A Llano, Texas cowboy became what many experts believe to be the best polo player in the history of the game.
Cecil Calvert Smith was born on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 1904, on the Moss Ranch near Enchanted Rock. Smith’s father was the ranch foreman.
Smith learned to ride before he could walk. By age 16, he was a working cowboy, breaking and training horses at the Moss Ranch for $40 a month.
Then, in 1925, Smith met George Miller, a horse trader from Austin. Miller ran a livery stable and regularly bought horses in Llano County. Miller also had a good business buying West Texas cow horses, training them as polo ponies and selling them to wealthy polo players in New York and California.
One day, George Miller watched Cecil Smith and some friends playing “cowboy polo.” Miller could see that Smith had a way with horses, and on his next trip to Llano County, Miller hired Smith for $100 a month to train polo ponies.
In Austin, Cecil Smith met Rube Williams, another cowboy polo player from Llano. Together they would make history.
Cecil Smith played a lot of polo while demonstrating George Miller’s horses. Smith impressed everyone with his horsemanship and athleticism. He could hit a ball to the east while riding west. He was a fierce competitor with a fearless style of play, but he was easy and graceful in the saddle. He could swing like Babe Ruth and ride like Gary Cooper.
Over the years, his reputation grew. Then in 1933 Cecil Smith, Rube Williams and a team of westerners played in the East-West Series in Chicago. At that series of games, the Super Bowl of American Polo, Cecil Smith made his mark.
The press billed the game as the West Texas cowboys taking on the blueblood Eastern establishment. One sportswriter described the game as “western men, riding western horses against the polo manpower of Long Island and the polo horseflesh of England and the Argentine.”
For more on this story, read this week’s print and online editions of the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post. If you are a print subscriber, your full online subscription is free. All you need to do is call 830-997-2155 to get a password. If you are not a subscriber, call 997-2155 or click on the ‘Subscribe’ button on the left side of the home page and sign up today!