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Rodeo Earl Smith
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Alias    Posted 03-25-2004 at 08:29:26       [Reply]  [No Email]
Many years ago we had a colorful old gentleman living nearby who claims to have ridden in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. His name was Earl Smith.

Now, Earl wasn't your everday lackluster individual. No Sir, Mr Earl Smith was anything But. In fact, he was one of the most colorful and entertaining old gents I ever met. And, he took great pride in the things he had done or been a part of in his earlier days. Things like Being a stage coach driver in several old western movies. And, he had the credentials to back up his claims. For, he loved to show his albums of autographed pictures of many of Hollywoods finest. And each carried a message which gave personal recognition to "Rodeo Earl Smith".

When the cowboy movie craze ended, Earl retire to his farm in Cecil County, Md. But, his days as an entertainer were far from over. For, he would drive his mule drawn wagon, complete with hoops and canvas, with, his name in bright red letters, in every parade in the region. And, in keeping with his theme, he would be dressed in bright western wear, with boots, a ten gallon hat and twin pistols strapped around his waist. And, to add a touch of authanticity to his show, he would fire his guns into the air using blank cartridges.

Sadly, the years took it's toll on the old trouper. And, there came a time when when he doubted his ability to defend himself. So, he started keeping a loaded pistol on hand in case someone tried to rob him. After all, he was by no means a pauper. And, to make it worse, he lived alone. So, it's not hard to understand how he must have felt.

On one occassion, Earl had been invited to drive his mules in a parade in a small town in Pennsylvania. Everything was going as planned. Old Earl manuvered his team as skillfully as ever and everone was impressed and cheered the old man when he threw candy to the little children along the parade route. It was a big day for earl, he would say later. The sun was bright but not to hot. The sky was absent of clouds and all seemed right with the world. No sir, there would be no rain on Rodeo Earl Smith's parade. Or, so he thought.

However, that creul master called fate cast a disapproving glance Earl's way and decided to throw a monkey wrench into the day's activities. For, as Earl and his rig reached the Judges Stand, he pulled the pistol from his right holster as he guided his team with the left hand. And, in a reinactment of defending the stage from holdup men, Rodeo Earl Fired upon an imaginary bad guy and killed his lead mule. He had forgotten to replace the live rounds with blanks.

I don't think Earl ever participated in any other parades after that. But, for years I would drive by and see him out in the pastures with three mule following along behind him. After Earl passed away, his farm was sold and turned into a housing project. I always thought it should have been made into a park for the kids.

Regina Milton    Posted 07-04-2009 at 17:30:20       [Reply]  [Send Email]
I knew Rodeo Earl for many years. In fact, I photographed him; he signed the artist release and the picture was in a News Journal photography contest. I was fortunate enough to win first place………not thru my ability…it was Rodeo’s amazing face and warm smile. Our friendship lasted for many years. When he was sick with a cold I would make him hot toddies; he was always very appreciative. On many occasions he would ask me to go out to the barn and feed the small lambs. Most of the time they were already dead…probably from hunger and the cold.
Toward the end of his life Rodeo knew his days were numbered. He asked me to take whatever I wanted from his home. I told him I had wonderful memories and that was all I needed. He insisted I take something so I asked him what would HE like me to have. Rodeo handed me his family Bible and stated it was one of his most prized possession.
He was a wonderful man!

Shannon Hyde    Posted 10-07-2007 at 13:26:44       [Reply]  [Send Email]
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megan bernardi    Posted 08-21-2008 at 22:57:12       [Reply]  [Send Email]
My parents had a home built on the land that Rodeo Earl once wondered when I was just a young girl. I believe I see him once in a while and it made me curious about his past! It's wonderful to learn so many things! Thank you for sharing your stories! Does anyone have any pictures???

Helen Trimble    Posted 10-28-2007 at 19:46:31       [Reply]  [Send Email]
When I was ten, the resonating bong of the black cast iron bell in our front yard was a sound I hated. That sound meant, "be home in fifteen minutes." All too often, it also meant having to say "see ya later," to my dearest friend and neighbor, Rodeo Earl Smith. In his prime, Rodeo Earl was a Wild West cowboy. I reveled in listening to his never-ending swirl of stories about his life with Buffalo Bill, and the lives of Indians and numerous cowboy heroes. He recreated many of the tales in his Wild West shows.
The Rodeo Earl I remember was old, but muscular, with long white hair, a ruddy complexion, and sparkling blue eyes. His voice was so hoarse from nonstop talking he could have put a saddle on it. And like all successful entertaining cowboys, he knew all the ropes about pleasing a crowd. I'll never forget his spectacular last rodeo show. People came from all over to see the old cowboy in his final performance. I can still picture it: the spectacle of bucking bulls and horses, the line of spectators on the fence, the tall chaps wearing ten gallon hats, jeans and cowboy boots, Indians in full dress, and old Earl riding around on horseback yelling "yee-haw, yee-haw" while twirling his silver revolvers and shooting wildly into the air. This show confirmed that Rodeo Earl was still an impressive master showman.

Afterward, Earl told me that this show was his last, because it was time for an old cowboy like himself to retire when his legs buckled and his pants wouldn't.

