December 1, 2011

Cattle Calling Time Again

As someone who is motivated by cake (the chocolate frosted kind) I understand the cattle's excitement to come running for their cake. Today started the beginning of our winter routine of feeding. With a precise cattle call, by Lyle O'Bryan, they came from miles away to snarf it up. (sorry forgot my windbuster for my mic) ©JEAN LAUGHTON

November 28, 2011

Meanwhile, I am back at the Ranch ...

Back to the set, the back lot, the Western stage - after a short Thanksgiving holiday. Ready to get back into 'costume', rehearse my lines and step back into my reoccurring role. The supporting cast awaits in the pasture.

November 12, 2011

Getting Ready to Ship Calves

Thanks to our neighbors (Al Badure, Baxter Badure, Brianna Badure, Kenny Fox and Wade Fox) for helping sort our cattle today - work replacement heifers off and get things prepped for shipping next week. (photo: Baxter Badure & Wade Fox) 

"Just Part of It" (or "Shit Happens")

Last week I was trotting along on Cody on the Fox Ranch down the road doing a simple job of moving a few cows to another pasture. I vaguely remember the feeling of my horse going down and seeing his head very close to the ground and ... that was it ... I was knocked out ... I woke up a few minutes later with my cowboy friend Baxter Badure sitting with me and making sure I was covered up and okay while another neighbor Shawn Fox (who is now a cop) asked me if I knew where I was - no, who the president was - got that one after a minute or two. They wanted to be sure all was well so they called an ambulance which arrived a bit later in the pasture - we were in a pretty convenient location luckily - unlike many other friends who have had accidents. Ended up with a concussion and major soreness but luckily nothing broken. And after an overnight in the hospital I came back home to recover and take it easy for a while. The incident made me remember the good friends I have around here and how we can really get in some situations while cowboying together. I have to thank Baxter for staying with me - talking to me and riding in the ambulance with me to keep me distracted and calm - a true friend and for Shawn for putting his cop skills to use. Also funny to run into one of the EMTs at the hardware store and say thank you for his help - such is small town living. All in all, it sure could have been much worse. As my old cowboy friend usually says "it is just part of it" ... true. I figured I wasn't going to talk about it and did not want to appear to be fishing for sympathy, but realized it is part of the story and part of ranching. Just as a calf that dies in a blizzard is part of the story and having to skin that dead calf to help save another bum calf - just part of it - some of the many realities of ranching. And I am glad my story is a mellow one compared to so many stories I have heard from the guys I work with.

I had my first wreck the first year I was working here, back in 2003. But that was different, I was naïve and had much time to think and be scared on a runaway horse for three quarters of a mile. He took off after some horses we were wrangling flew into high gear. The wind was noisily blowing on my face like being on my motorcycle speeding down a back road, as the horse gained full speed. It would have been a great time to yell “cut”or call for a stand-in or stunt double but unfortunately that was not an option. I was definitely playing a part I had not rehearsed enough. As the horse first took off I remember giggling, but changed my tune when I could not get him to respond to me. I had visions of those guys in the movies stepping off a horse and heard stories of local cowboys doing so - but had no clue how to orchestrate such a move at such a speed - being at the very beginning of my cowboy ‘career’. Pulling on his head did absolutely nothing and I am sure my panic helped accelerate his pace – I guess I fulfilled some fantastical dream I had about running a horse across the prairie, but this wasn’t exactly how I had imagined it so romantically most likely while walking down a busy street in New York City. I so wanted him to turn left, away from a barbed wire fence and slowly decelerate while loping in a controlled circle, but he insisted on in a blind run forward, heading toward a corral where I could see my new baby colt Henry standing on the other side of the fence. It was like I was going to crash through the fence as through a gate to another realm to some rebirth amidst Henry’s newness. Just as I thought we were about to crash through, Foxy made an abrupt turn and sling-shotted me into the fence head and shoulder first. I remember seeing what looked like gray shag carpet in my vision and plunking headfirst onto the ground. I don’t think I was out for too long but woke up in a hyper panic trying to walk it off. I walked all the way back to the ranch for a couple miles with my old cowboy friend riding beside me leading my horse. Not the best feeling. Definite initiation for a new comer. I remember happily downing a beer to try and take the edge off. And then went to have things checked out at the hospital. I know that is not the usual routine around here but glad I did, as it dispelled some worries. That day, the movie scripted scene had become reality, at least temporarily, and I was no longer living just in a daydream - somewhere in my time travels to the past. I didn't talk about it much until a year or so after, somehow trying to hold back the tide of fear of thinking of the possible realities of my new job. It sure affected me for quite a while, but I got back on that horse a couple weeks after the wreck. Although I wasn't in a hurry to wrangle horses on him, as he still has those tendencies. But my cowboy friends would have gotten back on immediately - they have been at it much longer than me and have a history of doing it all - quite different than my story. But my story is just my story, I never said I really knew what I was doing but sure wanted to dive in and try. The experience made me want to hold back for quite some time but remember feeling free when I finally let go and let my other horses run.

