently for her crew, as well as victims. She believed that, "If you have no firefighters because they are down, the victim is lost." She wanted to train them to do everything right all the time, and would tell them, "Lack of planning on your side does not mean an emergency on my side. We will take care of this, but you will be suited properly and follow procedure." They soon learned to appreciate and respect her for being consistent as well as insistent.
She would leave her job at 6 a.m., drive to the Littleton Fire Training Center and sleep in her car (a little MG) until approximate 8 a.m., when the Littleton Fire Team came to train. She said she "bugged them to learn how things worked and how to fight fires." She learned about the hoses - there was a horizontal and a vein. If you took it out of gear and put it in 'horizontal', you had two hoses pulling at half speed. Putting it in 'vein' would shut off one pump and give you one hose at twice the pressure. She was learning a lot. She became such a 'fixture' they allowed her to attend their classes, and participate in their tests, even though she was not enrolled.
Finally, one day there was a mountain propane fire and one of the guys didn't show. She had been there training every day, listening and learning with the firefighters, and they said to her, "OK, Casey, we need help. Get your Scott Pack and tum-out (bunker) gear on." She did! After that, she was fully accepted and they began letting her do everything the guys did. They liked her and even started "banging" on her car window in the mornings to wake her, "Get up, Casey - let's go!" She was learning to be a firefighter! She began college to obtain her Fire Science Degree.
After being promoted to Sergeant, she became involved in and wrote the manuals for the Incident Command System, which is a type of pyramid:
She not only did this for Martin Marietta, but had to incorporate mutual coordination with Douglas and Jefferson County. At this point, Casey's personal goal became to acquire the knowledge and ability to train firefighters.
Each time they completed an emergency situation, Casey would work with her team in a classroom setting. She would use the blackboard to critique their actions and find ways to improve. In training, and real emergency situations, Casey has a plethora of tapes and she would review them routinely. She was determined to find the techniques and science to handle all emergencies.
She assigned each team member a code (a letter to identify their position, and a number for however many there were in that position) so that she knew where they were and how to command them. They would "practice, practice, practice", because she wanted them to be calmly able to handle emergencies. Casey was promoted to Lieutenant, 2nd Shift Commander.
The first time Casey ever commanded a training session, she was so excited she jumped out of the vehicle, slammed the door, and began barking orders. She soon heard her Dispatcher trying to get her attention, "Lt. Norman. Lt. Norman". It was only then she realized that no one could hear her - she had slammed the door on the mike's cord and severed it. Sheepishly she reached and got her hand radio before continuing. She smiles when she sees police officers and firefighters leaning on a car, looking calm. She knows that in reality, their insides are like "scared ducks under water - flopping all over the place!" That's the way they must appear because if they lost control, the entire situation would be out of control.
Soon after becoming Commander, Martin Marietta was scheduled for their routine Air Force review. The Air Force allowed one minute for teams to get first water and Martin Marietta's teams had not been doing well. She immediately began training her team, using her knowledge and experience learned from being a part of the fire team. They trained intensely daily for 45 days (this included weekends and their days off). The team was willing to do this because they, as well as Casey, wanted to do well at the review.
The review was approximately 2 weeks away when the night crew realized they were "in trouble". It was requested that Casey be offered the opportunity to train them. For 2 weeks, after completing her shift, she worked an additional 4 hours with the night shift, often not returning home until 3 a.m. She wanted it to become second nature to them, performed like clockwork.
Finally, it was time for the review. Lieutenant Housley commanded first shift and they could not get first water in 3 minutes (you were only allowed 1 minute); second shift got first water in 15 seconds; and third shift got first water in 30 seconds! There were 2 Air Force inspectors timing the test - the first one clocked Casey's team and couldn't believe he was correct. The second inspector walked over and confirmed, "I clocked them at 15 seconds". No way! If you got first water in under a minute, you were good, but 15 seconds was absolutely unheard of!
Second shift won that review; her team rushed to her, put her on their shoulders and were screaming, "Lieutenant, we got it, we got it!" She replied, "I know we got it."
Today, Casey says she does not know how she (and her patients) survived, until she and her crew learned what they were doing, but they all did. As she knocked on her wooden kitchen table, she tearfully thanked God that she never killed anyone and never had to go to a family and tell them she had "lost" a loved one. In 1974, (Family Day at the Circus, where she rode an elephant) Casey was honored by Martin Marietta as the first Female Certified Firefighter.
Even with the mishaps, Casey's performance was outstanding and in 1981 she was named Fire Training Officer for high-rise training at Martin Marietta. Physical fitness programs, driver education, laying hose, and use of all equipment were part of the training. She used mountain climbing gear to train 8 plant protection personnel in the techniques of firefighting and rescue operations in high-rise emergencies. She taught and frequently participated in rappelling to the ground or top of a high-rise building from a hovering helicopter. She now had the education and experience she worked diligently for, and was off to another great adventure - until tragedy struck.
