Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Real Cow Riding Cowboy

Rancher training cow for parade riding, western Colorado

While browsing through some of my favorite old black and white photos, I came across this one and have decided to tell the interesting and fun story behind it.

It was 1978 or 1979 and I was working for the Colorado State Forest Service as a forester on a Dutch Elm Disease control demonstration project. That effort took me to several far corners of the state, one of them being Grand Junction, not far from the Utah border.

One hot summer day as I was driving on Interstate 70 across arid western Colorado toward Grand Junction, I became very drowsy with the length of the drive and the heat, so decided to exit the freeway so I could get some ice cream or coffee or something to perk me up.

It was at this little backwater town (I mean that in the best way, I'm a country boy, after all), and on the corner was this rancher sitting on a cow. Not on a horse, a cow. I said to my co-worker, "I've got to get a photo of this." I'm not much of a people photographer, but this was too good to pass up. My curiosity was killing me.

So I walked over and asked the smiling old man if I could take his picture. "Sure", he said. I did. 

Then I asked him, "What are you doing?" He said, "I ride cows in parades." You do? "Everybody rides horses, so instead I ride cows. People get a real kick out of it. This one is young, so I'm breaking her in by sitting here with the traffic going by, so she gets used to it."

I still love this photo because of the composition, with the cow looking off sleepily to the side, the shadows, (even the pattern of the cow's urine on the ground), the handsome, kindly face of the rancher, the old car, highway, hills and clouds in the distance.

It's also my hope that in this day of Internet connectedness somebody who knew this wonderful man will contact me about it. It could turn out to become a treasured family memento, from out of the blue.