Every Picture Tells A Story

Some photos really make you wonder what the story is behind the image. Black & white photography, in my opinion, enhances the subject matter, making it more interesting by removing the distraction of “color noise”. Come on in … take a look at some black and white “stories” from my little corner of the world.

You would think that black and white photography would have gone by the wayside. It was “ground zero” … where photography began. To this day, professional photographers at the very top of the expert layer take black and white photos with artsy zeal. Black and white photography has oddly enough held it’s ground even though cameras are much more complex than their primitive ancestors. If it weren’t for the invention of the digital camera, I wouldn’t be telling this story. Anything much more complicated than a toaster turns me off. The seductive promises made by “New Age” cameras enticed me toward the baited hook. Automatic settings assured me that even I could take good photos. One DSLR camera and a huge memory card later, I became a pathological picture taker!

Nothing was safe. Images that I found interesting could be preserved or deleted, there is no waste. I like detail anyway, and my camera fast became a tool for me to better appreciate the little things and to capture images I wanted to remember … or in many cases, I like to help others “remember” by taking casual photos of things, people, places and the details in their lives that will mean much more to them years from now. Many of you have said such kind things to me about my photos and you’ve also asked what kind of camera I have. So, I wanted to respond to your inquiries and yet make it a little more interesting than just focusing on the me part. This clothesline is just a “working class” object, but to many, it is also conjures up ‘warm fuzzy’ memories. Just seeing a clothesline reminds me of my Grandma trying to talk to me through the clothespins held in her mouth. And, there you have it, a story behind an image.

Ok, I need to back up a little rather than cheat you out of meeting my darling little friend, Katie. She and I have much in common. We’re “girly” cowgirls…which is why there is a rose on my hat. She and I have fun with imagination too. Her daddy is a working cowboy and she and her sister can ride just about anywhere he does. They’re being raised with a “can do” attitude that isn’t exclusive to ranching, but, it is perhaps more common in this environment. Anyway, the photo at the top was taken when we went on a field trip to nearby Custer, SD. One of the places where we stopped was a tourist shop that caters to the “rendezvous” mountain main theme. Her sister is not girly and this was the stop of her choice. We bought a few trinkets and stopped on the way home to enjoy the Black Hills scenery and play with our toys…they with their wooden flutes, gen-u-ine leopard rabbit skins and a slingshot. Me, with my camera.

Then, there are cowboys. I’m surrounded by them and I gotta say that on the whole, most of them are a photogenic lot…some more so than others…a mysterious fact about all humans. Cowboys are greatly helped by a plethora of cool accessories … the horse, the gear and most of all the great outdoors. Charles Belden became the most famous of all the early cowboy photographers because he captured the romance of the west so vividly in what became a vast store of images. The cowboy has a long history in black and white “visuals” just as he does with being associated with the black and white principles of right and wrong. Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy and several others became heroes because of their moral conduct, not because they were “colorful” characters. There was no color…just stories in black and white imagery on the silver screen. To some, the cowboy is still a hero and a role model…

I’d like to let the photos do most of the talking, but they need a little help to tell their stories. But first, I want to say that I do not see myself as a “real” photographer. I just enjoy taking pictures of things in and around my life. A “real” photographer would categorize my camera as being in the “Barbie car” family :o) It isn’t a big gun, but I have fun with my little pea shooter – a Sony Alpha 100 DSLR. The above photo is of my nephew, Zachary, who idolizes his uncle, my husband. Zach was a city kid who came to stay with us for a few days that ended up being the entire summer…and three more summers.

Our little town’s High School kids and several other townspeople went out to a nearby interstate bridge and waited with as many flags as could be found in an effort to visibly honor a local fallen soldier who was being brought home…in a hearse. We waited and we waited. When the escort car was spotted, the flags waved and many VFW soldiers saluted as the entourage went by. There wasn’t a dry eye and the teenagers were silent.

“Necessity is the mother of invention”. An old gate at the Brislawn Ranch – also home to America’s first Spanish Mustang horse registry.

“YooHoooo, I’m Back!” The Canada Goose gander that my bantam hen and I raised several years ago. This past spring he returned again with his mate. Every year they come back makes me feel like I’m part of a miracle – albeit a small one. To me, being blessed by the touch of even a mini-miracle is no small thing.

“Jimmy”. The most interesting faces aren’t always the “purdiest” ones. Fifth generation rancher and a 10 on the character meter.

“A Little Bashful”. Boy loves horse, horse loves boy. You can see it in the horse’s body language…the eye, the ears, the lowered head held close to his master.

