Living in the big ranch country of the Texas plains region was a wonderful time for my brother and me during the 1950’s and into our early adulthood. Our dad, Pate Meinzer, was the foreman on a moderate sized ranch, 27,000 acres, along the Brazos river in Knox County so from early childhood and until I drove away to attend college at Texas Tech University life was an emersion of cowboying, hunting and being privy to working around some of the great cowboys that defined our region of Texas. Without doubt this rural upbringing played a huge roll in my own view of the land, the people as well as a decent work ethic in general.
A big branding on the 6666 ranch in early spring. Dust, smoke and fast work define a mornings work on big outfits in Texas. Canon 1D Mark II N and Canon 16-35mm f2.8L at 100 ISO.
Although I did not pursue the cowboy life as my livelihood, I never lost my love and appreciation for this genre of upbringing that set the stage for the life that I enjoy at the latter age of 61 years. I can never give enough credit to my parents and those old time Texans whose bent and bowed legs told a story of a lifetime in the saddle and on the big cattle ranges of our great state.
On big outfits like the Waggoner, 6666 and Pitchfork, the branding requires two draggers and two sets of flankers. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 70-200 f2.8L lens at 100 ISO and handheld.
While studying Wildlife Management at Texas Tech, working as a professional predator hunter and finally becoming a photographer/author, I have never lost the appreciation for the smell of sweating horseflesh and the clatter of cattle hooves on the rough badlands that described so much of my home country along the Brazos and Wichita. Thus when I had the opportunity to document the workings on some of our historical ranches of these plains I felt excitement in knowing that I was finally heading back home for a revisit to a life and memories of long ago. With camera in hand and an understanding of what I really wanted to communicate through my photographic images, I embarked in this endeavor to communicate a realistic view of ranch life today and not some reenactment of ones imagination of what it should have been.
Herefords are becoming a breed of the past in favor of the angus crosses. The former exhibits a tendency for pink eye and cancer eye which reduces the worth of sold beef. But I will have to say that there is something special about having hundreds of head of cattle in the herd sporting a set of horns. Canon F1N and Canon 80-200mm F4.0 lens and ISO 50 Velvia film handheld.
Take a moment to study these images and know that they are moments in a days work of men who represent a lifeway that is dying just a little with each passing year. It is the Big Ranch Experience of our Texas in real time!
The “hood” or wagon cooks helper washes dishes and gathers firewood for the cooking chores. Here we see a pail of dishwater being dispensed just as the sun breaks over the horizon in early morning. Nikon FN and Leitz Telyt 400mm f6.8 lens. Velvia 50 ISO film and handheld.
In early morning after breakfast is fed the cooks on a wagon are busy readying for the noon meal. Here I caught the goings and comings of these two men at a Waggoner Ranch camp site as they busy themselves for the big noon meal. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 24mm f3.5L Tilt Shift lens. 100 ISO and handheld.
Cowboying is a labor of love and here on the Waggoner, Jimbo Glover, the wagon boss, cuts cattle before the branding begins. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 70-200mm f2.8L at 100 ISO and handheld.
Here a herd of cattle on the 100,000 acre 6666 ranch at Borger, Texas walk the fence line during a windy period of the day. Canon 5D and Canon 400mm f5.6L lens at 100 ISO and hand held.
Shipping time on the big outfits is a period of intense work. Here on the massive Waggoner ranch these cattle trucks line up to be loaded for transportation of the yearlings. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 24-105mm f4.0L lens at 100 ISO and handheld. Shot from a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter.
Before the rise of a mornings sun the wagon boss tosses his loop many times to catch the mounts for all cowboys and the mornings work. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 70-200mm lens at 100 ISO and handheld.