Enjoying a brilliant, rewarding and flawless 19-year career with Martin Marietta, Lieutenant Norman "Casey" was well on her way to achieving her biggest dream ever - to become the first Female Fire Chief in America. She successfully completed her interview; however, with less than 6 credits needed to earn her Associates in Fire Science and to enter this position, Casey had an unfortunate accident.
While riding with her nephew, Casey's horse (Honeymoon) had a heart attack. Casey recalled that it felt like she hit a brick wall - Honeymoon fell backwards on top of her. Casey weighed 120 pounds and Honeymoon, 1200 pounds, plus a saddle. Honeymoon was rolling and thrashing, Casey had her leg in the stirrup trying to push out of the saddle, and Devin was trying desperately to help his aunt. When all was quiet, Casey was freed and taken to the hospital. She was diagnosed with soft tissue damage.
After taking a 2-week leave from work, Casey returned to her Paramedic training. As she tried to perform, she noticed almost unbearable pain when lifting - but she never let anyone in the course know. She went to the doctor and told him about the pain she experienced when lifting, and thought it was more than just soft tissue damage. Fortunately the doctor listened and ordered an MRI - that's when they noticed a spiral break down her back.
As a result, she has 5 titanium rods and 3 titanium discs - "they literally fused me together front to back". In a matter of seconds, her whole life had changed. This was devastating for Casey, who loved her job and had worked hard to make it up the corporate ladder. Even though she is still very emotional when she remembers this, she firmly believes that it is all part of God's Plan and said she certainly finds no fault in Honeymoon.
If there had been any way possible Casey thought she could have performed her duties, she would; but, she was realistic and understood that because of her injury and the medication she required, she was no longer an asset but a liability, and had to accept a medical retirement. She is most thankful that Martin Marietta was good to her.
Being realistic did not help get her through the feelings of anger, depression, no longer being needed; no longer in the midst of action and adventure, and could never be again. For many years, she had been "needed" 24/7, with pulling her shift, then being on-call, responding to fires, forest fires, working all night in the woods with shovels, coordinating care for response teams, and responding to explosions on a regular basis; and now, nothing! She was bitter, and very, very hurt. It took 3-4 years for reality to take over and she realized that life would go on and she needed to get back in the flow!
Bits and pieces of information were coming to her that reassured her she was still very important - a good friend told Casey she had attended a seminar and the instructor began talking about a lady that had a flawless record and overcame many obstacles. Casey's friend knew immediately who he was referring to, raised her hand and announced that Casey was her friend.
Years after attending school in South Dakota, Casey's niece (Jackie) was in high school. Her professor was advising the students that they all had the potential to do and become whatever they wanted. To demonstrate this, he began talking about a young lady, who, years ago "defied the system" by riding broncs, riding bare back broncs and bulls, and breaking horses and bulls. He said her name was Sharon Norman!
When he finished speaking, Jackie raised her hand and told him that was her aunt. He wanted to know what Casey was doing and when he learned that she was a Firefighter for Martin Marietta in Denver, Colorado his response was, "That doesn't surprise me, she was always determined and definitely her own person".
Casey soon returned to rodeo participation - no, not riding or in exhibitions, but as Judge of rodeos and Announcer at Gymkhanas. She was a weekly announcer at Wild West Stables in Colorado for quite some time. She taught bronc riding, barrel racing, and tought bulll riding at Ford's Arena in Denver.
In 1982 the CGRA Association had heard of Casey's rodeo experience and recruited her to assist with their rodeo team. Casey joined the Association and using her past rodeo experience, began training the CGRA's rodeo team.
She outlined the equipment they would need, and following their shopping spree, began teaching participants how to use it. Her role during this time was voluntary, and all funding was provided by donations and exhibitions that they would hold in the parking lot of Charlie's (owned by John King). Every Sunday they would practice using the equipment, exercising, strength training, and mental concentration for their upcoming events in bull riding, steer riding, bareback bronc riding, barrel racing, pole bending and calf roping.
Their exhibitions consisted of the participants riding stick horses to simulate barrel racing, pole bending and calf roping. They had fun, but they were also raising money so that they could participate in the upcoming Comstock Rodeo to be held in Reno, Nevada.
The day finally came when they arrived in Reno to exhibit their skills. If they thought it would be all fun and games, they were sadly mistaken, for Casey had a rigorous agenda in store for them to ensure they would do well. Although they had no official locale to train, Casey would not let that stop her. Each morning at 6:00AM she would wake all the participants, they would meet in the hotel lobby for exercising, followed by a 2-mile run. On numerous occasions, some participants tried to avoid her, only to be found and reminded why they were there, and that, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going". No matter if they were tired, sore, and sometimes just hung over; she worked them through their routine.
In 1983 Casey started the first Chute Coordinator Certification program. She continued mentoring the Arena Director Certification program, as well as the Judges' Certification program, which were approved by the IGRA Directors. She assisted in writing the first rodeo rules for the association.
Throughout her 20 years of rodeo involvement in this capacity, Casey officiated at 100+ rodeos as Arena Director or Senior Judge. She quietly retired for medical reasons.
