FROM ANOTHER TIME: A SALUTE TO OUR HISTORICAL HERITAGE

Every Thursday morning I get up early and make ready for the drive to Lubbock to teach my 4300 photography class at Texas Tech University. Some people might think that it’s a drive to dread but on the contrary I consider it my weekly historical tour, viewing the landmarks and remembering passages written by pioneers, explorers and cavalry officers who traveled along and across the paved 125 mile trail known today as Highway 114.

Highway 114 from Benjamin to Lubbock: A Journey into the Past

I was raised on a ranch in Knox County and whose borders meandered alongside Highway 114 for a distance of some 11 miles, ending just south of my hometown of Benjamin. As a young boy growing up on the ranch I developed an interest in paleontology and archeology, riding horseback along the arroyos and ridgelines searching for evidence of ancient man or the remains of those great beasts that roamed the Texas plains over the 12,000 years before our time.  Flint points, fire hearths, and an occasional bison skull hinted of another time when life was fleeting, with the land a challenge to man or beast at every turn. In my horse back forays in search of things from a bygone era, I would often stumble upon items of a younger age such as empty rifle casings from the late 19th century and an occasional deformed slug in a buffalo hunters camp. I did not appreciate these century old artifacts until my adult years when I began to consider the significance of the plains region and its historical heritage relating to early day life and pioneer excursions across the land.

"Our only hope was in going ahead...we pushed on without rudder or compass, the melancholy truth visible in almost every face that we were lost among the wilderness prairies of the west..." The Texas/Santa Fe Expedition, George W. Kendall Journal, August 15, 1841. Photo taken 3.5 miles west of Benjamin at or near the location where Kendall made his journal entry on August 15, 1841.

I believe that in knowing our past is to better understand the present and perhaps foresee to some extent, our path into the future. In my quest to accumulate knowledge about our Texas history I have collected a fine reference library where, by reading the written account of others, I can travel in the days of a younger land and experience vicariously, the adventures of those pioneers such as Kendall, Cook and Carter.

What say lets take a trip from Benjamin to Lubbock and view the land through the written words of those men who lived and experienced a time we can hardly fathom today. Quite honestly, your future trips down Hwy 114 may never be the same again.

"The sixth day we lay over in camp..and the next day we pulled up on the Pease river divide, and got a view of the rear of the great countless mass of buffaloes." Border and the Buffalo. John R. Cook, 1875. This view is Four Mile Hill, a frontier landmark along the buffalo hunters wagon road, north of Guthrie, Texas as seen from Hwy.114.

"We were in a veritable hunters paradise...deer were simply too easy to find..the same for antelope, bear, panther, mountain lion, raccoon, polecat, swift coyotes and wolves- they were all here." John R. Cook. Border and the Buffalo, 1875. This scene is about 4 miles west of Guthrie along Hwy. 114.

"Thus we spent five days and nights in this wolf-besieged camp, with nothing to do and nothing to see but that vast expanse of solitude and wilderness". Capitan R.G. Carter, "On The Border with Mackenzie". 1871. Location is the west rim of the Duck Creek drainage basin west of Dickens, Tx.

"A large and powerfully built chief led the bunch...his face was smeared with black war paint, which gave his features a satanic look. A necklace of bear's claws hung about his neck...it was Quanah, principal war chief of the wild Qua-ha-das." Captain R.G. Carter, "On the Border with Mackenzie." 1871. Journal excerpt describing the U.S. Cavalry push into Blanco Canyon and subsequent battle with the Comanche Indians. Photo taken alongside Hwy. 114 east of Crosbyton, Tx in Blanco Canyon.

"At one time during the day could be seen horses, mules, buffaloes, antelopes, coyotes, wolves, and soldiers all drinking and bathing at one time from this lake...it was one of the greatest aggregations of the animal kingdom ever witnessed on as small a space of land and water." John R. Cook, "Border and the Buffalo". 1877. Recollections of soldiers drinking and bathing in a playa lake on the Llano Estacado. Photo taken along Hwy 114 between Crosbyton and Lubbock.

"There is a long deep waterhole just around the next bend a little above us;" " and there was where he expected to find the camp." John R. Cook. March 1877. Book excerpt describing the hours before the famous battle at Yellow House Canyon between buffalo hunters and Comanche Indians. Photo taken in Mackenzie Park, Lubbock, Texas where the hunters filled their canteens and watered horses and mules after the battle.

Published in: on March 1, 2010 at 6:55 pm  Comments (13)  

Winters in my Life

“In civilized surroundings a plains blizzard is bad enough; in a wild country, a blizzard is more appalling than a tornado, for the latter may be dodged, but the blizzard is everywhere and sets its teeth into a man’s vitals, wherever he may be.” Billy Dixon March 17, 1875.

