April 16, 1907-July 8, 1983
Throughout his life, Floyd Barker worked on several Sandhill ranches. He was well known at the Draft Horse Pulling Contests. Every time the Horsemanship Awards was given at any pulling that he was entered in, he won it. He could lay the lines down on the cart and talk his team into pulling their hearts out. One time, the hame strap broke on a young Belgian colt at a contest. The harness literally fell off. Several of his competitor friends pulled a harness of another horse and put it on the colt. Floyd drove the team around in a circle, talking to them all the while, hooked them back up to the sled, and that young colt tightened the tug, dug right in, and pulled the load without any hesitation. Most seasoned horses won’t tighten the tug after breaking a hame strap on a hard pull. Floyd could also ride a saddle horse along with the best of them. He never competed in a rodeo, but as any true ranch cowboy knows, some pretty good “rodeos” go on in the early hours of the morning when they mount up for a cattle drive.
Winters present some challenging dilemmas in the lives of ranchers. During one blizzard, Waldo Haythorn got his El Camino stuck on the way home from town. The other ranch hands were extremely concerned about getting him home. Floyd told them Waldo was fine, after all he had a heater and a full tank of gas. When all of the feeding was done and the babies were snuggled warmly in the hay, Floyd and the guys headed out to get the boss. After being rescued, Waldo said he wasn’t worried, he knew that “Bark” (a nickname that Waldo dubbed Floyd with) would come get him when the cattle were taken care of.
Floyd always did his work as if it all belonged to him and every penny lost came out of his pocket. He never owned a cow of his own, but he stayed up with hundreds that were calving, did all of the mechanic work, did the dirt work with the bulldozer, broke colts, worked cattle, could do a fine job of welding, plus many more jobs that were the mark of a true cowboy on a Nebraska ranch during the 1930’s and 1960’s. One summer morning, the cook on the ranch woke up in the wee hours and heard pounding. She asked her husband what the noise was. He replied, “Oh, that’s just “Bark” working in the shop. The rake broke down and we need it tomorrow to put up hay.” Wages were $250 per month and overtime was nonexistent. There’s still no overtime on ranches today, but how many modern “cowboys” would stay up all night repairing hay machinery that doesn’t belong to them? Floyd Barker, a true Nebraska cowboy, did many times.
Floyd Randolph Barker was born to Reuben and Jenny Barker on April 16, 1907. He married Anna Smith on March 3, 1950. They had one daughter, Floydene. He had a son, Charles and two daughters, Maxine and Vivian, from a former marriage. He was granddad to nine grandchildren and several great grandchildren.
On July 8, 1983, Floyd Barker died in Alliance, Nebraska. He and his wife, Anna, were living in the Good Samaritan Apartments. While walking to the office to pay his rent, he suffered a fatal heart attack.
When we talk of Sandhill Cowboys Floyd would have to be included. He knew cattle and how to handle them and never forgot a cow, was a good hay man, cat skinner and was a very good cook. He was a master at anything he tried and he could build or fix anything with the bare essentials.
Floyd worked for my Dad for 32 years. He was one of my mentors growing up. He was willing to put in extraordinary hours for whatever we were doing. He was very good to me and I thought and learned an enormous volume of knowledge from him through the years. He was one of the two best men with a team I have witnessed in the Sandhills. The other would be Buck Buckles. Floyd was always noted for his teamster ability and was very successful at the pullings and always won the horsemanship trophies. He also made several good saddle horses in those years…I don’t mean average, I mean outstanding ranch horses. One of his greatest feats was one time a young girl was riding and her horse ran away. Floyd was riding a brown 4 year old horse and he was quite a way behind her and caught her horse and reached and picked up the little girl and set her on his lap in front of him. A runaway horse is hard to catch, let alone on a 4 year old, and to grab a screaming girl! Quite a cowboy feat…like I say, he was one of my mentors.
Floyd always won the horsemanship award at pullings and was always looking out for me and interested in helping me get better. He definitely would have been one of my “heroes.”