Friday, May 11, 2007

Rodeo Earl Smith, the Old Range Rider

Wednesday evening Rob Churnside walked into the Society with his guitar and said I’m going to play a couple of local songs for you that I’ve just written. Well that something we’ve never heard before so everything came to a quick halt and we settled into comfortable chairs for a little performance. Oh how much we enjoyed those creative local piece.

The first one was a ballad about the escapades of Earl Smith an old range rider who lived in Cecil County for decades. A rodeo rider, Hollywood stunt man, boxing and wrestling promoter, television and radio personality, amusement park owner and who knows what else, he began his entertainment career as a young man in the 1890s performing as an expert rider and roper in Wild West Shows. As movies became popular he started performing stunts in the early Hollywood shows with the famous Tex Cooper. For Twenty years he operated the Morton Park Pool, an amusement park outside Philadelphia, and when he retired from that he purchased the Silver King Ranch on U.S. Route 40 at Perryville.

On the eve of his 86th Birthday, our local newspaper, the Cecil Whig, said he was a “hale and hearty octogenarian “ who once earned a “living by physical strength, daring skill, a flair for entertaining, and plenty of good old American guts.” When he died in 1980 at the age of 89, the newspaper said: “One of Cecil County’s most colorful personalities” has passed away. He was buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.

There’s a very interesting essay about Rodeo on the web pages for that you might want to read since it provides insight into the colorful nature of this fascinating man. We’re going to see if we can get Rob to give us a little audio outtake that we can get on the blog because we’re sure you’ll enjoy this local-flavor piece about an entertaining man, even in his twilight years.

Rob’s other song was called Caecil By-God. Thanks Rob for entertaining us for a few minutes and for helping to preserve a unique part of Cecil's past that is fading into the myst of time. We enjoyed the pieces a lot and look forward to hearing much more.

In this January 1970 photo Rodeo Earl is receiving an an award from Cecil County Sheriff Thomas Mogule, the Maryland State Police and others. It was taken in January 1970 by Jim Cheeseman at the Cecil Whig.

1 comment:

  1. When I was ten years old my mother came to know Rodeo Earl through a mutual friend and whenever we were invited to his museum of a home we knew we were in for something special. I was a history buff even at the age of ten and he was a living icon full of exciting tales. I so wish I had understood then that this humble elderly gentleman would supply me with stories most people did not believe or appreciate. I loved guns also and Earl let me hold wild bill Hickock's six shooters. He even had a full sized carousel horse in his house. During the mid to late 1970's I learned so much about him and his Holywood wild days. We were eventually stationed outside Cecil county and moved to Virginia. When I met a friend who loved history like I did we made a trip to Earl's place. It was obvious that the old coot was fading but his whit was quick and stories were abundant. I was saddened by his death and hoped sincerely that his treasures went to people who would love and appreciate them as
    earl did.