When Alyce Webb rides into the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show, she will be a first for the show’s 31-year history.
“This is the first time we’ve had a real husband and wife play Pawnee Bill and May Lillie,” said Mona Denney, director of the show at the Pawnee Bill Ranch historic site.
Alyce’s husband Kevin Webb has played Gordon W. “Pawnee Bill” Lillie for 11 years.
When the role of May Lillie came open this year, Alyce decided to try it.
This is a special year. The show will celebrate the Women of the Wild West Shows.
Alyce Webb is just the cowgirl for this historic moment. Most days, she is Dr. Alyce Webb, a history professor at Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa.
The Wild West Show thunders into the arena at 7:30 p.m. July 26 and July 27. There will be a sideshow and carnival games from 5 to 7 p.m. Preshow entertainment begins at 7 p.m. The show is at the Pawnee Bill Ranch one-half mile west of the town of Pawnee on U.S. 64. On Saturday there will be gunfights, a rainmaker and other activities from 2-6:30 p.m.
Both Alyce and Kevin Webb worked their way up through the cast to starring roles. She was born in Pawnee and volunteered at the Pawnee Bill Ranch.
“That’s where I met Kevin,” Alyce said. She joined the 50-member cast of the Wild West Show, which made “every summer an adventure.”
She’s been in sideshows and parades as well as the main show. Tall and slim with long dark hair, Alyce has played a mermaid, complete with a fishtail, to the delight of little girls. She’s been a saloon girl selling sodas in a plywood saloon and a stagehand who ran into the arena between acts to change targets and props.
She and Kevin Webb became friends, dated and worked together as cast members in the Wild West Show.
Alyce became his assistant in his whip act. She held newspapers; he cut them to pieces with a bullwhip.
Sometimes the whip hit her.
“It’s a show,” she said. “I tried to never let anyone know.”
They married in 2015.
Kevin Webb is the head working cowboy at the ranch with its buffalo herd, longhorn cattle and Clydesdale horses. The Oklahoma Historical Society maintains the ranch and the stone mansion where Pawnee Bill and May Lillie lived. Kevin rode in the show as a long-time cast member, then took over the lead role from Wayne Spears who held that role for 17 years.
Once a year Webb becomes the sensational American showman Pawnee Bill lifting his hat as he gallops into the arena in a fringed buckskin jacket. “May Lillie” rides in and they welcome the audience. The two-hour show recreates acts of the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show: Indian dancers, cossack riders, sharpshooters, trick riders, stagecoach robbers and banditos who exchange gunfire with Pawnee Bill.
Alyce and Kevin Webb see their future at the ranch and in the show.
Tickets are on sale at 918-762-2513 and at the ranch.
Teresa Black Bradway is a cast member of the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show and a member of the Oklahoma Historical Society Board of Directors.