There was a soccer game Sunday morning in Topeka.
The unusual part was that it was horse hooves, not human feet, kicking around the ball inside the Round-Up Club in southwest Topeka.
The horses, and their riders, were showing their skills during the game as a tryout for the Topeka-based equestrian entertainment group Wild Women of the Frontier.
The group of about 20 women was looking for new members for its traveling show, in which each member performs as a historical female figure from the Wild West days.
The Wild Women have performed across the region since 1996, and their shows can get a bit rowdy. Some perform as outlaws and bank robbers, while others fill out the show’s loosely scripted plot as freedom fighters and prostitutes.
For Lawrence resident and group member Jane Pennington, the group and shows provide a theatrical relief from her day job.
During the week, Pennington weaves through the business community in Lawrence as the director of Downtown Lawrence Inc.
“In my professional life, I’m kind of reserved,” said Pennington. But when riding with the Wild Women, she transforms into the early 20th century traveling dancer Klondike Kate.
It’s that transformation into an alter ego that prompted Debra Sloop, an elementary school teacher from Vassar, to show up as one of the 14 women trying out for the troupe Sunday.
“I like it that they’re all saucy,” said Sloop, who, if she makes the cut, wants to perform as the stagecoach robber Pearl Hart.
While the show is entertainment, the group also aims to provide some historical education about the women portrayed, said Wild Woman Ellen Noll.
“History’s fun,” said Noll.
She performs as a less-than-savory character — prostitute Laura Evans. But Noll said that Evans, like the other women portrayed, were more complex than given credit for.
Noll talked of some of the less well-known endeavors of some of the Wild West’s prostitutes. For instance, Noll said that many of the prostitutes worked as nurses during health crises, and donated some of their earnings to charitable causes.
Aside from the history, Noll said the best part of being a Wild Woman is, well, being wild.
“You can be ornery as hell,” she said.