All Bill Smith ever wanted to do was ride bucking horses, and be like his heroes, the Linderman boys. Smith, a three-time world champion saddle […]
Back When they Bucked with Lynn Smith
Written by: Maya< Back to Articles
High in the Rocky Mountains as the 1940’s were just cracking out, a desire to ride bulls and follow rodeo was brewing in young Lynn Smith’s heart. Lynn grew up on the Kremmling, Colo., ranch his granddad put together homestead by homestead beginning in 1881. His granddad raised many horses during those years even having a remount stud on the place to supply horses for the government. As natural progression goes, Lynn’s father took over the ranch and built a cow herd, kept some horses, and raised a family of three girls and Lynn, the youngest.
The young mountain man’s interest in rodeo peaked one year at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo. “Dad sold a big roan bucking horse to Verne Elliott at Denver when I was about four years old,” recalls Lynn. While in Denver the rodeo clown, Homer Holcomb, packed him all around on his shoulders, “and that’s when I decided I wanted to be a bull rider.”
Lynn grew up without the luxury of electricity. He attended a one room multi-grade school of which he was the only student his 6th and 7th grade year. He would pack his .22 to school and shoot magpies in the school yard. Around the ranch he would ride calves and when he was 15 he started entering rodeos. He was a three event teenager taking part in the bull riding, cow riding and bareback riding. Although they didn’t buck him off many bareback horses, he confesses he didn’t like it very much. He laughs as he also confesses, “I rode barebacks like I rode bulls, and they didn’t pay much for riding like that.”
His bull riding career spanned the two decades from 1953 to 1973, during which he made memories alongside the era’s best hands and on top of some of the best buckers in the business. Lynn met his late wife, Wilma (Willie), in the fall of 1956 during his short stint at college in Fort Collins, Colo. Before their marriage, he traveled with a few different cowboys including Gene Jordan of Durango, Colo. They were what rodeo folks call “splittin’” partners. When a partner placed he would split his winnings with the other.
“This way you could live rodeo to rodeo,” chuckled Lynn. He went on to explain, “If it was a little rodeo that paid four places we’d split 10% and if it were a bigger rodeo, like Denver, we’d split 5%.”
After his marriage, Lynn had a new traveling partner in Willie. “Naturally we didn’t have any extra money except what I won, and she got to working at rodeos then finally bought a timer’s card,” tells Lynn. This eventually worked into her becoming a rodeo secretary.
Wheels to the rodeos were used Cadillacs. “I had a ’59 Cadillac I drove over 200,000 miles. Everybody gave me a bad time for driving it forever.”
He used to tell people it was only an hour from Flagstaff to Phoenix-and it was back in those days because he drove 110 miles per hour! If Lynn won a check at a rodeo he and Willie would get a motel and if not, they would sleep in what they referred to as their “Cadillac Hotel.” Between the two, if they made $50 a rodeo they were making money. Wick Peth, the notable clown and bullfighter from that day, tried to convince Lynn to fight bulls. His response to that, “I train my feet to run from ‘em not to ‘em.” Even Willie thought a steady check at every rodeo might be a good idea. He told her, “Those bull riders aren’t going to like how I fight bulls.”
He stuck with the riding and sure enough needed to win something in Gunnison, Colo., one year.
“We pulled into town, filled up with gas, paid my fees and we had $1.43 left in our pockets. That’s it,” tells Lynn. He had drawn Little 8 of Walt Alsbaugh’s. “They just didn’t ride him anywhere,” he explains. According to Lynn, he was really a bucker and a fighter, too.
Full story available in our September 15, 2015 issue.