Bronco Betty and her camera make memories live forever
By Frank J. Buchman
"Pictures remember when the mind forgets."
Generally always with camera in hand, smiling broadly Bronco Betty sees agriculture life through the lens and records that for perpetuity.
"It's easy to forget something about somebody, but a photograph brings back the meaning."
Betty Anderson, Emporia, is perhaps the best friend of ranch rodeo riders, youth horse show participants and for sure every exhibitor at the Lyon County Fair.
Say her full name, and most will draw a blank look, but they all know Bronco Betty.
"It doesn't seem like I go anywhere that most everybody doesn't know me and call out my name. Thank God, I've been able to meet and photograph such wonderful people," Anderson reflected.
But, still how did an agriculture photographer get the moniker: Bronco Betty?
"I love horses, and always wanted to ride horses, but I just couldn't stay on a horse," Anderson said. "I had horses run off with me, buck me off, I fell off. I never seemed to pick the right ones.
"I was always bruised, stoved-up, gimping around when I'd come to work. My coworkers started teasing, and calling me Bronco Betty. After a while, it stuck, and then the 4-H members, the cowboys and everybody just knew me as Bronco Betty," clarified Anderson, or let's just say Bronco Betty.
Raised in the rural community of Kennard, Neb., Bronco Betty didn't have a horse, still making her a bit sad in reflection. "But, my dad was a mechanic who worked on a lot of farm equipment, and the farmers were all my friends who gave me animals.
"Someone was always bringing me an orphan pig, lamb, calf to bottle feed and raise as my own. I loved it," Bronco Betty admitted.
There was an 11-year-old neighborhood paperboy who caught her eye, too. "Les (her husband today) and I became good friends, even before we were teenagers. We started dating when I was 15, and got married in 1961, right after I graduated from high school," Bronco said.
First moving to western Nebraska, the young couple followed her husband's building construction profession to Emporia in 1966.
"We lived in town, so our two older children (David and Laura) were into sports and didn't get experience living in the country," Bronco noted. "Finally, in 1990, we bought the 760 acres where we live now, and our youngest daughter, Dawn, had livestock and horses."
Always jovial, Bronco's pleasantry became enhanced developing a cow-calf operation, farrowing sows to produce show pigs, mares to raise horses, and up to 100 goats at one time.
"We've backed off now, with just the cow herd," said Bronco, admitting there's still a small menagerie:14 horses, three donkeys and a potbellied pig.
"Sometimes, I serve as a rescue unit. If somebody can't afford to take care of their livestock, or they're moving and have no way to take their livestock with them, they'll call me.
"They know their horses, pets, whatever, will be well cared for. Horses remain here for the rest of their lives," Bronco said.
"I love people, and I love animals," she stated the obvious.
That led Bronco Betty to be a photographer-in-demand.
"I've always enjoyed taking pictures, looking at photographs, and know other people do too," Bronco said. "I haven't had any formal education with cameras or photography, but I never get a complaint when I give somebody a photograph of themselves."
Her resume as "official photography" sparks another gleam for Bronco as she rattles off: "I've been taking pictures at the Lyon County Fair 25 years, 12 years at the Beef Fest, 13 years for all of the special events at the Holiday Resort (retirement living) as well as every ranch rodeo, youth rodeo and other horse events in the Emporia area.
"Oh yeh, I got in with the antique tractor collectors, take pictures of them in parades and shows. They recognized me as an honorary member," she continued. "I've done special slide shows for Relay For Life. Everybody loves to have their picture taken, and I love to take them."
After raising her family, retirement from a 29-year career at a large bakery where she was a lead person, and turning farm operations over to her spouse following his retirement, Bronco continues busy.
With nine cameras, Bronco is ready for whatever the action. "Digital has really made photography easier. I never did any developing myself, but now I have four color printers.
"Still, it's more economical to take a disc to a commercial photo shop for printing," she contended.
Mathematical likelihood, millions of photographs have been taken by Betty, but she has no accurate tabulation. "I really try to keep photograph files, but it's become impossible. I even have 74,163 photos unidentified in one file," she noted.
While photography is an affluent profession for some, Bronco said, "I give people the photographs I take of them. I'm really selfish. I enjoy taking the pictures, enjoy working with them on the computer now, and those who get them enjoy them now and can for the rest of their life."
A slight stroke this fall cautioned Anderson, 70, she should slow down. "If I do that I'm going to have to live longer. I've tried to make a joke of it," Bronco said.
But, with seven grandchildren, three great grandchildren, including five-year-old Jaitlyn who lives with the Andersons, plus friends to visit, livestock to tend, and photographs to take, slowdown really doesn't seem on the agenda.
"I couldn't have a better life," Bronco Betty Anderson assured.
PHOTOGRAPHER--Bronco Betty Anderson with her forever camera in-hand pets one of ten horses on her Emporia farm. (Courtesy photo.)