of Christmas probably weren’t all that great for Samuel Thomas “Booger
Red” Privett. It was a planned Christmas celebration that caused
his face to be permanently disfigured and the loss of sight in one
That Christmas, when he was 13, young Privett and one of his buddies
thought it might be a good idea to put on a fireworks demonstration.
They were filling a hollow tree stump with gun powder when it suddenly
exploded. The blast killed his friend and because of the burns to
his face, Privett would forever be known as “Booger Red.”
That nickname was attached to a man who would go down in history
as one of the greatest horsemen and bronc riders this country has
According to The Handbook of Texas, Privett was born in Williamson
County in 1864, and by the age of 12, he had already been tagged
as “that redheaded kid bronc rider.” His father had moved the family
to Erath County and established the SP Ranch. The young boy gained
his reputation and started his career breaking horses on that ranch.
By the time he turned 15, Privett had lost both his parents. His
father’s death was from Bright’s disease; the same disease that
would later claim his life as well. Alone in the world, the young
man continued to hone his bronc-ridding skills and managed to buy
a ranch near Sabinal.
In 1888, Booger Red Privett sold his ranch and used the money to
buy a wagon yard in San
Angelo. By this time his reputation for breaking horses was
well known and ranchers from all around the area brought their horses
to him. He took pride in the fact that he had never been thrown
from a horse. In fact, he had a standing offer that he would pay
$100 to anyone who brought a horse that he couldn’t ride – he never
lost that bet.
Privett became a successful businessman but was always self-conscious
of the scarring of his face. He tried to make light of it by often
introducing himself as “Booger Red – ugliest man living or dead.”
1895, Privett married Mollie Webb – she was 15 and he was 33. Young
Mollie was an accomplished horsewoman and together the couple started
their own Wild West show. As time passed, they had seven children,
six of them performed in the show. Booger Red rode in every performance.
He was never thrown and didn’t get off a horse until the ride was
over. Once a horse fell on him and broke his leg – he wouldn’t dismount
until the horse stood up.
Booger Red Privett went on to win 23 first prizes in rodeo competitions.
He also performed at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri.
Around 1920, Privett retired and moved to Oklahoma – he sold his
ranch and Wild West show. In ill health, he attended one last rodeo
at Ft. Worth in
1924 – realizing that the famous bronc rider was in the audience,
the crowd began to chant, “Give us Booger Red!” His wife Molly shouted,
“Here he is!”
A group of young cowboys put Booger Red on their shoulders and carried
him into the arena. They brought out a wild horse and despite being
sick, the 64- year-old cowboy jumped on the horse’s back and rode
him down. The crowd had witnessed the last ride of one of the greatest
bronc riders in history.
Several weeks after his final ride, Booger Red Privett passed away.
His wife Mollie estimated that he had rode 25,000 to 40,000 broncs
during his career.
In 1975, Booger Red was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame in
the National Cowboy Museum at Oklahoma City. Booger Red’s Saloon
in Ft. Worth is
named after the famous cowboy.
Star Diary December 15, 2014 column
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