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As It Was: One-armed, Half-Blind Bronc Rider Wins Prizes

In 1916, Edwin Billings was born a strong, healthy baby.  When he was 15, an accident resulted in permanent injury, yet he strived to work as hard as any man.

While helping his family clear land by dynamiting stumps along the Rogue River, near Illahe, Ore., Billings had foolishly tried to drop a stick of dynamite in the river.  The stick exploded prematurely, leaving him without the use of his left arm and partially blinded.

Three months later, Billings was riding horses again that his brothers prompted to buck.  Billings soon mastered the sport.  In 1935, he won first prize at the Fort Jones Rodeo, earning the moniker, “Buster.”  He followed the bronc-busting circuit for 13 years.

During World War II, Billings labored in the shipyards as a pipefitter and constructing dry docks in Oakland, Calif.  When he returned from the war and helped haul supplies upriver by boat, he single-handedly hewed a canoe out of a cedar log.

A cataract developed in his remaining eye, but he built his own house, managing the project as well as any full-sighted carpenter.

“Don’t call me handicapped,” he’d say, “do call me ‘Buster.’”

Sources: Schroeder, Walt. “Characters, Legends and Mysteries of Curry County, Oregon.” Curry County Historical Society, 2007, pp. 60-63; Sponaugle, Ella. "Don't Call Me Handicapped." Curry County Reporter, 25 May 1994, rogue coast ed.

Laurel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Humboldt State. Her research efforts as a volunteer for the Curry Historical Society produced numerous newsletter articles and exhibits and earned her a reputation as a seasoned local history buff. Laurel is the author of "Renderings from the Gold Beach Pioneer Cemetery", a 50-page booklet containing a walking tour and snippets about the lives and times of folks buried there. She is also a contributing writer to Oregon Coast Magazine.