"It was this terrible storm that caught the wagon train...all of the oxen were frozen to death". Billy Dixon 1871

This quote by famous buffalo hunter and military scout, Billy Dixon is one that many people can relate to, especially those who have endured winter conditions that describe the northern plains and mountain regions of America. But even here in the plains of Texas a sudden arctic cold front can diminish conditions from balmy, spring like temperatures to that of the abysmal if not bordering on deadly.

Badlands after a snowstorm

When my sister, brother and I were children back in the 1950’s, I recall well the winter winds that blew across the badlands. The house where we lived on the League ranch was “airish”, to say the least, with windows and doors that literally moaned and whistled at the peak of wind gusts during these great storms. Cracks in the wooden floors allowed the wind to creep into the house causing the green linoleum floor covering to rise visibly, a cause for concern for our parents who worried about the possibility of pneumonia in the three kiddos running around in our skivvies like we had good sense! Soon my mother insisted and eventually purchased some carpet material to mitigate the ventilation issues with the floor! Ah, those good ole years!!!

Snow Storm in 1955: Our old pickup on the League Ranch

Memories associated with the times are many…like placing snow chains on the pickup tires to better access the pastures for feeding cattle, or seeing dozens of dead birds scattered over the floor of the barn, all having froze to death as the temperatures plummeted in the night. And finally, seeing my dad slip on his snow covered boots by the kitchen door while singing the jingle, ”ya’ll come to see me when you can”, as he headed out into the snow and ice to feed the cattle on the ranch.

Walking with the wind: Cattle in the windswept plains

Perhaps some of my most vivid recollections of winter occurred after I purchased my first personal vehicle at the age of 17. I was so proud of my “experienced” 1966 Bronco Roadster with its canvas top and zip up plastic windows! Life was good during the summer season as ventilation was essential because air conditioning was not even in the equation of life for this young buck. But mesquite limbs soon took a toll by shredding the delicate plastic material to leave the windows open to icy winds of the coming winter. Conditions got dicey in a hurry after the first cold front swept over the land as freezing rain and snow in ones lap can be uncomfortable for even a young guy who thought he could endure most anything! Weary of having to remove snow drifts covering my textbooks during road trips while a student at Texas Tech University, I came up with the bright idea of sewing gunnysacks in place of the broken windows, an invention that made winter travel tenable although wind driven snow still found its way into the cab on occasions.

1966 Bronco Roadster was my pride and joy...until winter!

During the first three years as a professional predator hunter, I lived in an old half dugout shack on the Pitchfork ranch while trapping coyotes and bobcats for a livelihood. Although I had finished my studies at Texas Tech and rewarded myself with a new 4-wheel drive Chevy pickup equipped with windows that would actually close airtight, my little line camp was much like my Bronco in regards to ventilation. With only a fireplace to warm the dugout on those cold winter nights I always knew when a bitterly cold dry norther had settled on the land as by morning the dishes beside the wash tub were frozen together by the extreme temperature inside the cabin. But when moisture accompanied the winter blast, my little dugout was toasty warm, insulated by a thick blanket of snow covering the thin tin roof.

When the dugout was the warmest

Snow bound and taking my once a week bath at the trapping camp

Wolfer's Camp December 24, 1975

As my profession turned from hunting to photography in the early 1980’s, my view of severe winter conditions took on a different meaning. With camera in hand I pursued these frosty occurrences with an energetic purpose, backpacking into canyons and upon mountain crests to document the intrigue and beauty that describes a Texas locked in the icy grips of winter. Energized by creative passion and a fascination for extreme weather conditions, the past 30 odd years of chasing the evanescent winter moment has been rewarding. Pour yourself a glass of wine, throw some wood on the fire and come with me on a winter tour across our  beautiful Texas plains.

Frosty sunrise in the Texas Panhandle

Canyon lands cloaked in snow

Never second guess a Texas winter

Here today and gone tomorrow

"From sunrise to sunset, there is no place that compares in color to Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle". Frank Collinson, Buffalo Hunter, 1870's.

When snowdrifts becomes a piece of art


On the Canyon Rim: Photographing the Snows in Texas

Published in: on February 17, 2010 at 5:24 pm  Comments (14)  

Working Dogs of Texas

working-dogs-of-texas-cover-for-blog

“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.”

Anonymous

How many of us can recall a favorite dog companion from the past and those fond memories of the times spent hunting, caressing, or simply just sitting on the porch or in the yard, bonding with the old canine friend of yesteryear.

