Buck Ramsey

Kenneth Melvin “Buck” Ramsey was born January 9, 1938 in New Home, Texas to David Melvin Ramsey (1909 – 1985) and Pearl Lee Williams Ramsey (1913 – 2004). Buck was a well known cowboy poet and singer. The nickname “Buck” was given to him by his father. Buck was the author of “Anthem” and many other poems and songs that describe the cowboy way of life. He also made numerous musical recordings and made personal appearances around the country reciting his poetry and singing his songs.

Buck came from a family of farmers and grew up singing hymns in their Panhandle Baptist church. It is said that he had perfect pitch, which can be a gift to a musician, and that he learned to sing using shaped notes, a lost art today. Buck was intelligent and a well rounded student from all accounts. He was president of the Texas High School Press Association in 1955 and appears to have performed in at least one high school musical (one newspaper article shows him to be part of the cast of Amarillo High’s production of “Brigadoon”). Buck graduated from Amarillo High School in 1956. After high school, Buck attended the university now known as Texas Tech as well as the university that became known as West Texas A&M. To support himself in college, he did various jobs on area ranches and never lost his love for the outdoors and the cowboy lifestyle. Finally he dropped out of college altogether and worked on ranches.

He married his wife Bette in 1962. In the summer of that same year, when he was twenty-three years old, Buck hired on at the Coldwater Cattle Company, Inc. near Fritch, Texas. A few months later on October 9, 1962, Buck was preparing his mount for the day and go to work on a horse named Cinnamon, a work horse about four or five years old. He had put a borrowed easy stop or hackamore bridle on Cinnamon and was preparing to ride away when Cinnamon took off pitching and bucking. After traveling about 700 feet, Buck was thrown from Cinnamon and seriously injured when he struck the ground in a creek bed. A part of the bridle had apparently broken near the end of Buck’s ride, causing him to lose one rein and eliminate whatever control he might have had.

Buck was taken to the hospital and operated on after which he and his wife received the unfortunate news that he would be paralyzed from the chest down. As he recovered he began to write, doing some work for area newspapers and magazines. In addition, he returned to something he had casually done earlier, writing poetry.

In newspapers from the mid 1960s, it is not hard to find articles with the byline “by Buck Ramsey” in the Amarillo Globe-Times where Buck is referred to as a staff writer. In a June 9, 1966 article, typical of his point of view, Buck profiles Charles E. Vosburg, a former bulldozer operator in Amarillo who had begun to build handmade miniature violins. Vosburg was the son of a professional violinist and could play the violin himself. Vosburg said that he hoped that his days of operating heavy equipment were over and that he could pursue violin making and violin repair as a career.

The following week, Buck wrote about the three Texas individuals (Raymond Hollingsworth, Ralph Morrison and Bob Hooper) who brought the American Quarter Horse Association to Amarillo. The organization had been conceived around 1940 at the old Fort Worth stock show. In Buck’s article, he talked about the early days of the AQHA and how they wanted to relocate the business to Amarillo, where it is still located.

Buck went on to wrote articles about a variety of topics. It might be a profile of a local person one week and an article about wheat prices the next. During this time, he also continued to develop his own poetry which was to become his passion for the next three decades.

Around 1988, Buck attended the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada and was invited to read poetry written by others. After that favorable experience, he decided to submit some of his own work. Buck became a regular at Elko and other such gatherings. He also had taken up playing guitar after his injury. Despite not previously having sung in public since he was a boy, he added this to his skills.

About 1992, Buck recorded his first album, “Rolling Uphill from Texas,” produced by Lanny Fiel. Robert Alan “Lanny” Fiel had earned a music degree at Texas Tech. Back in the early 1990s, he was involved with the Roots Music Show, among his other activities, and produced recordings for Buck and other West Texas musicians. Buck later recorded some of his own poetry. A second album is called “Hittin’ the Trail,” released in 2003 by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. His music can still be found for sale and on digital media.

Buck’s recordings were honored with the Western Heritage Wrangler award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. In the world of cowboy poetry, Buck has been called “a Robert Burns with boots.” Many of his works have been published including his poem, “As I Rode Out On The Morning.” Among his many achievements, Buck has been honored with a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, other awards from the Academy of Western Artists, and the Golden Spur Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Buck’s poetry easily resonates with people who grew up in the west. It hearkens back to a simpler time, a love of solitude, nature and the outdoors.

Buck was interviewed at a Kerrville, Texas music festival in 1992. The late Lonn Taylor was then associate director for public programs at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution. Taylor was very complimentary of Buck’s work for its historical value. While it did not fit the profile of contemporary country music then or now, it was not intended to do so.

Buck passed away in early January, 1998, a few days before his 60th birthday. He leaves a strong and lasting legacy in cowboy poetry and traditional western music that will always be loved and appreciated.

© 2023, all rights reserved.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s