Decatur resident Wendy Davis first learned of Sisters on the Fly after reading an article about the ladies-only club in Country Living magazine. The group of freewheeling women camped, fished and explored the outdoors in their tricked-out trailers, often winding through backcountry roads in colorful caravans, generating stares from passers-by.“I camped and fished and already had my trailer before I joined. I was just in my own little world doing it,” says Davis, who became Sister #3495 in April. “When I discovered there was a group that did this, it was so exciting.”Davis is just one of more than 4,100 sisters nationwide, who each pay $60 a year in dues to find friendships and adventure on the open road, amid the great outdoors. Fishing isn’t required, nor is owning a retro rig. However, members, who range in age from 21 to 94, must possess a fun-loving attitude and vow to abide by four rules on each journey — no men, no kids, no pets, and “be nice.”“I absolutely love it. It’s not even just about camping,” Davis said. “I wasn’t really expecting the support and friendships that come out of it.”Established by real-life sisters and fly-fishing enthusiasts Maurrie Sussman, of Phoenix, and Becky Clarke, of McCall, Idaho, Sisters on the Fly has members mostly among Western and Southern states, including more than 500 members in Texas. Sussman, Sister #1, says the idea for the traveling sisterhood originated from an all-women camping trip she coordinated in Montana in 1999.“We didn’t plan for it to be this big, but everybody always wanted to go wherever we went because we always had so much fun,” she recalls. “They started inviting friends who started inviting friends. It kind of started out like a traveling business, where we would take people on these fun adventures with us.”Hello trailerRestoring vintage trailers from trashed to treasured is not only therapeutic for members but almost like initiation.“Maurrie had the first trailer,” says Clarke, Sister #2. “I just loved her trailer and thought,‘Well, I have to have one.’ Now I have three and she has six. If you have places to park them, you just tend to buy more of them.”Not all Sisters have them, but most do. (Beautifully bedecked tents are common, too.) It’s through the trailers — with their kitschy themes, festive paint jobs, ornate decor and clever names such as Mustang Sally, Calamity Jane, Rhinestone Cowgirl and Sister Sioux — that each woman’s personality shines.“They’re kind of like shoes. You think, ‘Oh, this one will be cute with this outfit,’” Clarke says. “You just love these trailers to pieces because you put so much work into them. That’s what makes them so special.”Seashore themes are popular, as is turquoise-heavy Southwestern decor, but Sussman and Clarke follow a cowgirl theme for their trailers, as do around 75 percent of the Sisters, Sussman says.“I’ve always been a cowgirl at heart,” she said. “And every girl in the world, no matter who she is, has wanted to be a cowgirl at some point.”Because most of the tiny trailers only sleep one, Sussman likens the small sanctuaries to a private treehouse, a quiet place to escape, or a place for “timeout” if needed.Davis’ Texas-themed, 15-foot 1968 Mobile Scout is dubbed Queen B and features red and white striped curtains, a Texas flag painted on the front door and bed pillows adorned with cowboys.Kactus Kallie belongs to Marsha Boyd, another local Sister, from Lipan. The 1972 Scotty Serro is painted with two kinds of cacti and stocked with cactus-themed glassware and iron yard art she puts on outdoor display.Weatherford resident Rhoni Fields has a cowgirl-themed 1964 Scotsman trailer named Papoose, which exhibits an intricate exterior paint job of two cowgirls perched on a wooden fence along with another keeping warm by a campfire on the front door.“We make a lot of memories in these things,” said Fields. “One time in Albuquerque a woman stopped to take a picture of my trailer at a gas station and then she joined.”Fort Worth eventLike Davis, Boyd and Fields became Sisters as much for the comradeship as the outdoor excursions.“I don’t fish,” Boyd said. “I just like to get away. The best part is the other Sisters.”Fields emphasizes, “We don’t talk politics or religion. We get away. And every trip you go on you meet somebody new.”Starting Thursday, nearly 100 Sisters will head to Cowtown for a three-night campout in conjunction with the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. On Friday from 6 to 8 p.m., the public, including wannabe Sisters looking to learn more and spouses, who are nicknamed “Mister Sisters,” is invited to tour the festooned trailers and enjoy a campfire cookout catered by Reata.The menu will feature recipes from the new cookbook Cast-Iron Cooking With Sisters on the Fly. Copies will be available for purchase and author Irene Rawlings is scheduled for a book signing. Sussman and Clarke, who now only take part in select Sisters on the Fly events because of the organization’s size, will both be in attendance. “Sisters on the Fly is meant to drag our fellow Sisters into adventures that are safe,” said Sussman. “It’s enabling women to become self-sufficient and it’s bringing women together doing something that they’ve never done before. And they don’t have to compete with whoever they have to compete with in their real lives. “They’re trying a new adventure and they have the support of their Sisters.”
Sisters on the Fly
• 6-8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11
• Will Rogers Memorial Center
3401 W. Lancaster Ave.
• $35 in advance, $40 at the door
• 817-509-8663; www.cowgirl.net