Ramsey, Buck 1938–1998
Ramsey, Buck 1938–1998
(Kenneth Melvin Ramsey)
Born January 9, 1938, in New Home, TX; died of congestive heart failure, January 3, 1998, in Amarillo, TX; son of David Melvin (a farmer and smelter worker) and Pearl Williams (a homemaker and grocer checker) Ramsey; married Bette Cave (an educator), July 20, 1962; children: Amanda Robin. Education: Attended Texas Tech University and West Texas State University. Politics: Democrat, "grass roots politics." Religion: "Raised Primitive Baptist." Hobbies and other interests: "Knot tying and braidin' tack."
Writer, poet, musician, and cowboy. Turkey Track, Alibates, and other ranches, TX, cowboy, 1957-62;Amarillo Globe News, Amarillo, TX, reporter, 1964-67; freelance writer, Amarillo, 1967-82; Texas Department of Agriculture, Amarillo, researcher and historical writer, 1982-86; freelance writer and musician, 1986-98. Military service: U.S. Marines, 1960-62.
National Endowment for the Arts, National Heritage fellowship, 1995, for master traditional artist; National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Golden Spur award, 1997; National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Western Heritage Wrangler award, 1992, 1994, and 2004, for outstanding traditional western album; Academy of Western Artists, lifetime achievement award, 1996, best cowboy poetry album, 1996, for And as I Rode Out on the Morning; Will Rogers award, 1996, male cowboy poet of the year, 1997; Texas Cowboy Symposium, American Cowboy Culture award, 1996, for western music.
(Author of afterword) Frankie McWhorter,Play It Lazy: The Bob Wills Fiddle Legacy, transcribed by Lanny Fiel, foreword by John R. Erickson, Texas Tech University Press (Lubbock, TX), 1992.
And as I Rode Out on the Morning, Texas Tech University Press (Lubbock, TX), 1993.
Christmas Waltz, illustrated by Janet Hurley, Gibbs Smith (Salt Lake City, UT), 1996.
Buck Ramsey's Grass: With Essays on His Life and Work, edited by Scott Braucher and Bette Ramsey, Texas Tech University Press (Lubbock, TX), 2005.
Author of various poetry collections and short stories. Composer of numerous unpublished musical albums. Contributor to the Texas Observer. Former columnist for the Amarillo Globe News "Point Counterpoint" political column.
Buck Ramsey, born Kenneth Melvin Ramsey in 1938, lived in Texas most of his life. As a child, he was fond of reading while growing up around the ranches. After graduating from high school, he traveled around the United States and Canada and attended classes irregularly at Texas Tech University and West Texas State University in the late 1950s. He worked as a cowboy at several ranches in the Texas Panhandle and joined the U.S. Marines in 1960 for a two-year period. In 1962, however, he suffered a fall while riding a horse, breaking his back and landing him in a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. At just twenty-five and paralyzed, Ramsey took the opportunity to pursue one of his earliest passions, writing. In 1964 he worked as a reporter and writer for the Amarillo Globe News, becoming a freelance writer in 1967. From 1982 to 1986, Ramsey worked as a researcher and historical writer with the Texas Department of Agriculture in Amarillo, but he subsequently returned to writing stories, poetry, musical compositions, and playing guitar until his passing in 1998 from congestive heart failure.
Ramsey published his first book,And as I Rode Out on the Morning, in 1993. This was followed by Christmas Waltz in 1996. Prior to this, however, Ramsey had written numerous poems, short stories, and musical compositions relating the cowboy way of life, many of which were never published. Ramsey, considered by many to be the "father of cowboy poetry," played a significant role in its revival. His accomplishments were noticed and rewarded many times; he received a National Heritage fellowship in 1995 from the National Endowment for the Arts, a 1997 Golden Spur award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, and a lifetime achievement award in 1996 from the Academy of Western Artists. He also won recognition for his music by winning a Western Heritage Wrangler award in 1992, 1994, and posthumously in 2004 from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum for outstanding traditional western album.
In 2005 Scott Braucher and Bette Ramsey edited Buck Ramsey's Grass: With Essays on His Life and Work, collecting many of Ramsey's best works and including highlights of his life. Carol Volk, writing in Midwest Book Review, "very highly recommended" the book, citing "its fun content and unique style." Guy Logsdon, writing in Cowboy Poetry, also "highly recommended" Buck Ramsey's Grass. In a Roundup Magazine article, Doris R. Meredith noted that "like Chaucer, Ramsey evokes an elegant image using plain prose." Meredith concluded: "If you have any interest in cowboys, the cowboy way of life, or the Old West, you owe it to yourself to own" Buck Ramsey's Grass.
While discussing his life and body of work, Ramsey's wife, Bette, once told CA: "His writings were influenced by his love of the cowboy way of life and his appreciation for great literature and poetry. He was a voracious reader of the classics, and he also enjoyed many contemporary works. He had a fondness for South American writers, and he was especially inspired by Russian poets."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Midwest Book Review, March, 2006, Carol Volk, review of Buck Ramsey's Grass: With Essays on His Life and Work.
Roundup Magazine, April, 2006, Doris R. Meredith, review of Buck Ramsey's Grass, p. 27.
School Library Journal, October, 1996, Jane Marino, review of Christmas Waltz, p. 39.
Texas Monthly, June, 1993, John Morthland, "Range Writer," p. 38.
Cowboy Poetry,http://www.cowboypoetry.com/ (November 27, 2007), author profile, and Guy Logsdon, review of Buck Ramsey's Grass.
National Endowment for the Arts Web site,http://www.nea.gov/ (November 27, 2007), author profile.
Houston Chronicle, January 6, 1998, Allan Turner, "Cowboy Poet Buck Ramsey Dies," p. 9.
[Biographical information and short essay provided by wife, Bette Ramsey.]