“On The Job”. The working life of a ranch cat isn’t just being a barn cat. A barnyard and all of the surrounding area and especially the out-buildings would be overrun with rodents if it weren’t for our feline friends.

“Boys Of Summer”. Big brother says to little brother, “Hold it like this. Here, let me help you.”

I am Aunt to the rider and great Aunt to the darling cherub in front of her. She is SO the cowgirl…just look at those spurs!

Kids…they are so user-friendly to cameras. Rare is the child who does not want their picture taken. Below is a young friend…first in his work clothes standing by dad, then in his cowboy wedding attire. He was so proud to be part of the wedding party for his Aunt.

When I showed the below photo to my friend, Sophia, her heart visibly melted and she cooed, “Ohhhh…Mi Amore.” Her husband and their babygirl. Not exactly the image that first comes to mind when you think of a hard-chargin’ cowboy.

This time it is Grandpa instead of Daddy with an arm full of love…

We have a ranch mascot who is a living reminder of what western range cattle used to look like in the late 1800s. Meet “Kramer”…named after the TV show character on Seinfeld – his curly-top hairdo being the reason for the name. Kramer is a 13 year old retired rodeo roping steer. Mexican Corrientes are a docile breed and Kramer will eat treats out of your hand. He also plays a useful role as “lead steer” when we move our cattle. Isn’t he the coolest?

And the face of the new West…as in really “new”…

Now, for one of my favorite people in all the world…our Veterinarian. “Dr. Pete” is the kind of vet they don’t seem to be making any more…and he’s just inches from retirement (a black day for all who do business with him). It doesn’t matter if you have a sick lizard, a bum lamb with a broken leg, an ailing goose, a lame horse, a prolapsed cow, an ornery donkey in need of castration…he’ll take care of them. He’s preg-checked billions of cows (ok, slight exaggeration, but only slight) and he would rather have remained a good ole country cow vet…BUT. There aren’t many veterinarians around these parts and the need for medical care for all kinds of animals is great. Our beloved vet has cheerfully taken care of any & all of God’s creatures that have come through his clinic door over the past 30 years. I don’t know that we’re issued halos upon entry to Heaven, but if so, Pete is going to need help carrying his.

“Peek-a-boo”…

We had a fabulous grass year. Cooler than usual, with just the right amount of rain at the right times. This ranch horse is looking through grass that was eye-high!

WooHooooo, look a those fancy boots!

I guess it might seem odd to some when I say that a cowboy working with a rope is a thing of beauty, but they are. Poetry in motion. This young lad already exhibits grace in how he handles both his horse and the rope. And below, a couple of other “pokes” – one just passing the time away by fiddling with his rope as we moved cattle to another pasture. The other fella, at branding time. In the old western movies, the cowboys broke into song on the trail…and while I’ve yet to witness that, I’m thinkin’ it could still happen. They do tell stories, some true and some are, welllll, “embellished”, shall we say.

And here is my husband, “Lynn”…

One more of my Beloved. His horses are “Peso” and “Chevis” – Quarter Horse geldings.

Ranch work is just plain dirty…and I mean dirty. Well, there’s all kinds of other “gunk” too…greasy grime from working on farm machinery, all kinds of “organic” goo from working on or with livestock … colostrum, blood, puss, mud, ohhhh you get the idea…and sometimes you get it all at the same time. Laundry From Hell. But, we like to go out and socialize like everyone else. Some of us clean up pretty good…

Have you ever wondered what it looks like when you peer through the “windshield” of a saddle…while riding a good cow horse? Well, wonder no longer. Here she is, with her ears laid back telling the cattle to keep-a-goin’…

And, who is the “she” in the above photo at branding time? My Morgan mare, “Bluebelle”; the below photo was taken last October while doing “fall work”.

Next in line is my baby-girl, three year old “Ribbon”. This is her kindergarten year of ranch work. I took this photo two weeks ago while my husband and I worked for over an hour to pasture-load an injured and grumpy bull into the trailer. Ribbon patiently waited and watched from a distance.

Ribbon’s big brother, “Mac”, belongs to my galpal, Anita, whom you might recognize from several of my previous postings. I bred both of these young horses, I bred Morgan Horses for about 15 years. Raising foals is just plain fun, but it is a lot of work if you do it right. Now, I’m kickin’ back and just enjoying the best part of horse ownership…the ride.

A true icon of the west…a ranch windmill.

