Bernard Thomas Applegarth

Bernard Thomas Applegarth

July 9, 1909-April 29, 2005

Bernard Thomas Applegarth was born July 9, 1909 in Bingham, Nebraska, to parents Andrew and Nellie (Welch) Applegarth. He graduated from Bingham High School in 1927. In 1940, he married June Grouns of Whitman, he worked on ranches in the Grant County area until 1948, when they purchased a ranch south of Alliance, where he ranched and raised Thoroughbred and Belgian horses until his retirement in 1986. They move to a small acreage near Alliance, where Barney continued to raise a few Thoroughbred race horses until 2004.

Until the mid 1940’s Barney competed in rodeo; saddle bronc, calf roping, bull dogging, match racing and wild horse racing. After that, Barney became involved in Thoroughbred horse racing, winning several major races at Fonner Park in the 1970’s. His passion for horse racing continued until his death.

Barney was a member of Holy Rosary Catholic Church, the Nebraska Thoroughbred Association and the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association.

Bernard’s siblings include: William “Bill”, Joe, Henry, Catherine, and Ellen. He married June and they had five children: Helen and Norm McConnel, Carol and Frank Stearns, Lisa and Stan Schmidt, Norma and Gary Mentink, and Roger and Barbie Applegarth. Barney, as he was known by most of his life, started breaking saddle horses for his friends and ranchers by the time he started to high school in Bingham, Nebraska. The family lived six miles north of Bingham. Barney would ride a bronc to school, ride home to do chores, catch and ride another bronc back to Bingham to practice basketball. Barney told me he estimated he had broke anywhere from 500 horses on up. In his younger years he always broke 25 horses or more a year, and he was still breaking his own horses when he was up to 70 years old, or maybe longer.

In the 1930 depression years, he worked for a rancher who could not pay him, so he gave Barney cattle. When he had about 50 cows, he leased a small place where he continued breaking horses and making all the rodeos that he could be in, participating in saddle bronc riding and calf roping. He told me that doing that he paid for his living expenses and cake for his cattle.

George Manning gave Barney 500 cows on shares when Barney had a chance to lease some of the OLO Ranch. That is where I worked for him. After his lease expired, the then bought a ranch south of Alliance, Nebraska.

Barney asked me to help him and I did. Stanley Burke, another good cowboy, drove the 650 cows and calves. Stanley brought some broncs he was breaking and Barney, as usual, had three or four. Barney gave me one he was breaking and Stanley also have me one. I will go out on a limb and say these modern cowboys would still be trying to get them out of the pasture.

In 1942, Barney rode all three horses he drew in Burwell. Barney always had a smile on and he was honest.

Barney was a cowboy for what the word means. He was a true cowboy from the old school. From the time he was in high school, he was breaking saddle horses and taking spoiled horses and breaking them to work. He broke horses, good and bad, horses to be used or rode, but he always made them gentle and useable before he let them go. With his own hard work and the trust other ranchers had in him, he put together a ranch of his own.

Barney’s greatest joys were his family, friends and horses. He had many friends of all ages. He lived his life by the golden rule and a poem he learned in elementary school, “The House by the Side of the Road.” “I want to live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”

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