Having been reared in a rural environment on the League ranch in Knox County, dogs were a must around our house with a list of jobs for the mutts being endless. Coyotes and skunks in the chicken house, opossums venturing into the yard on a muggy summer night, rattlesnakes in the garage, and the obligatory job of venturing into the brush with my brother and I in search of pack rat middens , all in a days work for the  mixed breed mutts who lived on the ranch with us some half a century ago. Even though there were several dogs that passed our way during those years, I recall each one with fondness.

Here, at the age of 12, I am hugging an already aging Wheezer (left) and Pam (right) in 1963.

Here, at the age of 12, I am hugging an already aging Wheezer (left) and Pam (right) in 1963.

The earliest was Wheezer, an old black mixed breed who was death on rats, rabbits and skunks and had the honor of living to an advanced age, something very few dogs experienced in living with us out on the ranch.

A list of others who shared my boyhood years were Seymour, a spunky little yellow slick haired dog that suddenly disappeared one day never to be seen again. Tippi, an old bruiser who hated rattlesnakes and lived through a multitude of bites before being killed from the kick of a horse, was a real rough house who fit well in the tough environment along the Brazos. Jimmie, another of questionable lineage, whom I rescued after he was  hit by a car in front of the school house in Benjamin, fared well out on the ranch and developed a love for hunting anything that was his size or smaller. A second vehicle accident was too much to handle and we buried him out in the pasture near the house. Then came  Tippi Jr. in the 1960’s , a little bobtailed fuzzy part collie, who was making a wonderful little dog who had real cow savvy until  one rainy autumn night a large rattlesnake crawled in the dog house with him. We buried him in the growing dog cemetery over by the chicken house.

Others included John, aka “Blister”, a Norwegian Elk Hound who had a fantastic personality and was my best friend on the trapline.  The memories of Red, Candy and Pam bring a smile to my face when I stand at the old home place and remember their antics so many decades ago.

Everyone has a story about an old canine friend because almost all people love or have loved a dog at one time…the four legged kind I might add!! Thus our publishing company, “Badlands Design and Production”, now salutes all of those old dog buddies who have brought happiness to so many for years untold. “Working Dogs of Texas”, text by Henry Chappell and photos by yours truly, features dogs in our great state that occupy those niches that are truly special.

Please visit www.santafeonthebrazos.com/wodooftewyme.html to order your signed copies.

_M1Y7266

We hope that you will join us in this celebration dedicated to dogs, past and present, that have made a difference in the lives of so many through out Texas.

_M1Y6393

_MG_1121

_MG_4826

_X1F4413

Working dogs0001

Heading to the Pasture: A Typical Day on the Ranch for the Working Dog

Heading to the Pasture: A Typical Day on the Ranch for the Working Dog

Published in: on September 5, 2009 at 11:18 pm  Comments (12)  

July 4, 2009: A Celebration of Life and Country

 

 

Patriotism

Patriotism

 

Yesterday I sat down in the cool of our home for a few minutes of respite from the 104 degree temps outside. I had been sweeping out my work shop and molding bullets for my .45 Long Colt and 44-40 pistols, sort of a symbolic gesture of gratitude to all of the American warriors who have sacrificed so much in order that the rest of us can bask in the joy of  freedom we possess today.

After flopping down on the couch I grabbed the TV controls and flipped over to the History Channel, my favorite in all that is offered by Direct TV, and was delighted to see that a special was being aired on the American Revolution. Watching an educational show on our lands history sure beat the hell out of sweating in the dust of my work shop!! Within a few minutes I was riveted to the screen, trying my best to absorb the facts offered via narration of the show and feeling the pride swell within for those incredibly dedicated men and women who faced such overwhelming odds to preserve their precious freedom during those tumultuous times in our country’s youth.

Every so often I find myself thinking about the generation of my father and mother and of those before them and the lives they led in more primitive times than we can imagine today. I am so fortunate to still have my Mom and at age 82 find her so willing to share memories of the times and people that she has known from the era that we now know as the “greatest generation”. My interest is insatiable for  her memories of the hard days of yesteryear and the people who passed through her life. Thus probably too often I grill her on those times that, to some extent, she may even would want to forget. But the tales of her experiences actually enrich my own life and gives me perspective in the direction that I desire for my own legacy and how it is to be perceived. 

I want to share in this blog some visuals that define my appreciation for this great land that our old timers and young American warriors have preserved  through their own sacrifices. I don’t take our country and freedom for granted and I hope you all do not either. Hoping you all had a happy July 4th, 2009!!

