Cowboys, Photography, and Poetry

Photographer and working cowboy Erwin E. Smith gets some coffee from the chuck wagon on the LS Ranch, Texas, 1907.  Click the link for more of Smith’s photos.

Erwin E. Smith and His Mount Overlooking the Country from a High Point on the JA Ranch, Texas, 1908.

“My ceiling the sky, my carpet the grass, my music the lowing of herds as they pass;
my books are the brooks, my sermons the stones, my parson’s a wolf on a pulpit of bones.”

— Allen McCanless (cowboy poet), 1885

Erwin E. Smith (1886-1947)
Photographer Erwin E. Smith riding a “sunfisher” and he is not pulling leather, Bonham, Texas
1908
Gelatin silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Bequest of Mary Alice Pettis
P1986.42.135

Follow on Instagram?

If you are an Instagram user, I started posting there last year.  My address was hacked from a Russian IP and I ended up starting all over.  We’ll see if I can make it work this time…

https://www.instagram.com/paleotool/

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I was a skeptic at first because I don’t use a phone as a primary platform to reach the internet but it does have its benefits; especially for my friends who are real photographers and artists.

Romanian Gypsies

By Peter van Beek

A mix of old and new technology.  Horse power on modern running gear.  Photo by Peter van Beek.  Click the image to view the photo album.

Peter van Beek has documented the difficult life of nomads in a modernizing Europe.  Fear, stereotypes, and unfamiliarity dominate their way of life and place them into a partially self-imposed, marginalized portion of society.  Although there is terrible poverty, he documents family life and survival of these remarkable people.

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Simple shelter as used by our ancestors since the beginning of time.

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It isn’t easy being a nomad in a modern technological world. There is easy place for this lifestyle.

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The world has changed but many traditions have not.

 

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There are certainly exceptions to nomadism. Many Romany cling to their traditions and morph them into a new lifestyle. All of our people have done this.

But it isn’t all oppressive poverty “By collecting and selling iron they get very rich and build their own village with huge palaces where they started living.”  While settling down, the community keeps it’s own unique sense of style.

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Hard work and some flexibility can make assimilation slightly easier.

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Ethnic identity shows in this vernacular style.

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Beautiful young women with a foot in both worlds.

“Many Kaldarash people (the coppersmiths) still wear colorful clothes, living in a beautiful traditional way.  In some villages, time seems to stand still.”

From Peter van Beek’s website:

“The only nomadic gypsies in Europe live in Romania, the country that joined the European Union in 2007. Living a hard life in Romania these semi-nomadic people hold on to traditions and rituals. Amongst them are story-and fortunetellers, musicians and coppersmiths. Despite a law against nomadic life these gypsies still live in their harsh and remarkable way.”

Images found at Peter Van Beek Photography.  Check out his beautiful work and consider buying his book about the Roma:

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1930s Caravans in America

travel-trailerHere are a few interesting trailers from the Golden Age.  I hesitated to post these some time ago as I could not rediscover the website they came from.  I try my best to attribute images to their source.  Tools like Pinterest and Tumblr are great but the data is easily stripped away.

trailer-familyThis is interesting stuff but I wish we had a glimpse inside these creatures “in use.”  It’s easy to stage a photo but I appreciate it when we can see how the space is actually used.

trailer-lifeThe awning or tent is the best addition you can make to your Vardo home.  Look for more great vintage images here on the Old Picture of the Day Blog.

Photographer – Nukshi Alice

NukshiAliceFrom her ABOUT Page:  Nukshi is a documentary and portrait photographer and an artist living and working in Nottinghamshire.
Her sensitivity to situations, culture and people, has allowed her to adapt well to new challenges and environments.  She captures her images by getting involved with people, their culture and lifestyle, which motivates her to preserve those times and moments.  Knowledge and empathy with her subjects is the key to her image success, especially when intimate portraits are involved.

With an open mind and a quest to explore extreme situations, places, cultures, people and learn from that interaction. She intend to travel more, in doing so broaden her abilities. Often able to impart new skills to individuals in an exchange for their confidence in her, which has allowed her to bond with them easily.

VardoWhen a friend sent a link to her website I was, of course, immediately interested in the vardo.  Looking beyond the structure, there is wonderful documentation of life on the road.  An exterior wash stand tripod, pragmatic stairs, cooking tripod, and the ubiquitous tea kettle extend the home.

fullinteriorA homey interior, with an eye for beauty is shown in this “typical” vardo.

CookingA rare site where I live.  Nomads and Travellers are not often welcome in the modern world.  I’m glad this couple can live as they wish.

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More details are documented on her website.  I picked a few of my favorites for this post.

GeorgeAnd let’s not forget the people who keep this tradition alive.  It’s all well to look at the staged “gypsy” wagons across the web, but it’s important to remember that these are truly home, made complete by their inhabitants.

grinderA way to make a living. I still remember the knife grinder who made his way around the city in St. Louis many years ago.  His was not quite this flashy but had the housewives scurrying out with handfuls of knives and scissors when he came around.  I suspect that’s a rare job in America today.

Many more images from this series and others are viewable on Nukshi’s website.  Have a look and read the little story that accompanies the photos.

When hunting backfires

WhosthebossA while back I came up on a hawk who appeared to have caught something.  Then suddenly there was a blur, some thrashing, and here’s what I saw when I got to it.  In wrestling, we would call that a reversal.  Who’s the boss now? I decided to break it up for the good of the hawk.  Both of those guys help keep the rodent population down and the snake couldn’t eat the hawk.  It seemed a needless death to me.