Here is another true west moment…a rodeo roughstock event. “Bareback Bronc Riding”. The ride is brief, eight seconds at best, which is the time they shoot for. Anything less than “8” is a no-time. The rider’s style is also judged. If the time is made and the ride is good, the cowboy might get a score in the upper 80s. Beyond that number is pro-caliber. The below photos were taken at the annual Hulette rodeo (WY) – the rodeo grounds is just a hop, skip and a hooey from Devils Tower (America’s 1st national monument). I did not use a zoom lens, I was right at the foot of the fence, close to the chutes.

I was pickin’ a few clods of arena dirt out of my hair after I took the photo of the above ride!

Below is one of the owners of the horses in the rodeo. Now, you might think that a relationship could not exist with this type of horse. These horses are bred to buck and they are, by & large, not lap dogs, but the owners have a deep respect for these unique animals. They love them just as they are. Each horse goes by a carefully chosen name … “Blood Brother”, “Bath Bubbles”, “Beaded Moccasin” etc. Below, “Chad” is riding his wonderful roan gelding bridle-less while roping calves at a branding. That will tell you all you need to know about this man and his horse – 100% trust and respect on both sides.

Thank you again for stopping by, I hope you found something to smile about here. Do stay in touch, I love to hear from you. You can leave a note right here in the comments section below or please feel free to email me anytime. Other readers love to hear what you have to say also. Modernday cowboys have surrendered to high tech devices as evidenced below. A friend was checking for messages on his cell phone after a long day of moving cattle. He’d slipped the bridle off his resting pony and we left shortly thereafter.

One last item, I take photos of lots and lots of people and occasionally someone will offer to take a pic or two of me. I usually duck out. While I love photos of my horses, I don’t like photos of me. I’m not very interesting “material”. While some (like my sister) are photogenic, I’m not. Its ok, I’d rather be on this side of the camera anyway. But, here I am … thanks to my farmgirl pal, Lisa, who is the owner/editor of our local paper. You’ve seen her here before in my “Guns & Aprons” post.

Until next time, I’m wishing with all my heart that you really do have “happy trails” until we meet again.

Leave a comment 29 Comments

  1. I think you are very photogenic and it is a wonderful picture of you and your horse. I really loved all of the pictures and story.

  2. Debbie says:

    Great commentary and photos Shery!
    Love all of it… Thanks for the BIG TASTE of the Old/new’West! Brings back memories…:)
    What’s not to like about looking at cowboys and horses???
    Deb~
    Oh, my fav photo…The airborn bucking horse!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I don’t think that I can pick a favorite! They are wonderful. I have pulled out of boxes at my mom’s all the black and white photos of her and my dad and my grandparents etc and have them all over the house. Black and white is the best! LOVE LOVE the pictures. Thank you so much sharing your world!

  4. Janice K. says:

    Once again, I am truly impressed with your talents! YES, you ARE a photographer… Great job…

  5. Colleen says:

    There isn’t a dry eye here after looking at your flag photo … beautiful & haunting as well — I can only imagine how much his family appreciated the support & love you & your neighbors gave them that day.

    Thank you for sharing!

  6. Emma says:

    I think that you have a wonderful eye for great shots! There are so many that do speak to you. I love the baby and her daddy picture, there is a lot of love there! Many other pictures tell great stories also. Color or not you make me feel very comfortable. Thanks For share!

  7. Nancy J says:

    Hey everyone!!!

    What a great picture show!!!! Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of having my very own horse. But being raised in the "big" city, that was impossible. I kept reading their stories…Black Beauty was my favorite. Now, as a lot of dreams do, it had to be put aside, even though I do live near some small farms & ranches. When I read your monthly story, I can pretend to be riding right next to you!!!! Thanks again for the pleasure of your company!!!!

  8. Julie Wemken says:

    Very Beautiful photos!!! I love black and white photos…they have character. I so enjoy reading your posts. You are a gifted writer. You have a way of making me feel like I am there. By the way, I think you are photogenic and you are a very beautiful lady! Many Blessings!

  9. carol branum says:

    Hi, love it love your blog, but the photos of the longhorn still make me shake, I am very fearful of longhorn cattle, my daddy had a few.and they terrorized me to death, I just am very afraid of them. Have a great day. Love, carol branum

  10. Peggy Beck says:

    I just love your photos and I also think you are a beautiful woman who photographs well. Being in a small town city environment I can only dream of your life. But is fascinates me and so I follow your blog every time. Love your stories and the way you write.

  11. nameTerry says:

    I’m pickin’ the grass seed out of my two front teeth and scratchin the dirt off of my scalp. I’m so proud to say I know you Shery! You are in your element!!

