Without pestering state or federal bureaucrats for exact statistics on a subject most of them never heard of, it can be said categorically that bronc stompers are not among those who've contributed to the nation's current unemployment problem. In fact, it has been a while since a man willing and able to make gentle horses out of wild ones has lacked job opportunities.
On some ranches which raise their own horses, an intrepid individual or two can still be found devoting their time and talents almost exclusively to a profession whose membership has been dwindling faster than the sheep population. Their business is to get horses to accept being ridden by anybody capable of raising a foot to a stirrup.
In the old days a "rough string rider" had done his job when he'd put enough time on a bronc so that it took only a fair rider to make a hand on him. By "fair rider" is not meant a blonde barrel racer or even any pretty good all-around cowboy by today's standards, but a cowpuncher who could get along quite well with a pony that would buck a little when first mounted on a cool morning, but wouldn't pitch the saddle and bridle off before settling down to the day's serious business.
This, of course, is not new information even to my generation, a generation which itself, in its own heyday, did a lot more wild horse riding around the drugstore than in a round corral. This discussion is by way of suggesting that young aspirants to ranch life can assure themselves a niche in the economy if they can learn to break horses with consistently good results.
They won't have to be able to ride six and seven year-old mavericks or outlaws. They can find work handling two year-olds that are comparatively easy to subdue. And whereas an animal husbandry degree may or may not cut much ice with those remaining grizzled hombres who still think they should raise their own horses instead of buying them already saucered and blowed, a record of converting untamed colts into dependable cowponies is universally respected by ranchers, as it always has been.
It must be emphasized that high school and college buttons who cut classes to ride bareback or saddle broncs in rodeos are not, as a rule, making best preparation for a career on the range. There's quite a difference between coming out of a chute and striving to stay for eight seconds, and stepping up on a humpbacked stranger to the arena with the necessity of staying, if possible, until nature has taken its full course.
The pay? Oh well, if you're going to be mercenary about it, better forget the whole thing and concentrate on finding work in a different field — electronic data processing, maybe. Breaking broncs is for dedicated young men to whom the satisfaction of turning a frantic beast into a valuable ranch asset is its own reward. And those storied gentlemen of the old West who accepted daily encounters with half-ton maneaters as a way of life weren't expected to wear $175 boots and send some kids to college.
Addendum: To end this little ditty, many moons ago, a horse trader way east of Angelo had posted an ad needing just such a guy as described above. The equine swapper received a call from just such a guy described above, they talked and a price was agreed on,,, the next day, a cowboy kinda guy crawled out of a pickup, gathered his tools of the trade, approached the trader, hands were shook, and the trader, as he pointed towards the pen said, “I got pretty well most any kind in there from scorpions to those more gentle types, where’d you like to start”,,,, the bronc peeler never cracked a smile, looked the trader in the eye and said, “,,,not to brag or anything, but my saddle fits them all”,,,, R.F.