 

The Preservation of a Tradition: Roundup on the Waggoner Ranch

The Preservation of a Tradition: Roundup on the Waggoner Ranch

 

 

 

The life of a Texas Cowboy: A Personal Choice

The life of a Texas Cowboy: A Personal Choice

 

Salt of the Earth Texans: Cowboys on the Waggoner Ranch

Salt of the Earth Texans: Cowboys on the Waggoner Ranch

 

Big Ranch Country: A Texas Heritage

Big Ranch Country: A Texas Heritage

 

The Second Amendment as interpreted in Texas

The Second Amendment as interpreted in Texas

 

A Texan who will enact his constitutional rights

A Texan who will act on his constitutional rights

 

America: A Land Under God

America: In God We Trust

July 4th storm rolling over the Texas plains

July 4th storm rolling over the Texas plains

 

The Sentinel Beneath an Oominous Texas sky: July 4, 2009

The Sentinel Beneath an Ominous Texas Sky: July 4, 2009

 

Hope for the future of our America

Hope for the future of our America

Published in: on July 6, 2009 at 5:04 am  Comments (10)  

TEXAS TECH INTERSESSION: AN EDUCATION THROUGH ADVENTURE

 

A field trip campsite on the Devils River for the photo and herpetology classes.

A field trip campsite on the Devils River for the photo and herpetology classes.

 

 

The rumble of the Llano River could not overpower the whir of motordrives as a dozen Texas Tech University students exposed hundreds of images during a morning photo shoot in the area around Junction, Texas. As co-instructor Jerod Foster and I discuss the changing light angles, apertures, lens selection and shutter speeds, some students are waist deep in the soothing cool waters of the river in search of better photo angles to define the waterfall nearby.

 

Concentrating on the critical focus.

Concentrating on the critical focus.

 

 

The “Junction Experience” has been a tradition of legendary proportions for over 3 decades and defines a university educational endeavor unlike any other in the state of Texas. Dubbed appropriately as “Intersession”, the Texas Tech University satellite campus in Junction, Texas offers an opportunity for students to accumulate credit hours over a two-week period between spring and the regular summer sessions. A variety of upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses in many areas such as zoology, biology, photography, geography, and English are offered at the Junction Intersession with all classes moving fast and with unparalleled energy. Extended field trips and occasional canoe excursions down the Llano River are educational and fun diversions from classroom time for all courses offered.

 

Breaking trail

Breaking trail

 

 

Although it is my tenth year as an adjunct faculty member in Junction, it seems like only last year when Dr. Jim Brink and Dr. John Burns asked me if I would be interested in sharing my photography knowledge with students and teaching a course at Intersession. With some apprehension I agreed to give it a try and now, a decade later, I have found that my time in Junction has given me some of life’s fondest memories as well as a constant learning experience to boot! I can only hope that the students benefited as much as I have from our time together.

 

Getting the right angle is essential to producing great images

Getting the right angle is essential to producing great images

 

 

On May 6th, 2009 Intersession will kick off once again and I will begin my 10th year as adjunct faculty member representing one of the great educational institutes in Texas Tech Unversity. Jerod Foster and I welcome the 2009 class and extend a thanks to those classes of past and hope that the memories of their Junction Experience are fond ones!!

 

A fun photo during a mid day break. Jerod Foster, in foreground, is the on site Guru!

A fun photo during the mid day break. Jerod Foster, in foreground, is the on site Guru!

 

 

 

Yours truly grilling some jalopena poppers at camp site during field trip

Yours truly grilling some jalopena poppers at camp site during field trip

 

The use of reflectors can be helpful in reducing shadows...on the Llano River.

The use of reflectors can be helpful in reducing shadows...on the Llano River.

 

Jam sessions are welcome interludes after a long day of shooting.

Jam sessions are welcome interludes after a long day of shooting.

 

By end of the two week intersession class the students have exposed over 12,000 images collectively and viewed each one individually. Its exhaustive fun!

By end of the two week intersession class the students have exposed over 12,000 images collectively and viewed each one individually. Its exhaustive fun!

 

Photo class on a mission!! GO RAIDERS!!

Photo class on a mission!! GO RAIDERS!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on April 29, 2009 at 4:42 pm  Comments (18)  

We Did Not Make it on Our Own

 It was many years ago and I was on a flight from Lubbock to somewhere when, bored with the drone of the jet engines at 36,000 ft altitude, I picked up one of those airline magazines and began flipping through the pages. Seeing an article on the relationship between age and relative thought patterns in various age groups, I began to read with some skepticism at the accuracy of this research. For example, with the passing of years people began to reflect more on what is really important in their lives as well as who, if anyone, was an influence in those formative years of a younger age.

 

I would guess that this in flight reading occurred over 20 years ago and now, with the aid of a couple or more decades for the maturation process to change my mind, I am going to admit my error in thinking that the research results may have proven inconclusive.

 

It would be correct to say that my life has been one filled with adventure, excitement and not just a few accolades. Because of such a fulfilling life some have suggested that I am blessed while others exclaim that I am lucky, and I will say that without a doubt I have to agree with both.