This is just a re-visitation of a much older post someone recently asked me to find.  Click the photo for the link.

Camouflage

Some thoughts occurred recently while looking through some of my wildlife photos.  Especially how so many creatures really “fit” in their surroundings.

Horned lizard in the driveway gravel.

Horned lizard in the driveway gravel.

I realize it is mostly for defense (or sometime offense) but it just makes more apparent how poorly most of us humans seems to fit our surroundings.  We want to distance ourselves from dirt and sand and smells of nature and cover our scents with industrial chemicals and our flesh with cheap, poorly made clothes.

TreeFrogNo point to this ramble really, other than to note the feeling of discord with our surroundings while displacing those who may fit in better.

GopherSnakeCropI currently live in a fairly harsh place; a marginal land overrun with industrial agriculture.  A land of extremes where creatures are in constant struggle for water or food.  Yet we survive, and hopefully learn to harmonize and not run counter to the way of the earth.

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Southwest Washington

Our second week on the Portland area was primarily spent north of the Columbia River in Washington State.  Battle Ground, Vancouver, and a trip to Mount St Helen’s.  Although it was hot and dry most of the time, it was a relief after spending months in the Southwest on archaeological excavations.

DSC_0840These photos are not the best, but do capture some of the beauty of the area around Mount St Helen’s.

DSC_0839The dirty snow on the mountain in the distance.

DSC_0842It was a hot and windy day for the ridge-line trail but still a great little trek.

DSC_0844The mountain, as seen from the northwest.  The enormous crater is from the most recent eruption.

DSC_0850Wildflowers are reclaiming the ashy landscape.

DSC_0861A new lake was formed from the eruption.  A beautiful place to spend an afternoon.

DSC_0855Geology, geomorphology, and biological reclamation in action everywhere you look.

The New Gypsies

I have seen photos from this book around the web for a while now.  A fair number of “hippie” Brits are living mobile, a difficult thing to do in the U.S.  Iain McKell has done a wonderful job of photo-documenting the unique, beautiful, sometime spartan accommodations used by these folks on the move.  If I get back to Britain I will try to track these people down.

I have to admit, I’m mainly in it for the wagons.  None of these look like high-speed movers, but who really needs that when it is home?

Most of these clearly appear to be restored (more or less) original horse-drawn wagons.  Bow Tops, Open Lots, a Showman or two, but others look to be a bit more home-grown.

A close examination of the photos show some interesting clues to life on the road.  I particularly like the “tip out” on the above wagon.  I suspect it is for sleeping more people but I can imagine an outside space protected like this for cooking or storage.  Hmmm, next project?

In my opinion, wagons like this are a great alternative for the modern nomad, as long as one can find a safe place to settle for the night or week or month.  As with the Romani gypsies, modern travelers, living outside the norm of the greater social group are likely always to face fear and suspicion from the mainstream culture.  Unfortunately, this will probably always be the way of the world.

I think there will always be some of us who are okay existing outside the “normal”, expected behaviors of our peers.  In a case such as this, or other fringe social groups (e.g., the Society of Primitive Technology) we can find kindred spirits who may understand our outlook in ways not found in more mainstream lifestyles.

Please have a look at the art of Iain McKell and be sure to scroll down the left side of links to see more of his photos, including some fine shots of traveler’s wagons.

Wildlife Battle

I was fortunate enough to see an amazing wildlife battle yesterday evening.  It was life at its rawest on the Llano Estacado.  I wanted to be an impartial observer but, being human, I stepped in and intervened.  I live in a rural area with a lot of wildlife including many raptors and snakes.  It is not uncommon to see a hawk swoop down and catch a rabbit, rat, mouse, or lizard.  I was heading home to eat so I wasn’t too concerned with watching when a large hawk landed hunched over some prey out in the scrub.  I went past to check our back gate and came back the same way a minute later.  I saw the hawk was hopping around and it looked like it was fighting something.  Due to the brush and growing darkness I couldn’t tell what it was fighting with but wanted to have a closer look.  There was a split second of frenzied activity and suddenly the hawk was flipped onto its back on the ground.  Luckily, I had a camera so I was able to snap off this shot.

She looks shocked!  I would have had a hard time believing it had I not seen it.  A relatively small snake was all over the hawk and choking the life out of it.  It was dark and my initial thought was that it had been bit by a prairie rattler.  The hawk’s beak was open, eyes bulging and obviously gasping for air.  Closer inspection showed the snake to be a gopher snake, and net even a very big one.

My presence was obviously upsetting everybody and there was more thrashing.  The snake was able to hide under the feathers pretty effectively.  I wanted to just grab the snake and unwind it but images of being bitten or clawed by a frightened hawk kept me at a little distance.  Not sure what to do next I was able to call someone down to give me hand.

Can you see terror in her eyes?  At this point I was pretty sure the hawk was done for as the snake had three coils around its neck.  So, I could let it die and have one less chicken killer around or save her to help keep down the rodent population.

I grabbed a yucca stalk to help hold the hawk down while I grabbed for the snake and tried to avoid talons.  I doubt it would have done much but it was all I had.

Here I am awkwardly pulling snake out with one hand and holding the hawk away with the stick.

She got up, staggered around, shook herself out and flew up into a nearby tree.

This irritated snake actually pursued me, snapping at me until I left.  I can’t blame it.  That was a traumatic event.

Anyway, it was a wordy story.  I have spent a lot of time outdoors and seen many interesting animal behaviors but nothing like this before.