It's funny but early on when we were wrangling the horses, following at a slower speed, I had a thought of a friend I had seen recently in New York who had looked through me with some concern as if he were watching this event unfold in a preview and warned me to be careful - strange how the things connect.

I heard that two other crew members went down with their horses this week - got rolled over etc but are okay - no knock outs or major injuries. So, maybe we are done with that for a while ... I think of all the miles I have ridden and time running full out after a cow across the prairie and feel lucky to have stayed upright for almost all of it! Onward ...and yes, Cody is just fine - no injuries, he just stepped in a hole I was told. We will be back to work together in a week or so. I am feeling much better after a week and all will be fine. Onward. ©JEAN LAUGHTON

November 1, 2011

Recent "Daily Diary" Entries

October 23, 2011
Another gorgeous fall day to work cattle - golden grasses surrounding the herd held in place by a few cowboys with a big painterly sky as backdrop - worked steer pairs off - chased a few that tried to get away ... trailed the rest of the pairs to white butte pasture - counted them through the gate and pointed them to the dam ... rode back for lunch through rolling yucca covered riverbanks ... nice way to spend the morning in Cowboy Country ...

October 26, 2011
Chilly early morning gather on the Badure Ranch - rode toward the back of Porcupine Pasture and into the rising sun - the crew split and gathered the expansive yucca covered cowboy movie looking pasture - multi colored cows and calves coming from the northeast met with crew and cows coming in from the southwest - trailed across Blackpipe Creek and golden pastures onto the road for a few miles to t...he headquarters - Weened and worked the calves to the background noise of many bawling cows ... pit stop in the house for lunch and a photo slide show from the past 8 years ... time flies ... the archive of stories grows ... much work to do to prepare for shipping and the inevitable winter to come ... such is the endless cycle of ranching life ...

October 26, 2011
Coyotes first evening howls as the sun sets behind a bank of purple clouds - Pony glowing white way off up in the hills - Henry and Flaxy eating their hay in the corral - a sudden rush of wind as the sun disappears then silence again ... soaking up my last couple of weeks and the view out in the Scotty ... time to start stocking up on firewood for my move back into the bunkhouse ...

October 28, 2011
Woke up to a dark starry sky & saddled up my pony -pre dawn drive to Stanton Anderson's ranch for shipping day - view of Badlands silhouetted against the pink sky - big buck crossing the road in front of me - Rode with the crew south from the ranch for several miles to gather a herd of mixed breed & longhorn cattle some belted some spotted making for a pretty sight as we trailed the Hollywood type herd several miles back to headquarters - did the usual penning, sorting and loading and off to market ... great lunch with the crew - gorgeous day for a ride across the prairie and Badlands ...

October 30, 2011
Colossal orange crescent moon hanging so low over the Badlands it looks to be resting on top of them and within my reach ..


October 23, 2011

Farewell to the Cowboying Couple

Farewell to my friends and ranching neighbors Chris & Diana Elwood who have been a cowboying together for over thirty five years. Things will not be the same without this hard working, salt of the earth, cowboying couple in the area. After 16 years on the nearby old Double X Ranch - starting as hands at the Pines Camp then moving up to excellent managers of the Double X & 7 Cross, they will be hitting the trail back to Montana. Nothing lasts forever, I know, but sometimes you sure wish it would. Words and photos cannot express friendships formed on horseback while cowboying together and all the gorgeous rides on the Old Double X.  I will miss working together and helping each other out - they were a big part of the crew south of Belvidere, South Dakota. I feel lucky to have got in on some of the years while they were here. Thanks for keeping the Double X a true cowboy ranch and for all your help over the years and of course friendship and laughs. I know I speak for many when I say - you will be missed.