 

When life is going good and obstacles are few, it is very easy to think that inherent incentive and talent have alone carried us to our personal goals. Few will deny entertaining those occasional thoughts of grand achievement. But age has influenced my thinking, in more ways than one, and I find myself quietly thanking those who have given me opportunities or influenced my own personal philosophy that paved the way for the wonderful life that has blessed me for over five decades. Most of these people have already gone to cut a trail for those of us still trudging up the summitless mountain called life, but some are still here, available for us to convey in person, how they have made a difference.

 

My sons Hunter (l) and Pate (r) who taught me that I could love far beyond what I thought possible.

My sons Hunter (l) and Pate (r) who taught me that I could love far beyond what I thought possible. Tin type photo by Robb Kendrick, National Geographic

 

 

 

I would like to devote this page to all of those who have opened the doors of opportunity in my life. Although this written offering falls woefully short of space to name them all, I hope that everyone who has made a difference knows that, like the countless young men and women who have sacrificed for the cause of freedom in all of the wars, I have not forgotten.

 

My wife Sylinda, who proved that a perfect mate does exist.

My wife Sylinda, who proved that a perfect mate does exist.

 

 

 

Mom with her fat dog Tippy. A woman reared in the tough times of the depression and whose stories of such years have given me a better perspective of the life I enjoy.

Mom with her "little boy" Tippy. A woman reared in the tough times of the depression and whose stories of such years have given me a better perspective of the life I enjoy.

 

 

My Dad, who instilled in my brother, sister and I a work ethic and an appreciation for the simple life he and Mom provided for us out on the old League ranch.

My Dad, who instilled in my brother, sister and I a work ethic and an appreciation for the simple life he and Mom provided for us out on the old League ranch.

 

 

 

My brother, Rick, also a partner in crime when we were kids on the ranch, roping chickens, branding pigs and just generally getting into a daily bind. I cannot imagine my youthful life without his being there.
My brother, Rick, also a partner in crime when we were kids on the ranch, roping chickens, branding pigs and just generally getting into a daily bind. I cannot imagine my youthful life without his being there. And my sister, Patty, who only recently proved to so many that if you really want an education it can be achieved despite daunting odds…working full time and attending school at night. Kudos for her graduating from the University of Maryland at age 59!!
John Graves, iconic Texas author who shares my philosophy about our Texas and what the future holds. Truly a man of the "Greatest Generation".
John Graves, friend and iconic Texas author who shares my philosophy about our Texas and what the future holds. Truly a man of the “Greatest Generation”.
Bob
Bob Moorhouse, a fellow Benjamin product and former manager of the Pitchfork ranch who, in 1974, gave me a chance to live the rugged but dream life of a professional predator hunter by allowing me to move into an abandoned line camp on the Pitchfork and trap the coyotes and bobcats that flourished there.
The late Ruth House, whose stories of a younger Texas peaked my interest for those years before my time.

The late Ruth House, whose stories of a younger Texas peaked my interest in those years before my time.

The late Mr. O.L. Patterson, perhaps one of the wisest and common sensical people I have ever known.

The late Mr. O.L. Patterson, perhaps one of the wisest and common sensical people I have ever known.

Knut Mjolhus, center, a friend and fellow adventurer whose superior piloting skills with both fixed wing and choppers has taken me into and out of some of the meanest country Texas has to offer. Without his help my photo files would be much thinner. David Baxter, right, former editor of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine who believed in my photographic skills 31 years ago and gave me a chance.

Knut Mjolhus, center, a friend and fellow adventurer whose superior piloting skills with both fixed wing and choppers has taken me into and out of some of the meanest country Texas has to offer. Without his help my photo files would be much thinner. David Baxter, right, former editor of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine who believed in my photographic skills 31 years ago and gave me a chance.

   image4-rt-2

image2-rt-23
image1-rt-21image3-rt-23image5-rt-2image7-rt-2
Of the six gentlemen above only one, Louis Liles (bottom center), still survives. These old timers represent a Texas of long past, when both men and women knew a much tougher life than most of us know today. When I think that I am being challenged I regain my perspective in thinking of Joe Barton (bottom right), and his stories of WWII, a young 20 year old  in the cockpit of a P 51 Mustang escorting B 17 bombers over Germany.
And others who touched my life at an early age are, from top and L to R, is the late Homer T. Melton, Texas Ranger, Butch McCanlis, local business owner and old friend, Mickey Driver, rancher and friend and Jack Idol, ranch manager.
To all of the wonderful people mentioned above and the  hundreds of others not listed but who helped shape my life and career, I am forever indebted.  
Published in: on April 10, 2009 at 4:38 pm  Comments (11)  

I WOULD RATHER BE LUCKY THAN GOOD!!!

