lariat

Tough Hands No. 11

Tough Hands No. 11

Tough Hands No. 11

I haven’t posted much from Tough Hands for a while; it’s tough to make more during the school year. I’m hoping that will change during the holidays.

That said, this piece reflects the notion of commitment in ranching life; it is a metaphor depicting “for better or for worse, in life and in death” on myriad levels.

Advertisements

Tough Hands No. 10

Tough Hands No. 10

Tough Hands No. 10

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Bad weather makes good pictures. It’s a lesson taught to me by one of the greats at National Geographic, Sam Abell, and Sam’s not often wrong. So on a cold and windy early June morning, the clouds in the background and the collars turned against the cold added up to an iconic image of real cowboys really cowboying in one of the great ranching landscapes in the American West.

Tough Hands No. 7

Tough Hands No. 7

Tough Hands No. 7

I think it’s inevitable that faith is an indispensable factor in the equation of ranching. After all, your life is tied to myriad forces out of your control: weather, disease, markets and luck. Trust and faith become more than a trivial matter, for you are left no choice but to admit the land and nature are larger than you.

Moreover, you’re reminded every morning and evening (on the back of a horse, if you’re really lucky) that the West is a magical place as the giant sun rises and sets amidst fiery-hued clouds on the horizon of one of the most breathtaking places on Earth, the American High Plains. One sunrise, the sunbeams breaking through the dark clouds onto a wide-sweeping vista, and you’re hooked.

Faith? Indeed. But a celebration of majesty as well.

Tough Hands No. 4

Tough Hands No. 4

Tough Hands No. 4

Jim had great hands.

James Stanfield, a National Geographic photographer, once noted how a crowd would have only a few classic faces within it, and I think this extends to hands. As a result, I often begin looking at hands and faces when I’m presented with a new venue, and at my last branding–a large one with more than 35 people working–I found several of each.

Back to Jim. He was castrating calves for part of the morning, and would come back to the antiseptic bucket near the fire to clean his hands and knife. It had been deeply overcast and cold early, and nearly everyone wore gloves, so I missed Jim’s gnarled, strong, creased hands. But near 9 a.m., the weather had warmed, and the gloves came off. And I found hands.