COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Ralph Buell, the 1962 world champion bareback rider who stood among the sport’s elite cowboys for nearly two decades, died Oct. 1 at a hospital in Sheridan, Wyo. He was 84.
Buell competed professionally from 1952-68, earning a spot among the top 15 riders in the world at least eight times. He qualified for the first four National Finals Rodeos (1959-62) and then again in 1964.
His world title in 1962 came in the first year the NFR was held at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. He won the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days that season, entered the NFR in first place and then held off Don Mayo in a close race by tying for second place in the average.
Buell’s earnings that year were $16,720, which is $131,685 in today’s dollars, accounting for inflation.
“But in my day our hotel rooms were $7-10 a night,” Buell once told a reporter with the Denver Post. “Hamburgers were 65 cents.”
A lifelong resident of Wyoming, Buell grew up on a ranch in Buffalo with his five brothers and two sisters, and continued to live in that area until he moved to Cheyenne in 1971.
“There were plenty of hands to do the work (with so many siblings) growing up,” Buell said. “We took one day off each summer. That was the Fourth of July. We rode horses three miles to get to school.”
Buell won the first rodeo competition he ever entered on March 13, 1949, to begin a long affinity with the number 13. He wore the No. 13 back number when he won his world title in 1962 and he had a hole-in-one on Aug. 13, 1987.
“It was never unlucky for me,” Buell said.
Over the course of his career he won many of the sport’s biggest events, including the San Antonio (Texas) Stock Show & Rodeo, the Southwestern Exposition & Rodeo in Fort Worth, Texas, the Pendleton (Ore.) Round-Up, the World’s Oldest Rodeo in Prescott, Ariz., and Cheyenne.
Funeral arrangements are pending and will be posted on www.prorodeo.com as soon as they become available.
Courtesy of PRCA