Throughout my 28 years as a photographer I have often heard the phrase, “I would rather be lucky than good”, spoken usually in response to seeing a photo that was obviously the result of being at the right place at the right time. Of course, in order for the photographer to experience the lucky break it is essential to make oneself available to be in place when the unusual event occurs. I will admit that this is often my excuse to jump into my pickup and make a break for the brush and some alone time…You know the line…”why Baby, how am I going to get a great photo unless I spend some time afield”??!! It has always sounded  like a winner to me!!

In all seriousness, I cannot stress to my Texas Tech classes and workshops enough that the importance of being in the field with camera in hand, hopefully at opportune times, is the way to achieve some of the most memorable images of a life time. So many of my greatest shots were never planned, but instead, the result of simply being on site when the critical moment occurred. 

The following sequence of images is one of the best examples of simply being available when one of those  “one in a life time” natural history moments occurs. Of course it is nice to have the right equipment on hand and at least a basic knowledge of how to use it effectively! To simplify the interpretation of what readers will view in the following images I need to give some history on what is occurring.

In my line of work being a “fly on the wall” is a luxury that most often results in some of the more spontaneous images that best describe the intimate behavioral aspects of a creature, whether it is two legged or four. Wild boar, or “Feral hogs” occur in almost every corner of the Lone Star State and in incredible numbers. Although I have lived around, hunted and photographed wild hogs for over 30 years, I have never had the opportunity to really observe serious interaction between two or more of the animals…at least until just recently.  Some days ago I was on the backside of a sprawling ranch trying to do some landscape photography for a book project. After miles of meandering through the brush and hills I emerged upon a scene that I had been waiting to photograph for over 20 years! Two huge alpha wild boar were squaring off to determine who was the “Hoss” among the herd of sow pigs who were feeding nonchalantly nearby. As the  two big boars circled and postured for the ensuing fight, I crawled and scooted toward a hog wallow where I felt the best angle for photos could be attained. The light was fast becoming an issue as gathering clouds shrouded the setting sun in the west. After reaching the intended abandoned wallow I laid flat on the ground and used dried clods to support the Canon 400mm F5.6 lens on the 5D Mark II camera. Within moments of my settling in place, the big boars clashed in a shroud of dust. The following images reveal one of natures natural history phenomenons.  Enjoy!!

 

 

Alpha wild boar in the mood for a fight

Alpha wild boar in the mood for a fight

 

Older boar on the left(note the crumpled ears) squaring off with challenger

Older boar on the left(note the crumpled ears) squaring off with challenger

 

In a sudden lunge some 500 pounds of sheer muscle clash in a shroud of dust

In a sudden lunge some 500 pounds of sheer muscle clash in a shroud of dust

 

Fighting boars use muscle and knife sharp lower tushes to overpower and slice a contender into submission

Fighting boars use muscle and knife sharp lower tushes to overpower and slice a contender into submission

 

A boar is knocked aside in this collision of wild, raw power.

A boar is knocked aside in this collision of wild, raw power.

 

Formidable jaws and sharp tushes are used with effectiveness.

Formidable jaws and sharp tushes are used with effectiveness.

 

Like two monsters from prehistoric  times, the two boars refuse to back away from the fight.

Like two monsters from prehistoric times, the two boars refuse to back away from the fight.

 

Finally, one of the boars gives ground and ambles away, watched attentively by the other.

Finally, one of the boars gives ground and ambles away, watched attentively by the other.

 

To the victor the spoils!! The alpha boar suspects my presence to be a threat and, flush with victory, tests the wind for evidence of another contender.

To the victor the spoils!! The alpha boar suspects my presence to be a threat and, flush with victory, tests the wind for evidence of another contender.

Published in: on March 22, 2009 at 4:22 am  Comments (9)  

Don Haskins: A Salute to one of America’s Great Basketball Coaches

 

Coach Haskins and the 1955 Benjamin High School football team

Coach Haskins and the 1955 Benjamin High School football team

 

From a pool hall in Albuquerque, New Mexico a phone call was made to Benjamin Superintendent D.V. Markham, asking him if he could use a young coach who had yet to complete his college degree. The deal was made and thus began the odyssey career of Don Haskins,  Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame recipient and iconic basketball coach who led the UTEP Miners to 719 wins, 14 Western Athletic Conference championships, and the 1966 NCAA championship. That phone call was made in 1955 and planted the seed of friendship that would not blossom until almost 40 years later when coach Haskins called me and wanted to return to Benjamin for a nostalgic visit in the country where it all began.

