March 17, 2013


COWBOY PHOTOGRAPHING PHOTOGRAPHER PHOTOGRAPHING COWBOY - Paul Scherf took a shot for me of me photographing Baxter Badure on the Badure Ranch - Belvidere, South Dakota. I pulled out my old GO WEST backdrop which I love even more now that I have GONE WEST. Making for a nice mix of real and fake reality. Of course on the Badure ranch one could photograph for days on end with endless wardrobe changes of handmade Baxter Badure chaps - vintage beaded leather gloves and coats - saddles etc etc ... limitless possibilities to photograph real life characters who look as if they stepped right out of the movies which portray the characters of the West of the past. Life on this 'movie set' is grand.

Now I have gone full circle. My GO WEST drop from the mid 1990's that I took around the West with me to photograph at rodeos  The landscape of which I felt as if I was inhabiting and riding my Pony around in when I first started working on the ranch almost ten years ago. Now, stepping outside of it a bit to look back at all the experiences and adventure I have had so far - all the great cowboys I have had a chance to work and ride with. Standing in front of it,  in my cowboy 'costume', straight off horseback to do a little photo shoot in between action scenes on the wide open 'backlot' Range. Being photographed by a cowboy to top it off. Like riding the outside full circle of life. I feel so fortunate to have been welcomed onto Lyle O'Bryan's ranch and into the world of the ranchers and crew and history south of Belvidere, South Dakota. Changing the course of my life drastically when I jumped on the back of a horse and rode along with an old time "Gus" cowboy onto the set of  a grand epic Cinemascope adventure. Life imitates art imitates life. I like it best when I can't tell the difference between the two and each day on the ranch feels as if I am riding within a movie scene. The cinematic ranch life continues. Giddy up Pony.

March 11, 2013

One for Chris & Diana

Penning cattle on the old Double X Fall of 2011. The sun had just come up and was casting nice long shadows - making the crew appear in double. In back in the light chaps is Diana Elwood. Her husband Chris Elwood is up front on the point. This is near the end of their long stint as managers of the old Double X - good memories. The rest of the crew : Colter Carlson, Baxter Badure, Cole Heinemann, Bob Fortune, Charlie Fortune and myself. Came across this negative and made me think time spent working on horseback with my friends Chris and Diana - riding on the movie set like beautiful old double X in true cowboy country. How lucky I was to get to ride the range for several years with the cowboying couple. (double click to enlarge photograph)

March 7, 2013

Lyle Breaking My Colt Henry

Lyle breaking Henry on his Quarter Circle XL Ranch. Back when Henry was a youngster. A true cowboy and horseman at work - here he is working Henry and warming him up before he gets on for the first time - he also did some foot work getting him to give and work his feet. At 78, Lyle continues to ride young horses and get them just right. Henry was one of the last two colts Lyle started from scratch. I feel lucky to have been a part of that. I got Henry as a yearling at the sale barn in Philip, South Dakota back in the early days of my ranching adventure. I had no plans to buy a baby horse but when he came into the sale ring I said that's the horse I want. I remember lifting Henry up to get him into the horse trailer as he was so little. Bringing him back to the ranch to start his new life. We fed him and took care of him until he was ready to break - with a few delays because of injuries to Lyle. He bucked a lot when Lyle first put the saddle on him and if you you cinch him up tight and hurry to get on him before he is warmed up, he will start to buck. A mistake I made a couple times. The first time I remember Lyle's voice from across the corral - 'get off!" as I could feel Henry start to hump and luckily I stepped off before he blew up. Every time I get all confident it all wakes me up again and reminds me to be thoughtful and take all the necessary steps. He did it again a few months ago but we rode it out and it was minor but reminded me to be present and mindful and not rushed when riding a live animal! Lyle has made Henry a good horse - nice and light in the mouth - any bad traits he has are most likely from me - we have had our moments at river crossings and him throwing fits with me - something that would not happen if Lyle were riding him.  My fears get the best of me sometimes - I am not anywhere near the Lyle O'Bryan level - someone who has spent fifty plus year riding whatever was handed to him to ride and making it work - staying in the saddle the majority of the time while doing it. Lets see how calving season goes as I get back into daily riding - should be good.

March 5, 2013

Baxter Badure Saddle

Paul Scherf - on the Badure Ranch next door a few years back - holding his original Baxter Badure saddle. A one-of-a-kind work of art to keep for a lifetime.

March 1, 2013

Working on the Old Thode Ranch and Crossing the Same White River

John Thode on the Ranch back in the early 1900's. Me on the Ranch in the early 2000's riding in the footsteps of the old time cowboys but hardly comparing to. But fun to give it a try ... I will have to learn to spin a rope. (John Thode photograph courtesy of his sister Mildred Thode Sleep) They sure rode some rough and tumble ranchy horses back then. Funny to sleep in the same house as they all did - crossing paths continuously indoors and outdoors and moving from past to present at all times it seems. Long live the ranchers of today carrying on the heritage of the cowboys of the past. They sure lived a simple hearty life.

The first photo below is of the Thodes, back in the early 1900's, bringing cattle across the White River Crossing where the cable car used to cross. It is the crossing near the old house and headquarters. The panorama photograph is Lyle O'Bryan on the ranch, in the early 2000's, bringing the horses across the same White River Crossing as I ride ahead to get the shot

This is the first crossing I went down on horseback - so much for my camera that time. ha ... I am sure the Thodes swam their horses across when the river got high. Lyle sure has crossed this river thousands of times in his 50 years on the ranch - on many many a horse of varying degrees of wildness. I just watched him ride out onto the ice yesterday trying to save a sick heifer as she went crashing through the ice. Luckily Lyle did not do the same. She got back up and out of the water but headed across into no mans land. The river can be tricky. I was riding behind Lyle when I first got here. We were chasing a bull - I mean geez what did I know. "Here get on this horse - we are going to chase bulls" - "Okay". ha ha ... We really had to get after him to get him to cross the river. As we were crossing, he lunged at Lyle's horse and they both went down in front of me - luckily the bull didn't land on them. That was one of my first doses of reality.  I also heard a story of Lyle going down in the river when the icy cold water splashed up onto his fresh horse. The other cowboys tell of how he barely touched the water before he was back up and on his horse. Nothing like icy water to motivate a cowboy.

The 'that was then' and the 'this is now' feel kind of the same it seems.
©Jean Laughton

Calving Season Is Fast Approaching

Lyle on Foxy - Pulling a newborn chilled calf to shelter.