Rodeo Earl proudly boasted that he had broken every bone in his body, none of course by accident, because rodeo horses and bulls always made a point of throwing him off on purpose. His fingers and toes were hardest hit.

His dirty, rarely washed feet were symbolic of his life long approach to pioneer living. The only physically challenging skill he never learned was to bath. More often than not, he stunk.

Earl had often encouraged me to become a rodeo performer, because he said I had that "special" adventurous quality. For motivation, he gave me one of his prized silver spurs. He said I could have only one, because he reckoned that if I could get one side of a horse moving, then the other side would go, too.

Once, in an attempt to impress Earl, I mounted one of his unbroken horses. A second or two later, I flew seven feet in the air and landed on my back. I cried out, "Earl, he bucked me!"

"Bucked?" laughed the proud old man. "Why, he only sneezed." I decided at that point, to be an astronaut instead.

Earl lived on a ranch adjacent to our farm in Maryland. Though his house was big, he lived predominantly in the living room furnished with a small potbelly stove on which he did some cooking. There was also a bed, a small table with two chairs, a rocking chair, and a wooden tub.

Here Earl lived cramped with his thirteen dogs. In the extreme cold, goats, chickens, and his prized horse shared this room, as well. The floor was layered with animal feces and urine, but the excitement of just being with Earl, outweighed the stink. When Earl told me stories, I would move the rocking chair up alongside of the potbelly stove, and by the light of the coal oil lamp, I would listen attentively.

Earl had no electricity. Refrigeration in warm weather consisted of a twenty-five-cent piece of ice for his ice chest. It was put in a granite container and as it melted, it provided some ice water for drinking. There was space in the chest for butter, milk, and some meat. For his occasional bathing, he heated water in kettles and carried them to the wooden tub in the corner of the room.

There was no heat in the house so on winter nights, he would heat a brick on the potbelly stove, wrap it in a cloth, and take it to bed, along with his thirteen dogs, to keep his feet and legs warm.

Today, the resonating bong of that same cast iron bell in my parent's front yard is a sound that I have come to cherish. The old clanging bell stills means "be home in fifteen minutes" for my fourteen-year-old son. When I hear it, I think of me as a young girl, scurrying home across the pasture, looking back at the smiling old cowboy and hollering, "See ya later, Rodeo Earl."

Helen Trimble    Posted 10-28-2007 at 19:35:55       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Funny story. After this even, while earl was in jail, my mother tended to his dogs and goats. I have moany wonderful stories about him.

Mike Dixon    Posted 05-11-2007 at 20:28:45       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Thanks for putting such an interesting piece online. He was a fascinating character and we have a number of photos of Rodeo Earl in our collection at the society. What brought this up for us recently was that a local song writer came in to play a song about Rodeo Earl for us and that got us to doing some research on him at the Historical Society of Cecil County. We've added a little piece about Earl Smith on our blog (the link is below) and a photo. We've linked to this piece since its such an interesting item to read, too

Julie White    Posted 07-25-2006 at 12:00:04       [Reply]  [Send Email]
My son found this page after I started talking about Rodeo Earl.How neat that you have this!! I knew Earl back in 1971 when I lived near Darlington, Maryland. I would go to his farm and buy antiques from him and listen to his stories. I bought a parlor stove from him that he claimed had belonged to "Sitting Bull" ( I didn't really believe it!)He had a bunch of junk cars around the place that were homes to many dogs and goats. I have a newspaper clipping about him.

Maggie (Felsburg) Ward    Posted 01-16-2006 at 10:43:40       [Reply]  [Send Email]
I am not sure if my previous post went through, so I will try again.
I am very happy to stumbled onto something written about Rodeo Earl. As a child, my family would go visit him on his "Silver King Ranch". My father's family had been friends with Earl for many years. He was quite a character and I am very happy to see some information about him. I have a lot of old photos as well as an old post card from the Ranch(I think from the 40's). By the time I knew him, I think he always had his two pistols loaded with read bullets and by his side :) Quite a character!

Kathy    Posted 01-18-2006 at 13:01:35       [Reply]  [Send Email]
So - you found this website too! Caught cha!!!

KellyGa    Posted 03-25-2004 at 20:52:37       [Reply]  [No Email]
Very good story, I enjoyed it very much, thanks. You should add this to the stories archive on here.

KellyGa    Posted 03-25-2004 at 20:52:37       [Reply]  [No Email]

~Lenore    Posted 03-25-2004 at 09:47:41       [Reply]  [No Email]
Very nice, Alias.

It is so special to share real stories like that.
Sad to know many memories and stories will be lost forever if they are not written down somewhere and passed on.


Stormie    Posted 03-25-2004 at 09:22:48       [Reply]  [No Email]
Good story...Enjoyed it. Looking forward to the next one.


Darin Pitts    Posted 10-07-2007 at 06:33:37       [Reply]  [Send Email]
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DD    Posted 03-25-2004 at 09:14:13       [Reply]  [No Email]
Awwwwww, sounds like we lost one of the good guys that day : (

DD    Posted 03-25-2004 at 09:14:13       [Reply]  [No Email]

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