Every time I think my favorite places in the West are played out photographically, devoid of further inspiration for me, I go back and have to eat my words.
I’ve shot this homestead before; it beckons to me time and again as I travel a lonely stretch of road in one of my favorite states, Wyoming. It has a voice, this singular structure, and on a storm spring evening, I gave in to temptation.
Harbinger of much-needed moisture for the shortgrass of the remote ranching country of eastern Wyoming’s High Plains, a 2 a.m. thunderstorm’s lightning strike softly illuminates the contours of the land. Such storms spelled problems for ranchers in the past, turning back roads into greasy, impassable swamps, but with the bittersweet boom of the new oil and gas bonanza has also come newly improved roads that provide a never-before-seen ease of access to the backcountry for residents.
Such thoughts never occurred to me until those same roads allowed me to get home on Saturday after the rains turned the Lusker Ranch road into, well…soup.
I would adopt the entire Meidell family if I could; after all, my book was as much about these five people as any others. Each member of the family is a class act, and photogenic in the extreme (though Tricia and Eric would argue that point). What’s more, all of the Meidells are, in the words of a man Eric once met in Washington, D.C., “Real Cowboys.” Those of us lucky enough to grow up with this life in the Great Plains often forget the legend into which we are born, and the Meidells have earned the hype. Need proof? Look no further than one of several saddles Tricia has won in rodeos.
The Meidells are indeed “real.”
Sergio is a character cowboy: funny, mischievous and genuine. During a brief respite at the Lusker Ranch branding in May, he said, “You know, I was a National Geographic centerfold.”
Intrigued, I asked for more details; Sergio was featured in 1993 as part of the story “Wide Open Wyoming,” photographed by Richard Olsenius. Sergio was carrying a mailbox across a road, and found it funny that such a picture emerged from his experience with the magazine.
“The photographer spent five or six days with us, and I end up in the magazine carrying a mailbox. Funny, eh?”
I imagine Olsenius found Sergio as photographically intoxicating as I did, and much of the branding, I made images of him. He’s not a Nebraskan, so he won’t feature in the Plainsky project, but he certainly will find a place in others. I chose to publish this one first as a character introduction to such a fascinating subject.