Profiles STILL KICKING IN KILGORE

All you eternally bubbly, toothy, cute li’l ol’ former Kilgore Rangerettes out there – RE-LAX. Gussie Nell Davis is alive and kicking (1-2-3 kick) at Kilgore College. And hell will have to freeze over before her cowgirl hat and boots bite the dust.

Retire? “Why should I? Do you want me to? I don’t want to quit. I’m having too much fun.”

At 69 perhaps Gussie Nell deserves a rest. After all, she invented the Kilgore Rangerettes in 1939 and has been “boss lady” ever since. Her squad was the first and certainly the best known precision drill team – and her girls have performed on the Ed Sullivan show, on practically every major televised football extravaganza, at President Eisenhower’s inauguration, in parades, at conventions, anywhere there’s room for a line of 48 girls.

Gussie Nell is choreographer, drill sergeant, confessor, teacher, travel agent, psychologist and promotion expert. She is for real. One second she denies that she can tell you a thing about herself; the next she pours out her life history.

“These girls are my life. The only time of day I really like is the period I have Rangerettes. The hardest day in my life is when I have to tell a girl she didn’t make Rangerettes. And don’t think we don’t work. You wouldn’t believe how hard we work. That’s why we’re good. And we give 53 or 54 performances a year.”

Gussie Nell, who was born in Farm-ersville, Texas, tries to teach girls “how to meet people and remember names, how to apply makeup and keep clothes clean, good posture and how to walk properly and walk gracefully up and down steps. And especially, how to be gracious.” But most importantly, she says, “they learn self-discipline.”

Gussie Nell still insists on perfect punctuality and forbids gum chewing and smoking in uniform. Drugs and alcohol are unthinkable. Rangerettes have to maintain a C average. She wants to protect the pure, wholesome Rangerette image.

That’s why the original and only Rangerette costume (it’s copyrighted) has had its skirt raised just two inches in 37 years.

Gussie Nell also is realistic. “In any group you have gossips, people who sleep with people . . . people who drink and smoke.” Nevertheless, she insists “my girls are normal. They love the boys and I want them to. But I think my Rangerettes are nicer than the average. You’d be surprised how many of my girls really are good Christians.”

She hasn’t changed much over the years. She still reads a lot and loves people. Still wears size six and “shoes are still my weakness. I buy them and they go out of style before I can wear them.” And she continues to like men. “Sometimes I ask why in heck I didn’t marry, but I’d find I made more money. Or they’d be rich and liked all the girls. I have met men and gone with them. At this stage I don’t really flirt, but we have a good time.”

The boss lady still keeps her pet descriptions. In her posture lectures the rib cage is the “bird cage,” the head still rolls around “like a billiard ball,” the pelvic-abdominal area is the “salad bowl.” And as each new crop of Rangerettes lines up for the first preview by the Rangerette of All Rangerettes, Gus-sie Nell still studies each girl’s chest. “Those of you who have them – good. Those who don’t – get them.”

Gussie Nell’s big worry these days is coming up with new and unique props. There have been 46 so far – from pompoms, suitcases, guns, boxes, hoops, umbrellas and giant roses to capes, discs, drums, muffs, fans, tambourines, jump ropes and cardboard horses.

But she’ll come up with something. After 37 years of being on top, her determination and worry will pay off with something bigger and better. You can bet on it, honey.

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