When a new family moves into a small town, everyone in and around that neighborhood usually takes notice. The Buschbom family's move into Bloomington, Wis. was no different. We were told they came from Kansas, by way of Iowa, and were "rodeo people." The father, Bill, Sr., was a horse trainer and showman, and he had taken a job with Sheriff Joe Greer's rodeo. The boys, Billy, Jr., who was my age, and his younger brother, Jack, wore cowboy boots and learned the trade early.
While Billy was still in grade school he was already performing with his lariats and trick ropes at rodeos, also shows at the Blake's Prairie Fair at Bloomington and at the Twin Picnic (now the Twin-O-Rama) at Cassville. The family later moved to that river town where the Greer Rodeo was quartered at the old Governor Dewey Farm (now the site of Stonefield Village Museum).
We all admired Billy...for the great skills that won him widespread popularity. And we envied him a bit whenever we saw him in his fancy hat and boots...and one of those colorful, shiny western suits he wore when performing.
Later, as the red-haired Buschbom brothers left each year to follow the professional rodeo circuit (where both gained international fame), many of the hometown fans followed their careers, reading stories of their success in the newspapers and often going to see them whenever they performed in the area.
Jack excelled in competition and for several years was the World's Champion Professional Bareback Rider. Billy ranked well up among the better pro bulldoggers and calf ropers, but gained his greatest fame as an entertainer, first with his sensational rope spinning tricks, and later with his trained horse acts. He had a rare knack for working with horses--for being able to teach a horse to work alone in a small circus-type ring, without a rein or lead-line, and to do various tricks and respond to commands, given either vocally or with the snap of a whip. While a large audience "ooh-ed" and "aah-ed," his beautiful golden horse, Sir Roger, would, time after time, leap up, strike out with his forefeet, then kick out with his rear hooves, while still high in the air. Billy developed and performed with a number of other acts, including those with horses named "Mr. Nifty" and "Little Boy Blue."
Billy and his family owned and operated "Buschboms' Cowboy Cafe" in Cassville, Wis. for a number of years. In his spare time, the cowboy-showman taught many impressive and educational lessons on the local pool tables. But during the rodeo season, he and his big car and horse trailer could wind up almost anywhere in this country or in Canada. Anywhere that afforded him an opportunity to compete and to perform for an appreciative, cheering crowd.
Billy seemed as "at home" in the center of the rodeo arena in the Cow Palace or in New York's Madison Square Garden as he did on Amelia St. in Cassville. His travels and performances afforded him the opportunity to meet and become acquainted with a wide slice of the populace, including many people of prominence. His list of friends included many of the cowboy movie heroes and other show business celebrities.
Billy died young--far too young--in 1976. When I visit my grandparents' graves in a cemetery near Glen Haven, I usually stop by Billy's plot. The large monument is appropriately decorated--etched with sketches of a lasso and cowboy boots. The stone not only tells Billy's name and dates of birth and passing, but also informs us that he was a "World Champion Trick and Fancy Roper," and the "Trainer of Sir Roger, Mr. Nifty, and Little Boy Blue--World Famous Horse Acts."
Goodbye, Sir Roger--Farewell Mr. Nifty--and Little Boy Blue.
Happy trails, Billy Buschbom.
Bill, we recall your singing ropes,
Your big gold-plated dreams and hopes,
Those bright and shiny western suits,
White Stetson hat and ostrich boots.
Trick roper in your early years,
Later roped calves and wrestled steers.
With horse trailer and Cadillac
You crossed this country, forth and back.
Your life was built 'round rodeo,
Horses and ropes...the Wild West Show!
You found the thrill success can bring,
Playing "The Garden," center ring!
Your horse, Sir Roger, thrilled each crowd,
Jumped higher, as their cheers grew loud.
You're missed my many, there's no doubt,
Our world dimmed when your flame burned out.