Tuesday, December 11, 2012

In a New-To-Me, Yet Very Old Land

This past weekend I met up with Mikey's family and followed them in my truck down to the Fourr Ranch just outside Dragoon, Arizona to photograph the cowboy/cowgirl lifestyle of gathering cows.  Up until this point, my experiences of the ranching lifestyle were limited to memories of nearly being gored by a bull on a relative's South Dakota farm when I was 4-years-old and having my brother grab my arm and pull me over the fence just in the nick of time, vacationing at a mountain ranch in the California Sierras as a child each summer, spending time on a few mini ranches owned by horse breeders and trainers in Nevada, and eventually owning a tiny four-acre horse ranch in Arizona.

Many, many years ago there was a news segment and documentary on television called "On the Road with Charles Kuralt".  This journalist began each episode by traveling to a location via motor home, opening a phone book and pointing his finger at a name.  He would then call the person, explain who he was and the premise of his show, and ask the stranger if he/she would be willing to participate in a documentary about his or her life.  Some people slammed the phone down into the cradle, while others were happy to share the details of their lifestyle.  I have always wanted to do a project like that, because I think it is important to see how other people live, how they cope, what their attitudes are, and find out what they can teach the rest of us.

Experiencing life on a cattle ranch with eight other people, a herd of horses, and a pack of dogs, including a litter of puppies that magically began emerging out of a hole in the barn wall, was amazing.

My husband and I always joke about the word "amazing" because the participants in the The Bachelor and The Bachelorette reality TV shows have so severely overused that term that it has almost lost its meaning.  But I now know that "amazing" is the best word to use when there are so many positive things that you could say, yet are left somewhat speechless, because there just isn't enough space or time to fit it all in.

Some of the things I learned:

  • On large plots of land, every well, every water trough, every pasture has a name to help the ranchers navigate and communicate instructions on how to get to various locations.

  • The mobile phone is one invention that has really helped out cattle ranchers in recent years.  There were many phone calls being made from horseback as everyone scattered in search of cows.  But, you must have the correct carrier that has a cell tower within the vicinity or you won't get reception.

  • Vehicles are made for thrashing.  Thorny branches, rock outcroppings, and the spines of cacti are no concern to those who drive off-road vehicles.  Each time a low hanging branch scraped another line of paint off the roof of one truck I rode in, I subconsciously found myself ducking, but had to control the impulse once the driver called me out on my silly behavior.  

  • A cow can be born without one hoof or lose a hoof and still get around just fine.
  • It's not surprising to find both bones and graves on your property, or abandoned backpacks containing the bare essentials for someone trying to leave one country and enter another without detection.

  • Dogs and horses have jobs and know them well.

  • Riding an excited bucking and rearing horse is commonplace and not feared. 

  • A third-grader in a pink shirt can out-ride me any day.   In all fairness, this was no surprise to me.

  • In general, things that would normally be a big trauma for me are taken in stride and accepted as a part of life by ranchers.
  • While my own pet horses panic when I tie them to a trailer or load them up, ranch horses take that as their cue to get some sleep.

  • While my own pet dogs must be kept on leashes or they will run off after rabbits and never be seen again, ranch dogs run free and always return safe and sound.  No one worries about them getting under the legs of horses and cows, not even the horses and cows.

  • There is so much work to be accomplished in one day that most everyone is up long before the sun rises.  Despite the long days, you won't hear a single person complain.

  • With so much going on, having people, horses, dogs, cows, bulls, and a variety of motorized vehicles all racing around, it appears that there is the potential for disaster, yet everything flows together like a well oiled machine. 

  • Following ranchers around and trying to journal their lives through digital imaging is easier said than done.  I never knew what was going to happen next, and always seemed to have the wrong lens attached to my camera or was standing in a bad location when something exciting happened. 

  • Best of all, there are some really nice people in this world, and you will find them at the Fourr Ranch.

I'm still processing the photos I took of the trip, so there are more to come, along with some really great stories about this fascinating place.


K.K. said...

Great post! My husband sells livestock supplies to ranchers in North and South Dakota. He has been invited out to a number of his clients places to help with branding and rounds ups. I hope to tag along and bring my camera!

Cindy D. said...

Can I just say that I love love love this post!
Looks like you had a wonderful time.
I used to watch On the Road, all the time. I loved that show.

Crystal said...

Sounds like a good trip! I love living the ranch life and forget not everyone knows what it is like.

Paint Girl said...

What a great experience! That would be so much fun to go and ride along or just hang out and see how it's all done!! So happy you got to go do this and beautiful pictures too!

Reddunappy said...

Awesome experience!! Cant wait for the rest!!

Mikey said...

Love it!! I'm SO glad you came :) It's always an experience. I loved On the Road, I always loved peeking into other people's lives. I'm loving reading your take on the ranch, and I laughed so hard at the third grader comment. She outdoes us all on a daily basis. I wish I had half her energy.
Can't wait to read more and I love the pictures :) It really is a magical place.

fernvalley01 said...

Great photos so far and a great post, and by the way,that is one special 3rd grader!I am betting there are lots of us she could out ride

Vaquerogirl said...

Isn't it funny the roadblocks we set up for ourselves sometimes? I hope your time with those ranchers and Mikey's family will help you move past any obstacles you have put up for yourself! How I wish we could all have the fabulous experience you just did!
Can't wait to see the rest of the pictures!

Kimberly Taylor said...

What a wonderful place. I really love to see photos of vast land, horses, tress and everything in ranch. I used to watch On the Road, and i really loved that show.

achieve1dream said...

Great post and photos! Thanks for sharing them with us!!