October 10, 2011

Gathering Porcupine Pasture - Badure Ranch

 Woke up to the sound of a pack of nearby coyotes. Put on my 'costume' for the day and stepped out of my Scotty camper ready for the day's cowboying ... Headed out on horseback just before sunrise on the Badure Ranch next door ... The Crew: Baxter Badure, Al Badure, Brianna Badure, Colter Carlson, Joe Pavlis, Chris Elwood, Bob Fortune, Charlie Fortune, Kenny Fox, Wade Fox, Lyle O'Bryan and Me ... Watched the sun come up over the yucca covered hills as we rode towards the back of the cowboy movie set of a pasture ...  camera-ready silhouetted cowboys riding the ridges above me ... multi colored cows and calves trailing down the draws... riders decked out in full cowboy gear spread out for miles across a large pasture trailing several hundred head in from all directions ... like an endless reel of iconic cowboy movie scenes come to life one after another ... my mind absorbs the day in a series of 'storyboard' images ... I know this isn't a movie but it sure feels like a celluloid day dream ... Once gathered, we worked the heifers east and the steers west in a dance of cow and calf, horse and rider ... cutting pairs out one at a time while holding the rest back ...with a little chasing now and then making for some great action scenes ... a few cowboys trailed the heifers to Horseshoe Butte and the rest pushed the steers across to Black Pipe ...  Back to a house packed full of vintage beaded gauntlet gloves, antique guns, and old time saddles for lunch in a museum-like setting ... One of the best times of the year- Fall ... one of the best parts of my job - helping the neighbors and riding with the crew from south of Belvidere, South Dakota.

October 6, 2011

Sale Barn - Philip, South Dakota

September 12, 2011

Paul Wearing Fancy Gloves

Paul Scherf looking a little "William S. Hart"

August 23, 2011

Baxter and Paint

Baxter Badure and Paint a few years back ... ©JEAN LAUGHTON

August 18, 2011

Lyle and Flaxy

Lyle and Flaxy stopping for a minute so I could take a quick snapshot - we were heading out to gather a big herd on the Badure Ranch next door - Monday August 15th. ©JEAN LAUGHTON

Custom Made by BAXTER BADURE

My Ranching Life portfolio - made by the ever talented cowboy / artist Baxter Badure. We are doing a chick version next. By the time I get finished here I am going to need fifty of them to fill with ranching photos and stories ... Coming next, the autobiographical custom saddle - planning on over the top design with every inch of leather tooled and carved ... sort of the Nudie suit of saddles ... stay tuned. ©JEAN LAUGHTON

August 14, 2011

Another Fall Ranching Season Begins

And so begins another Fall season of cattle work - one of the best times of the year. Awoke at 4:30 AM to a million watt moon that lit my way to the old log barn. Henry was finishing up his oats when I walked into his 'dressing room' backstage to get him saddled up. Loaded Flaxy and Henry into the trailer and Lyle drove us to the 'location' for the day's scene. Beautiful drive as the sun was thinking of rising to our left while the enormous moon was glowing pink and setting to our right. It all felt scripted as if the sun and moon had rehearsed their timing. I felt keenly aware of soaking up every minute of it all as we arrived at the Pines Corral on the old Double X Ranch to join the rest of the 'cast' and crew to begin our day.

A small crew of cowboys headed out on a sunrise ride - Chris Elwood, Baxter Badure, Al Badure, Lyle O'Bryan, Charlie Fortune, Joe Pavlis, Colter Carlson and myself. We trotted a few miles through tall lush green grasses (a rare sight in November) to a distant pasture. Cowboys spread out to the back of the pasture to gather several hundred red cows. Baxter, Charlie, and I stopped at the edge of the pasture and looked down and out across an adjoining Badlands pasture - making for a grand view from the saddle. Once gathered, we strung the pairs through a gate and trailed them back to the corrals under an endless sky - all the while feeling like I was riding in a John Ford movie scene - being followed by a cameraman on a dolly. My mind wanders from the cinematic daydream to the reality of the work I am doing as I ride along side the herd pushing them onward.

Penned the pairs and started the choreographed work of sorting the cows off the calves - horses and cowboys working in a sort of rhythm - holding the calves back while funneling the cows out the gate. Ran the calves through the alley and gave them their fall shots along with pirate-like patches for a few with pink eye. Then ran the cows through and poured them and reunited them with their calves - (roll heart warming soundtrack).

Trailing the herd back was equally as picturesque with an epic view from the back of the herd. We counted the cows and calves through the final gate - turning them back out to graze. Rode the few miles back to the corrals listening to stories along the way along with the sound of jingling spurs, horses trotting and their hooves moving through the tall grasses. Ended with lunch on the prairie. (roll ending credits) ... Another long glorious take to add to the 'reel' of memories from my last eight years here.

