Memoirs of Old Steeldust

“Memoirs of Old Steeldust,

Was There a Separate Line of Steeldust Horses?”

An Interview of Meredith “Bud” Hart Raburn

by Frank W. Austin, Route 2, Box 69-A, Fort Worth, Texas

The Cattleman – September 1939, Page 46

Submitted by Dorothy Bernay of Denver, Colorado

Steeldust Rock – A Champion Lineage Quarter Horse Stallion

“MY INTEREST in horses dates back as far as I can remember. In fact, at the age of three I used to climb upon the fence and watch an old gray horse graze on mesquite grass. One morning I managed to elude my mother, climb over the fence and proceed to hang on to the gray’s tail and was rewarded by a kick in the stomach. They carried me in the house unconscious, but that kick in no way lessened my love for horses.

I have always been interested in Quarter horses and have been raising them for some time, always trying to obtain the best Quarter horse blood that I can find. I own at present a stallion out of old “Yellow Wolfe,” he sired by “Joe Bailey,” whose pedigree shows three crosses of old “Steeldust.” I also own seven mares of this Steeldust strain. Because of this interest I would like to make a few statements regarding old “Steeldust,” a breed which has been discussed more than any line of horses wherever racing men, cowmen, and rodeo hands gather.

I agree with J. Frank Dobie in his quotation in “The Cattleman” of March 1937 that “Steeldust” would turn over in his grave if he knew his blood was responsible for some of the broomtails tacked onto him.

Having, been informed by the late Uncle Dick Baker, a noted Quarter-horse breeder of Parker county, and the man who raised the famous “Joe Bailey,” that a son of the man who used to own old “Steeldust,” was living down in Hood county, Ed Chapman, another owner of Quarter horses, and I decided to go and get some true facts regarding this famous old horse.

We finally located the farm of M.H. (Bud) Raburn, who is 78 years old. Mr. Raburn has been down in bed for years with rheumatism, but after hearing the purpose of our visit, I believe he got better. When I asked him if he knew anything about a horse called “Steel-dust,” he held up his left hand and said, “Every finger has been cut with a knife gathering green corn for old “Steeldust.” This was a job assigned him by his father.

According to Mr. Raburn, “Steeldust” was a blood bay stallion close to 16 hands high and weighing around 1,100 pounds, and it is his belief the horse was brought from Kentucky to Missouri then into Texas. He was purchased in Bell county in 1866 by Mr. Raburn’s father, Bill Raburn, and was at that time, just after the Civil War, about 10 years old. His father knew all about the horse and had been trying to get possession of him for some time, finally paying somewhere around four or five hundred dollars for him. Mr. Raburn said “Steeldust” was blind when purchased by his father, having been poisoned blind, and had been so since he was three, at which age he ran his last race. His father kept old “Steeldust” until he was about 30 years old, then sold him to Jim Brown, who carried him to South Texas, where he died at the age of 32 years.

After buying “Steeldust,” Mr. Raburn lived in Bell county ten months, then moved to Stodger Bend, Hood county, then to Peebler [Peveler] Valley in the same county, where the horse stood until sold. When being raced by his former owners the horse was also known by the name of “Runafter,” when matched with someone that didn’t know him.

Mr. Raburn said “Steeldust” sired two as fast Quarter horses as were ever in the State, “Grey Alice” by “Steeldust” out of old “Cora,” she by “Blue Dick,” he by “Ariel;” and “Pat,” a stallion by “Steeldust” out of a Missouri mare. Both were bought by Jim Brown and were taken north where they were raced. “Grey Alice” could outrun “Pat” at a quarter mile, and “Pat” could outrun her at 600 yards.

According to Mr. Raburn, “Rondeau” was a heavy muscled sorrel baldfaced horse, brought from Missouri, and won by his father, Bill Raburn, when the owners put him up against $500 on a quarter mile race between “Grey Alice” and “Red Morocker,” also brought from Missouri. The agreement was to redeem him within one year, which they did. This race was run at Pilot Point, “Grey Alice” winning by about two and one-half feet. “Rondeau” was taken to Mansfield, then to Veal Station.

Between the ages of 10 and 17, Mr. Raburn was known as one of the best jockeys in Texas, especially was he good on horses that were hard to handle. Bud Raburn was always in demand for unruly horses. He rode a Bud Shillings’ mare in a race against the noted Sam Bass race mare and was beaten.  Sam Bass did not ride his mare, as he weighed around 160 pounds at that time. The Sam Bass mare was of Steeldust breeding. This race was run at Denton.

To show that “Steeldust” really put the speed in his offspring, Mr. Raburn told the story of a mare they owned – old “Blaze,” out of a Steeldust mare and sired by “Rondeau.” She was being worked in the field one day with a colt by her side, when some man came up with a horse that was supposed to be fast and had quite a reputation. They wanted to match a race, so his father unhitched old “Blaze,” put a saddle on her, milked her out, put the colt up, and outran the horse so far it wasn’t even a good race.

The “Shiloh” horse, Mr. Raburn said, that was brought from Tennessee by Jack Batchler, sired a number of noted race horses, two of the fastest being “Bay Fanny Bales” and “Grey Fanny Bales.”

Mr. Raburn disagrees with the statement made in the book “Sam Bass” by Wayne Gard with reference to the race between “Shiloh” and “Steeldust.” He states that the information he had was that the trainer of “Steeldust” sold out to the Jack Batchler crowd, not telling the jockey about the deal, and that the trainer caused “Steeldust” to rear in the chute and fall to his knees. The jockey pulled him up, got him on his feet, and won the race.

Dick Baker, T.A. Parker and his son, Bob Parker, of Parker county, have, I think, kept more of the Steeldust blood in the Quarter horses they have been breeding than any other strain of Quarter horses raised today, especially through the noted stallion, “Joe Bailey.” They have kept his breed since the Civil War.

Mr. Dobie, you asked was there a separate Steeldust line of horses.  I sincerely believe there was.”