A life lived on the back of a horse

Central and North Burnett Times - - OVER 50S -

AN un­mis­tak­able face in the Eidsvold crowd or at any cam­p­draft event in the Bur­nett, Ron­nie Bligh’s rep­u­ta­tion goes be­fore him as a great horse­man and an ex­cep­tion­ally nice bloke.

Born in Eidsvold, Ron­nie grew up around horses and cat­tle, and work­ing with horses soon be­came a pas­sion.

He said from the minute he dragged him­self onto a horse’s back he knew he would ride for­ever.

“I was born in the war years and I re­mem­ber my child­hood quite clearly,” he said.

“We lived just out of Eidsvold and came to town for school and a bit of shop­ping.”

At 73, Ron­nie rode in the Eidsvold Golden Bell Cam­p­draft this month, and says that be­fore he re­tires he wants to win that Golden Bell.

In about 1950 Ron­nie’s mother got a job in the old Star Ho­tel and there was an old house next to the ho­tel so they moved in.

Ron­nie had a good life ed­u­ca­tion there and he went to Eidsvold School. He left school when he was 12 years old and got a job.

He went drov­ing out of Eidsvold, down to Esk and then back in a three-week turn­around and then out again.

“There was al­ways an­other mob of cat­tle to move down the trail in those days and I would spend the whole time on horse­back,” he said.

“Then one day I was of­fered a job at Yaroka Sta­tion as a ringer and I took that with­out ques­tion.”

For 12 years from sta­tion to sta­tion, wher­ever the work took him, Ron­nie worked as a ringer at Cal­rossie, Glen­coe and the back to Cal­rossie.

There was al­ways a chance to com­pete at the lo­cal rodeo and Ron­nie was up for it at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.

Rodeo fever got him and it got him bad.

He teamed up with Tim Clancy, Jimmy King and

We camped on the side of the road in swags most of the time...

Dig­ger Pot­ter. They bought a Toy­ota one-tonne Scout and they were off to fol­low the rodeo cir­cuit.

From South Aus­tralia to Ma­reeba and ev­ery­where in be­tween, the four boys earned a name for them­selves as great rid­ers of bare­back, sad­dle bron­cos and bulls.

Rop­ing and rid­ing, earn­ing and shar­ing, as they hit the road af­ter each show.

“We camped on the side of the road in swags most of the time and if we ran out of money we would get a job fruit pick­ing or mus­ter­ing,” Ron­nie said.

“We would stop on a sta­tion for a while dur­ing the muster and then move on to the next town, rodeo or just come back home to Eidsvold.”

In 1967 Ron­nie Bligh met Hazel Bligh (to be) and in 1968 they mar­ried and started a fam­ily in Eidsvold.

Ron­nie would go off on con­tract mus­ter­ing and Hazel would stay home and looked af­ter and raised two daugh­ters and a son while work­ing at the Eidsvold Hospi­tal.

For 23 years Hazel worked at the Eidsvold Hospi­tal un­til ill health stopped her and forced her home.

Ron­nie had open heart surgery when he was 50 years old.

He was the fittest 50-year-old you would ever meet but heart at­tacks do not dis­crim­i­nate.

A triple by-pass and five stents later, Ron­nie is still on a horse most days of the week.

He lost his beau­ti­ful Hazel from a heart at­tack in 2008 and lives alone in their fam­ily home.

“I love cam­p­draft­ing and I have won some tough events over the years but I haven’t won the Eidsvold Golden Bell or the Monto Gold Buckle,” he said.

“I want to win both be­fore I go.”

PHOTO: NOEL THOMP­SON

LEG­END: Ron­nie Bligh is well-known in cam­p­draft cir­cles.

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