The rough-riding Pearce family entertained with horses before turning to cockatoos.
Story By John Dunn
The Pearce family – father Cecil, son Ron and granddaughter Naomi – has long been entertaining, in one form or another. Horses were their main props but now, with the passing of the years, something more gentle is preferred: cockatoos.
Cecil was a rough rider of considerable note in the 1920s and ’30s, a familiar figure at rodeos across Queensland. There weren’t too many bucking broncos that could unseat Cecil. For years he thrilled crowds from Bundaberg, Qld, to Sydney, and as far as Adelaide where bush legend RM Williams persuaded him to come and ride in the inaugural rodeo held by the Australian Rough Riders Association, an organisation RM had just formed.
Cecil was a Warwick boy who learned the art of horsemanship in that corner of southern Queensland. Running scrub bulls in the nearby Goondiwindi district taught him how to handle horses and gave him the grounding that won him the Australian Buckjumping Championship in 1933, ’34 and ’35.
He captained Australia three times in international contests against the US, Canada and New Zealand, which led Hoofs & Horns, the sport’s magazine of the day, to describe him in 1945 as “one of the best known personalities in rodeo in Australia” and “an asset to the game”. Cecil passed away in 1984 but the passage of time has not dulled his reputation – last year R.M.Williams used a poster-size photograph of him riding a formidable buckjumper to promote its annual Longreach Muster.
Not surprisingly, Cecil’s son Ron set out on the same path as his father. “I was just 18 months [old] when I got on my first horse and I began to work with them full-time as soon as I left school,” Ron says. “I got a job out west at Plevna Downs in south-west Queensland and then went droving with Andy Twist, at one stage taking 1172 cattle on a long trek from Tambo to Bourke. I had my 15th birthday pushing a herd down the Warrego.”
Ron worked around Hughenden in the late 1950s, at places such as Afton Downs, breaking in horses and working as a ringer before joining the rodeo circuit for three years from 1960.
This story excerpt is from Issue #85
Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2012