(the photo is from the same work done on the same ranch back in 2005 - photographed from horseback with Noblex 120 (film) camera "Putting Pairs Back out to Pasture on the Old Double X"- from the series
My Ranching Life - Archival Pigment Print 20" x 48") ©JEAN LAUGHTON

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

June 30, 2011

Diana Elwood

Diana has been ranching most of her life. She and her husband Chris are the cowboying couple who manage both the old Double X and 7 Cross ranches just down the road (now Rapid Creek Ranches). Diana is the kind of cowboy that can handle what ever needs to be done: riding miles of pasture, working cattle, roping, calving, and also doing double duty cooking dinner for the crew. Don’t mistake her small stature - she is chocked full of heart, integrity and courage. ©JEAN LAUGHTON

June 29, 2011

Pony's Debut - In Full Costume

Pony's Debut - In Full Costume from Jean Laughton on Vimeo.

June 28, 2011

Interior, South Dakota Rodeo Now & Then

In the 1920's the Interior Rodeo was one of the largest in the world. I love to think of Leonard Stroud riding his paint trick riding pony just down the road from my house or Kittie Canutt siting comfortably astride a bucking bronc.
Left: My Photo July 2010 Right: Doubleday, back in the day

June 26, 2011

Baxter & Paul Posing for Me

Neighboring cowboys Baxter Badure & Paul Scherf sit for a portrait on the Badure Ranch.


June 24, 2011

Living Amongst the Cowboys from the Past

This ranch was once the Thode Ranch and home of the TL cattle company. Earl Thode, one of 12 Thode Children, grew up cowboying, breaking horses and riding broncs down here. He went on to be the first cowboy to earn the title of World Champion All-Around Cowboy in 1929 as well as World Champion Saddle Bronc '27,'28',29',31. He entered his first rodeo in 1920 - down the road in White River and won all around and was on his way. My Pony and I cross his path daily and mingle with thoughts and memories of cowboys from the past. ©JEAN LAUGHTON 
(photograph by the fabulous Ralph R. Doubleday)

June 23, 2011

Lyle Bringing the Horses In

June 22, 2011

The Ranch in 1938

This photograph shows the cowboys from the nearby Tom Berry ranch trailing 500 head of steers up a draw through what is now Lyle O'Bryan's ranch. They are taking the steers to Belvidere to load them on the train to go to market. I ride up this draw every day during calving season and every time I ride to the north pasture. The land remains the same but the cast of characters changes.(photographer unknown - from 1938 Belvidere State Bank calendar) ©JEAN LAUGHTON

My Ranching Life - A Cinematic View From the Saddle

Images from MY RANCHING LIFE  Traveling Exhibition which consists of large scale B&W prints from 36" to 72" wide - exhibited in frames made from reclaimed wood - see my website for details & exhibition photographs :

Henry : Then and Now

Henry's transition from child actor to handsome leading man ...
(photo credits: L:Lyle O'Bryan -R: Roxy Fox)

On A Movie Set of a Ranch

"Movie Still" from 'Gathering cattle on the Old Double X Ranch' back in 2004 or '05 ... Acting Credit: Paul Scherf .... no stunt doubles ... ©JEAN LAUGHTON

Bringing Cattle in on the Old Double X Ranch

Bringing Cattle in for Branding at the Pines Corral on the old Double X Ranch on a cinemascope kind of a day with a cast of many cowboys ... Circa 2005

Double X Crew - Circa 1962

Vintage Cast of Characters :Crew with Chuckwagon on the Old Double X (Berry) Ranch just down the road ...
Left to Right: Burrell Phipps, Baxter Berry, Charlie Larson, Ray Hunter, Lyle O'Bryan & Art Thode ... everyone in the photo has passed on to the 'big ranch in the sky' except for Lyle who continues his role as cowboy extraordinaire and his friend Ray Hunter ...

Baxter Badure - True American Original

Baxter Badure : Next door neighbor, good friend, good neighbor, hard working cowboy / rancher, saddle maker, artist, leather carver, antique gun collector, beaded gauntlet glove collector, vintage saddle collector and Custer enthusiast. The first time I worked cattle with the neighbors, Baxter came riding up over the hill and it was like a scene out of Custer's last stand (of course with a better ending!)... flowing long coat, studded chaps, full on cowboy gear with style, gun in holster .... and I thought, YES! I will always have someone to photograph who will be in full 'costume' for every ride ... ©JEAN LAUGHTON

Early Photography From Horseback w/ Noblex

An early view 'from the saddle' - unscripted - back when I was getting the hang of the Noblex and riding my trusty photo pony, Beau ... (circa 2005)