July 23, 2011

Lyle O'Bryan & Cody (2010)

Lyle and Cody by the old log barn on Lyle's Quarter Circle XL Ranch. Cody is one of the many horses Lyle has broke and trained in his lifetime, so far. I love to hear him and his cowboy friends tell stories from their early cowboying days, remembering each and every horse they rode by name. The respect and relationship between horse and cowboy. Lyle talks of his days working on the nearby Double X Ranch in his 20's and getting a horse started then jumping on him the next morning to wrangle horses and really getting him broke - he might buck and really run, of course, but Lyle has the reputation for staying on and says he just fell in behind the herd he was wrangling and rode it out. He also recalls 30 below zero mornings and heading out to ride the big circle on the Double X Ranch. Making the rounds to feed cattle from the cake shacks scattered throughout the rugged Badlands pasture. Riding alone on a bronc that was assigned to him and never completely sure that he would make it back alive on some days. You were given a string of horses to break and ride and you just did it. That is a different kind of tough - that is Lyle's cowboy life ... Cody was a colt in training when I showed up here and he has been one of my main horses the past few years and well broke, thanks to Lyle. ©JEAN LAUGHTON

July 21, 2011

Polaroid 665 "Relics"

2003 Polaroids : Cowboy / artist / snake loving Baxter Badure made these one of a kind, opulent, studded, over the top, magnificent, 'snake' chaps. They are quite a sight to behold as he goes galloping across the Great Plains - glamour and glitter amid sagebrush and Badlands. (L to R : Baxter / Chris Elwood / Baxter's Chaps) ©JEAN LAUGHTON

July 19, 2011

And Now For Our Feature Presentation:The Ever Alluring 'Baby'

Pony's Co Star - the "Veronica Lake" of the cattle world - the "Lillian Gish" of the Great Plains in her first 'talkie' ... she takes direction well and always hits her mark ... take it away "Baby" ...

July 17, 2011

Cooling Thoughts on a Sizzling Day

On this 105 degree day, I reflect back to riding during blizzards at calving time. Here, Lyle and Foxy - along with Cody and me - are heading out to check on the newborn calves - Spring 2009. There is something fantastic about riding in a snowstorm - like being in a giant snow globe - in a private ranch world - very present in the moment and very aware of nature and it's power. Trotting along on my trusty Pony, making the first tracks in the fresh snow, feeling as if I have stepped into a dramatic movie scene with wind machines blowing fake snow until my imagination brings me back to full on reality with no camera crew, no fake props, no stand-in and no one yelling 'cut!'.

July 15, 2011

Pony - isms

"Diary" excerpts ...

"Sugar coated candied orange moon hanging so low over the Badlands I could almost reach up from atop the Badlands and take a bite out of it ... maybe if I stood on my Pony's back ..."
November 10, 2010

"Pony standing in the glowing snow under a half moon lit sky ... on this Western soundstage - his mane blowing in the howling prairie wind - awaiting his next scene ..."
January 23, 2010

"Rode home under a full moon ... quiet and beautiful ... my horse and I casting a shadow on the prairie ... my grey Pony was glowing in the moonlight waiting to greet me when I returned - good ol' Pony..."
March 28, 2010

"Big moon - vast sky - Quiet night - Pony's sleepy sigh ..." May 25, 2010

"It is one silent night here with beautiful light snow falling like painted white cornflakes on a Capra movie set - the perfect set dressing for Pony's prairie 'stage' ..." December 20, 2010

"Orion's celestial accessory hanging vertically above the eastern horizon ...Millions of twinkling stars up above Pony so high ... like 'brilliant cut' diamonds in the sky ... If they should fall I wish they may I wish they might bejewel Pony's silver mane tonight ..." November 1, 2010


July 13, 2011

Gone West

The backdrop from my Go West series (1995-2003). A portraiture series I photographed during summers while traveling West from New York City in my Bronco loaded with backdrops and 4x5 - setting up behind the scenes at rodeos in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. A series that took me on a journey of sorts in search of photographic subjects, a cinematic form of reality, the past, my future, a new identity out West perhaps - and eventually led me to the Badlands and to the ranch where I now work and live my life "beyond the brushstrokes" of the painted backdrop - if you look real close you can see Pony and me riding around inside the Western scene. Or as my good friend Tom so eloquently put it ...

"I get the sense that where you live is beyond here or there. Maybe it's not in the place the photograph depicts...not really in the photograph either, since we rarely see you there. The backdrop and the film are your frontier and the real range you ride. Perhaps the camera lens, which pulls together inner and outer worlds, is where you are. You've fashioned a cocoon of scenic, romantic immensity within the reflective, ground-glass eclipse that somehow manages to avoid reflecting cliche, triviality or exploitation. You've manifested a suspended dreamtime that is more real for you than the physical scene. When details intrude, it shatters the reality of the magic. You are like Alice and the looking glass. Somehow you've gotten through the surface of the tintype and beyond the brush strokes on the backdrop. You've time-traveled through the yellowed wood pulp and fading black ink of old newspaper clippings. The dust and the trail you were riding became the silver nitrate and celluloid of a silent western and you and your pony have somehow sunk into it and remained whole. Your presence in the real physical scene is only an artifact of your true presence inside the surface. We know where your heart lies and why it lies there. We realize we can't get there. This is the ache of beauty and longing and why that ache sustains us. It is no accident that you've built the portal from whence you travel in a place called 'Interior'." (Tom Havran 2010)


July 8, 2011

The Supporting Cast

Heading out to cake the cows last winter - Buster Keaton Style.

July 7, 2011

Wade Fox in a 'Billy the Kid' Pose

Wade Fox, neighboring rancher and all around cowboy. Wade grew up on his family's ranch (Kenny & Roxie Fox) ranch just down the road and has been at it since he was a small kid. Wade is just one of the many of the 'cast of characters' I neighbor with who respect the cowboy heritage of the past and carry on its traditions with their cowboying and attire. One day Wade will be one of the old timer cowboys in the area with many a tale to tell of his days riding the range. Good to have some young blood in the crew for now - he can hustle and get the job done and also cracks a mean whip - yeehaw.

July 6, 2011

Ethel Thode Haying on the Ranch Back When

It has been one the wettest years in some time around here - so we have been stopping and starting haying for weeks - working around the rain. The mosquitoes are horrendous but the calves will be fat this fall and the cows will have plenty to eat with all the abundance of lush green grass. It seems the rain has been falling mainly on the plains - great plains that is. ©JEAN LAUGHTON

July 2, 2011

Interior Ranch Rodeo July 2, 2011

Craig McKenzie (Murdo, South Dakota) staying on during the wild horse race at the Interior Ranch Rodeo - real working cowboys from area ranches competing. The event consists of a team of four cowboys catching a bronc, saddling it, getting on and riding the bronc ride to other end of the arena. Best part of the rodeo by far. ©JEAN LAUGHTON

Chris Elwood - The Other Half of the Cowboying Couple

Anyone would have a hard time keeping up with Chris - he is one hardworking cowboy managing two ranches. Always on the go, on a good horse, which he broke and trained. Late in 2010, Chris experienced one of the risks of cowboying - his horse stepped in a hole and fell on him - breaking his pelvis badly. It was a tough time for him and his family, but I am happy to say he pulled through and was 'back in the saddle' several months later. You would never know he had been injured to watch him work and to see him cut a rug on the dance floor. ©JEAN LAUGHTON