 

Benjamin High School Annual when Don and Mary Haskins were teaching and coaching here

Benjamin High School Annual when Don and Mary Haskins were teaching and coaching here

 

 

 

Don explained that my Dad, the late Pate Meinzer, was on the Benjamin school board that hired him and staunchly supported his rigid athletic program at the Benjamin high school. My father had told me many stories of Don Haskins and his tough handling of athletes while at Benjamin, as I was too young, at age 5, to remember when it all transpired. Now, some 40 years later, the legendary coach wanted to come back to his old starting point and revisit the past.

Don did make the trip and we developed a friendship that lasted until his passing in September of 2008. In the process Sylinda and I had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Mary Haskins, a beautiful and patient friend and wife to her beloved Don. But what intrigued me the few years of our friendship was how really simple Don Haskins, the man, really was. Reared in Oklahoma as a boy, hunting, fishing, and frequenting snooker halls, Don enjoyed his time with the simple hobbies so foreign to youngsters today.

 

When he first began coming to Benjamin to hang out and hunt with me he would make clear the fact that he did not want to go visit anyone else but his old friend, the late Tick Moorhouse.  I honored his wishes and was taken by surprise the day he called and almost cussed me out for not asking him to speak to the Benjamin High School athletic banquet. Of course I set it up for him and he mesmerized the people there with his stories of life as seen through the eyes of Don Haskins. His visit was a moment to remember for the students at BHS.

 

Coach Haskins was not a man who sought notoriety. His reply to my question regarding the fame brought on by his winning the 1966 NCAA Championship with his starting team of all black athletes was typical Haskins. “I was not making a statement about race, because hell, these five players were my best and I wanted to win!!”

 

Coach Haskins venting at some referees during a Miners Game. Photo by Brian Kanaf

Coach Haskins venting at some referees during a Miners Game. Photo by Brian Kanaf

 

The last personal visit that I had with Don was at a book signing in El Paso a couple of years ago. During the signing Don and I exchanged stories of old time hunting and some basketball yarns. When it was over my wife Sylinda and Mary Haskins spent the time visiting while Don introduced me to his personal sanctuary, a limitless expanse of Texas desert that protected him from the masses who wanted to spend a moment with the “other” Don, the Coach, the legend, Hall of Fame recipient, and the subject of the Hollywood movie, Glory Road.

 

Mary Haskins (l) Don (c) and Sylinda Meinzer (r) in Haskins home, El Paso, 2006

Mary Haskins (l) Don (c) and Sylinda Meinzer (r) in Haskins home, El Paso, 2006

 

Stopping by Wal Mart to pick up some .22 ammo for shooting practice, he drove me along the lonely stretches of faceless desert and explained that for over 30 years this is where he would come to get away from it all and be alone with his thoughts, to relive the plays of games won and lost or simply to revisit the memorable times he spent hunting coyotes or quail while living in Benjamin.

 

As the shadows of late afternoon crept over the scrub brush and the desert mountains glowed crimson in the light of evening, Don suggested that we go have a beer at his favorite hangout. Soon we rolled to a stop at the back door of Rosa’s Cantina and trudged into the dim light of the bar, met only by the courtesy nod of a few patrons and the tune of Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” on the jukebox. Don had noticed my surprise when he pulled up to the very common looking bar and proceeded to explain to me that he liked the quiet places because the patrons were polite to him and basically left him alone.

 

We had a beer or two and Don bought a round for the crowd while we sat and talked about hunting, old times in Benjamin and life in general. We made one more stop at Sergio’s bar and then headed on to have dinner with the two gals who allowed us our time together that day in the desert.

 

Don and Sergio at the bar in El Paso, 2006

Don and Sergio at the bar in El Paso, 2006

 

That was my last personal visit with Don Haskins as in September 2008 he headed out to a land where all of his players shoot 100 % from the floor and his rifle shots will never go awry.  But months before his passing, in true Haskins form, he insisted that I become acquainted with two of his former athletes, Steve Tredenick, who played four years under Don’s watchful eye but graduating in 1965, was one year short of being on the championship team. Steve’s companion was none other than Nevil Shed, or “The Shadow”, and member of the 1966 NCAA Championship team.

 

Steve, Sylinda and Nevil in our home, 2009

Steve, Sylinda and Nevil in our home, 2009

 

 

 

1966 NCAA Championship ring on Steve's hand, given to him by the Haskins family, and Nevil's own championship ring

1966 NCAA Championship ring on Steve's hand, given to him by the Haskins family, and Nevil's own championship ring

 

These two very humble and gracious men visited in our home recently as they were on their way to the “Glory Road” tour, a trip that would take them to the high schools where Coach and Mary Haskins had lived and touched the lives of so many. Since Steve and Nevil had already spoken to the Benjamin ISD back in the spring of 2008, their travels this time were taking them to Hedley and Dumas ISD and from there to a Hall of Fame reception in  Canyon, Texas. But during the overnight stay in our home, we all toasted the colorful life of Don and Mary Haskins, two common people whose drive and determination in their profession touched the lives of so many in a positive way.  