Casey recalls that this was another wonderful experience, and relishes that as a female in those days; she was always treated with respect. She expresses her thanks to all those involved in the Rodeo Association, saying, "You are all wonderful people. Thank you for another rewarding and exciting journey in my life.
In addition to teaching rodeo participants, she also had children with special needs and worked with them in her personal developmental programs using her hand-trained horses.
In 1987, Casey was the President of High Country Ridge Riders. She organized 'rides for rookies'. During that time she received a call from Cathy requesting help in moving cattle from her ranch to the north summer pasture approximately 50 miles away. She had 3 - 4 months to prepare. Casey was definitely ready for this challenge, and began gathering participants. After she recruited 10 - 12 'greenhorns', she began organizing, training and planning.
Most of them were city girls, but eager and capable of making the trip. They were excited about camping out, riding and herding, and eating from an old-time chuck wagon! Some had never been on a horse, so she trained them at her ranch. She laughs when she remembers the classic mount: right foot in the stirrup- "Now, whoa!" They had to learn to brush down, clean the feet, saddle (Casey arranged for wranglers to assist with this), and ride their horse.
In addition she contracted with Wild West Stables for additional (very gentle) horses, arranged for trailers in case a horse became lame, and trucks in case a 'rookie' needed a different ride. She wrote an itinerary and everything was ready to go!
Unfortunately, the cattle drive never happened - at the last minute, Cathy cancelled and said she decided to have an 18-wheeler move the cattle. It was a "terrible let down" - not only for the participants, but Casey as well.
Although she is not able to be in the 'main stream' as she was in rodeos, the Navy and at Martin Marietta, she has found other outlets for her energy and spirit of adventure. Today, Casey has rental property, owns a jewelry company called "Peddlers West", a small security business and owns and operates the "Rocking 7 Lazy L Tennessee Walker Ranch Facility". There she trains horses, breeds mares, teaches riding and care of ranch animals, and participates in community parades. She and her 19-year old famous, 5-time World Champion Stallion (Generator) still steal the show. As always, what she does is no less than perfect! She is well known, and well-loved in her community, always greeted with warmth and respect when she enters a local establishment to eat, mail parcels, or shop.
Mr. Norman lived to see his children do as he did - "live life the way you want" - as adults. He saw what they could do and had become; however, on July 26, 1991 (at the age of 76) he died at his home in Rapid City. He will never be forgotten. The Norman Homestead Ranch is still in operation today - a tribute to the strengths he instilled in his girls.
In Casey's home she proudly displays a picture of her father and a collage of her vast trophies, buckles, ribbons, plaques, and pictures of her "life". Her 8-acre ranch has a tack room, a 300-foot, 11 stall bam - both display countless numbers of ribbons and pictures, - several sectioned areas for training/breeding/boarding, and several remaining acres where the horses can run.
She has a reputation for the safety and excellent care she provides for the animals that come to her ranch, and is still actively involved in every step of their care. Mares are brought to her to mate with Generator, which she has had since he was 6-years old. She calls him her, "gentle, good boy".
She has been in this location for 30 years, and since that time, has employed hundreds of kids (some troubled) to teach them values and instill discipline and stability in their lives - "to teach them to do the right thing", she says. Although she's had a few bad seeds that she had to tum away, she's had more good than bad. A lot of those didn't return, but many have come back to thank her for the discipline and stability she provided in their life. For those that last, there is mutual love and respect between them, and because of this they have lots of fun. Her need to teach and nurture, and being with her animals is what keeps her going each day.
The employees are kept busy caring for the acreage, gardens, and numerous animals that all live in peace and harmony on the ranch - and they each have a name. Casey emphatically states, "I will not butcher anything that I own". There's a milk goat, a very large turkey, horses, male and female peacock, roosters, hens, cats, a dog (6-year old Espie), a silver Miniature Schnauzer, who is a wonderful chicken herder, and any other stray that might be lucky enough to wander onto her property! Be assured they will be well taken care of.
She doesn't have the luxury of relaxing routinely, however, Casey enjoys boating, fishing, camping, dancing, music, entertaining and relaxing in the yard with all her animals. Each morning she begins her day at 4:30a.m. She makes a pot of coffee, turns on her radio or CDs of country, western, Christmas (even in July), Jamaican, or whatever she is in the mood for, (which can softly be heard on the speakers outside), gathers cookies for the goat, carrots for the horse, breakfast for the cats and dog, and loaves of bread for the turkey, chickens, roosters and peacocks. She sits down in her outside rocker to enjoy her coffee and cigarettes while breaking and tossing bread for them, and hand-feeding the turkey (Sally)- Sally prefers hers 'sandwich' style!
If you are ever privileged to see her during this time, when you arrive, she looks at you over her glasses and flashes the prettiest, most welcome smile anyone could ever receive. She will get your coffee, offer you breakfast, and if you want to be quiet, she can - but be warned, once you get her started she won't stop, and you won't want her to because listening to her adventures is fascinating!
If you ask her, she will excitedly tell you that she has lived a wonderful life, and continues to do so today.