The Cowboys of Wyoming
Does the word “cowboy” conjure up idealistic images of the American West, or a way of life that no longer exists? I had the privilege to see Wyoming unadorned - without sentimental stereotypes - through the reflections of a modern-day cowboy.
In September I visited a working cattle ranch outside Jackson Hole that has been owned by the same family since the 1920s. This ranch has thousands of head of cattle and is a member of a natural beef program.
The word “cowboy” now conjures hard-working, tech savvy and expressive men and women.
Tom Angle, Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens
As Tom Angle, one of the ranch hands said, “Jackson is a hard place to make a living”. Tom lives on his ranch in Oregon but spends May through October working in Wyoming. He isn’t alone in this pattern -- many folks work multiple jobs and come to Jackson to find them.
Jackson swells in the tourist season with an influx of people from Russia, Poland and other Eastern European countries. They flock to Jackson Hole during the peak tourist season to work.
On the ranch, Tom speaks about the work required to run an operation of this size. It is an all day, every day routine to keep the cattle healthy, fed and watered from the Snake River.
The ranchers double as veterinarians. Tom delights in provoking a reaction with his tales of pulling calves and removing disease from an animal’s eye socket.
Ranching has become high tech
Tom tells me that horses are still the best form of transportation on a ranch, the best way to get the job done. Don’t mistake this “a man and his horse” attitude for a quaint adherence to the old American West. Horses are merely the most practical way to accomplish daily business. Nevertheless, ranching has become high tech.
Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens
Ranch hands on the Snake River Ranch communicate via cell phone with each other. And they use computers in their sophisticated beef program. With a quick scan, the computer system can tell how much weight an animal is gaining, how quickly, and what the animal should weigh upon sale.
A passion for the life
Everyone I met in Wyoming demonstrated unvarnished passion and respect for the area. Jake, an experienced kayaker and our guide for a scenic Snake River rafting trip, spoke with real affection for “his office” – referring to the river and its environs.
Guides in Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks spoke of visiting the area and then being drawn back year after year.
Tom Angle, Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens
And, Tom? Tom expresses his love for Wyoming and his way of life through his poetry, songwriting and singing. Tom’s website (yes, cowboys have websites now) says he specializes in cowboy music and poetry.
Wyoming got under my skin and into my soul. My glasses are no longer rose colored. However, the passion of the people I met, the way of life that is tied closely to nature, and the unbelievable scenery of the open West inspire me to go back.
Until the next journey to main streets and back roads… - Cindy
Visited there in early October to see animals and scenery. I never really considered what you suggest, the good old American cowboy! Wonderful idea of course. Likely I will be returning next year a couple of weeks earlier and I will seek out some one like Tom and his friends.
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Cindy is a photographer of main streets and back roads, traveler & Vice President, Marketing @byallaccounts.
See her Reflections from Main Street USA portfolio.
Featured in Extraordinary Vision Magazine, issue #5
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