 

Adios to the Coach

Adios to the Coach

 

Published in: on February 19, 2009 at 2:24 pm  Comments (1)  

“It is a Land I doubt will be Inhabited into the Next Century”

 

Sunrise over the trail of Randolph Marcy

Sunrise over the land traveled by Randolph Marcy and George W. Kendall

 

Such were the words from the journal of Randolph Marcy during his expedition into and through the badlands along with South Wichita river in the year of 1854. Obviously Mr. Marcy was not impressed with the land that dealt his party so much hardship as he often complained of the harshness of the water, soil and vegetation that he encountered along the way. At one point he complained that the country was so forbidding that even the Indians skirted the canyons, with only the bears living there in large numbers. How I wish I could have witnessed some of the sights that he so disdained all those years ago.

 

Storm over the exact landscape described by Marcy

"...the melancholy truth visible in almost every face that we were lost among the wilderness prairie of the west." George W. Kendall. August 15, 1841. Storm over the exact landscape described above by Kendall.

 

I was born and raised on the very land described by Marcy and grew to love the canyons and emptiness that describes this often times forbidding rangeland. On horseback and afoot I worked cattle and hunted over the 40 section ranch that my father managed for some 30 years and realized only at a later age what a significant and positive impact this environment would have on my life.

 

Lightning bolt at sunset over the badlands

Lightning bolt at sunset over the badlands

 

Fond are the memories of riding horseback the 10 miles to Benjamin on a Saturday morning through the badlands, crossing the boggy arroyos and observing intimately the ancient landscape beneath the horses hooves. Eroded creek banks offered a glimpse of life from our distant past as the occasional buffalo skull or other relics teased my curiosity from their  final resting place in the crumbling walls.

 

Double rainbow over my boyhood country

Double rainbow over my boyhood country

 

Corroded cartridge casings or lead slugs from calibers of yesteryear, uncovered by the erosive effects of wind and rain, also played on my imagination. Could the source of these archeological finds be the men from Marcy’s party or maybe even the Kendall expedition of 1841? Perhaps the great Indian trail described by Gallagher, a member of the Kendall party, on August 14, 1841 may have been a contributing factor in the evidence of so much life from another century. My youth was immersed in these items of wonderment and even today I retain a youthful fascination with a land and the life that existed long before the heavy hand of civilization. 

Hope you all can enjoy these recollections from almost a half century ago and take a moment to reflect on what was important to you in those formative years of your youth.

 

Drama over the Texas/Santa Fe trail 3 miles west of Benjamin

Drama over the Texas/Santa Fe trail 3 miles west of Benjamin

Published in: on January 6, 2009 at 6:51 am  Comments (9)  

Revisiting the beginnings of a career

 

 

Old Hunting Camp in 1974

Old Hunting Camp in 1974 and a months take on the trapline

Thirty four years ago tonight I sat in a half dugout line camp on the 167,000 acre Pitchfork ranch, gazing into the blazing embers of a mesquite wood fire and wondering what in the hell did the future have in store! Having just finished my education at Texas Tech University with a degree in Wildlife Management, I was now a professional coyote hunter living in a small one room cabin with no electricity or running water and making one trip a week into town for food and fuel. It was a life unimaginable for many but for me, at the time, it was a life to die for.

 

Large male coyote photographed December 18, 2008

Large male coyote photographed December 18, 2008

It was in this cabin, by the light of a kerosine lamp, that I entered into a new phase of my then hobby of photography. Learning the mechanics of a camera after nightfall and putting that information to a test while hunting coyotes during the day, I can truly say that those colorful years were  instrumental in creating the style that defines my work today.

Recently a friend and I decided to revisit the old line camp where it all began, building a fire in the dusty fireplace and remembering a time long past. Down the road we saw my old photo blinds made of mesquite wood where I had sat for hours on end through the winter months of the early 90′s in an attempt to grab some photos for my second published book, “Coyote”, Texas Tech University Press, 1995. All had felt the ravages of time but the wear did not diminish the power of the memories that I harbored from those magical days of yesteryear.

 

Thirty four years later at the old line camp

Thirty four years later at the old line camp

Travel with me into the recesses of time, to the line camp in the Croton badlands and view some memories from three decades past… and some from even yesterday!!

Enjoy!!

 

Photographing coyotes in big ranch country. Photo by Dr. Darrell Franks

Photographing coyotes in big ranch country. Photo by Dr. Darrell Franks

Published in: on December 19, 2008 at 3:24 am  Comments (7)  
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.