  12. carol cacchione says:

    Shery, Love your blog and love these b&w photos! Really exposes the rough yet beautiful life on the ranch. I’m looking forward to you getting some buckeye chicks next year and seeing their photos posted. All my best from kentucky

  13. Debbie Strong says:

    You have the BEST stories and photos! Kramer’s cousin (a longhorn bull) lives on my road…I see him every day I drive down our road.

  14. Connie Tarplee says:

    Thank you for sharing. It brings back memories of my Grandparent’s farm and the fun I use to have being there with the horses, cattle, chickens and hogs. The past 2 years I have had to put down my 2 horses. It is very hard to lose your best friends, we were together about 30 years. I look forward in having another horse in my life. I am planning on going out to CA to pack with a friend for the US Forest Service. She has some great working Morgans, looking to take one home. I love your site and thanks again.

  15. Jan says:

    Loved, loved all of the pictures and story. I had forgotten how great black and white really is. I think I will take a few of my Philly Girl in B&W and see what happens.
    Happy Trails to You Too,
    Jan

  16. Brenda says:

    I love the black and white photos. I think you take wonderful pictures. I am not patient enough. With Ladybug I will try and take a picture after she has been to the groomer and lookin’ pretty. But I will take a couple and if she does not cooperate I walk away. I am not photogenic either but if someone that has an eye can get me when I am not paying attention or take the picture quickly when I first smile I sometimes will take a good one. I have never been able to plant a smile on my face and keep it there. But my husband’s family can smile for the camera and it will look the same in every picture. And it looks just like them. I think your friend from the paper took a wonderful picture of you. Thank you for giving us the story behind the picture in a way that we learn what it is to live the life you live.

  17. Marilyn says:

    Brings back lots of memories, following a bunch of cattle on a good horse, then the food at the end and the love of all around. Nothing like a good horse, thank God I have some.

  18. Ann says:

    Sherry – you’ve done it again. Just when I think I have been so amazed at your stories and photos, you raised the bar again. These photos a too wonderful and lovely for words. Thank you for sharing.

  19. Ann says:

    P.S. Shery – your photo is lovely as well and you definitely are photogenic

  20. Ann Barker says:

    Shery,
    You have an eye for photography, jewelry composition, decorating home and garden. The results speak for themselves and the camera snobs can’t argue with that. Have a great day girlfriend!

  21. Rebecca Rosberg says:

    HI THIS IS REBECCA DOWN ON HER LITTLE SUNNYBROOK FARM HERE IN SOUTH FLORIDA.
    I WANT TO SAY I HAVE BECOME QUITE A FAN OF YOURS. YOUR ARE SO TALENTED …A WONDERFUL WRITER AND ARTIST. YOUR SUBJECT MATTER IS SO DIVERSE AND NEVER FAILS TO TOUCH MY HEART.

    I WAS BLOWN AWAY BY YOUR "FARMGIRL FLOWER FAIRIES" & "POTPOURRI, PICKLES & PEARLS .
    AND NOW THE BLACK & WHITE PHOTOS !!!

    YOU ARE A TRULY GIFTED ARTIST & WRITER
    THANKS FOR THE WORK THAT YOU DO – YOU NEVER FAIL TO SPEAK TO MY HEART. WHEN I THOUGHT ‘WHAT DO I HAVE IN COMMON WITH A RANCH WOMAN?’…WELL EVERYTHING REALLY !

  22. andylynne says:

    I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your blog. Such a wonderful glimpse into ranch life. Thank you for sharing it with us. Your black and white photos are wonderful. I really like the one of your mare going through the cows. She’s brooking no back talk from that bunch:). Thank you again, your blog is a highlight for me. I’ve been lurking but had to tell you how much I enjoy reading you.

  23. janice berndt says:

    Fantastic photos! I’m truly inspired to get my camera and start shooting. Your photos really capture the essence of a way of life.

  24. cora jo says:

    Honestly, Sheri…I’m wiping tears. You rock!

  25. I love your blog and enjoy reading it so much. Great black and white pictures.

  26. Hi Shery,
    Just recently joined this group and I’m really loving the content. Had to take a few minutes and tell you that I love your photography and that it was great to see someone still shooting B&W as well. I’m a photographer here in Michigan who specializes in Equine. I Hope to get to your neck of the woods sometime soon. My nephew just moved out towards you , working as a fisheries biologist and he tells me it’s beautiful. Thank you for all your upbeat, fun, artsy glimpse into the day to day life of a rancher.
    Linda Michele-Dobel

  27. Liz says:

    Love spending this winter day looking at your beautiful pictures. You truly capture the heart of what we are all about. Great job.

  28. laura says:

    gorgeous, evocative photos …

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