Hall of Famer doesn’t take his career or legacy lightly
Harold Cash’s living room is a shrine to rodeo life.
Tucked in a corner of the room is a display piled high with mementos from his time as a bareback rider. There are trophies, belt buckles, rodeo passes, framed newspaper clippings and photos of his friends and family in the rodeo community.
Cash, 69, is a Texas City resident and a graduate of Lincoln High School in La Marque. He was the American Rodeo Association’s champion bareback rider in 1979 and 1981. He retired from the rodeo ring in 1996, but is still involved in the rodeo community. Each year, he travels to Las Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo, and puts on his own rodeo each May in Raywood, Texas.
Cash didn’t come from a rodeo family. He learned to ride while spending summers at his grandfather’s farm in Kendleton, a town in Fort Bend County with fewer than 400 people.
He got on his first horse — a bronco named The Brown Bomber — when someone told him that his long legs would make him a good rider. He got thrown almost immediately, he said.
“I got thrown as hard as I’ve ever been thrown,” he said.
It took him three months before he was ready to get back on a horse. He rode The Brown Bomber again, and stayed on that time. Success didn’t exactly come fast after that. Cash only won $20 total during his first rodeo season. But the modest start eventually blossomed into a successful career.
Cash rode for a decade before he got a shot at a bareback riding title. In 1979, he rode atop a horse named Playboy at a rodeo in Washington, D.C. The horse had never had a rider go eight seconds before Cash got on him. The momentum from that ride helped send him to the title.
He would reclaim the belt buckle in 1981 and insists he would have won in 1980 if he hadn’t fallen from a horse and broken his leg.
Cash’s body is a testament to his long career. He has broken his legs and his hands and has scars from a bull horn. Although his specialty was broncos, Cash said he would reluctantly ride bulls during competitions so he would have a shot at placing in the money.
Rodeo took Cash around the country and, while it didn’t make him rich — in fact, he said he almost “starved to death” while trying to be a professional rodeo cowboy — it helped him pay for college at Prairie View A&M University, he said.
Cash was elected to the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum’s Hall of Fame in 2010. It’s an honor he doesn’t take lightly, which makes him think of the rodeo events where he trained in Kendleton. The events were some of the few that allowed black cowboys to compete, Cash said. Many of the people he learned the sport from were great competitors, but were never given a chance to compete at the highest levels, he said.
“When I accept one of these awards, I don’t stick my chest out like I’m all that,” he said. “I accept them for a thousand black cowboys, because I know these guys should have had it.”