Posts Tagged ‘cowgirl’

Hollyhocks and Straw Bales
Hollyhocks and Straw Bales

My dear friend, Audrey Hankins, gave permission for her poem HOLLYHOCKS to be posted on my blog. This is the first poem I remember hearing Audrey recite. When I was photographing Wilbur-Cruce Spanish Barb horses by the Dragoon Mountains here in Arizona, I saw some growing by the stables and thought of Audrey. I plucked one stem and created this photograph just for her. Enjoy her poem! (© Audrey Hankins 2002. Do not print or re-post without permission.)

 Hollyhocks and old ranch wives,

Both thrive on so little care,

Bringing beauty to barren places,

Enduring year after year…..


They’re talkin’ again, the old men,

Reliving their glory days

Cattle they caught, horses they made,

Cowboy pride, cowboy ways.


An old wife moves among them,

Invisible but for coffee pot,

They don’t see her leave, or care that she goes

To smile and tend her hollyhocks.


She shares no glory stories,

Her choice, a supporting role.

Freeing her man to follow his call,

She felt privileged just to fill a hole.


She was the one left holding the gather,

For hours she’d highpoint alone,

‘Til  she often wondered if they’d changed the plan,

Forgotten  her and gone on home.


Ridin’ drag with her little kids,

She ate dust while planning meals.

No good hand could be spared for that,

He wouldn’t remember how it feels.


She did up the jobs left undone

By men with better things to do

Doctored horses, milked the cow,

Ran the kids to school.


She brushed the backs of  her bucket dogies,

The way mother cows lick their calves,

‘Til they glowed and gained on her tender care.

She never nurtured by halves.


Now her waist is thick, her hair is thin,

And her knees are stiff when she walks.

A solitary figure out in the yard, 

Humming and tending her hollyhocks…..

Hollyhocks and old ranch wives,

Both thrive on so little care,

Bringing beauty to barren places,

Enduring year after year.

 Audrey Hankins, 2002

 Gibbs Smith Publisher, 2004, COWBOY POETRY THE REUNION

To see more of Audrey’s work and read about her, visit her page on cowboypoetry.com


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Cora Rose Wood

Cora Rose Wood

I first met Cora at the Western Music Association Awards and Festival where I was serving as an official photographer in 2007 when she was just approaching six years old. There was a crowd in the lobby of the host hotel and when I made it to the center to see who was singing, there was this little gal with a guitar as big as she was belting out a western song. When she stopped singing and the crowd moved away I introduced myself to Cora and her Mom, Laurie, and asked if I could make a portrait of her. I knew she would be more animated if I let her sing, so asked her to sing me a song she made up herself about her pony. She cocked her head, took a deep breath and lit right into a song…eyes on mine, she sang some of the cutest lyrics about how much she loves her pony(made up on the spot, by the way). She punctuated the end of the song with an exclamation point of the brightest smile. The photograph here is of that exclamation point. I’ve since come to know Cora and Laurie and count them as friends and have learned to brace myself when I see my Cora-kins at gatherings as when she sees me she runs to me and jumps up into my arms and wraps those cowgirl legs around my waist.

This year at a gathering in Sierra Vista, Cora was the only one brave enough to come outside on a cold, blustery day so I could photograph her by the blooming trees. Although her hat kept blowing off and she had to chase it, we persevered and created this wonderful portrait of her (complimented by the buckle she won in barrel racing competition). When she was ready to release her first CD, I had the cover image ready. I’m honored that the Wood family chose me to provide the photography and CD design for Cora’s Cowgirl Yodel. Cora has a big voice tucked into a little gal, and she has been tutored by Janet McBride (who tutored a young LeAnn Rimes and also the grand-children of the Von Trapp family). I encourage you to give Cora’s CD a spin.  Cora’s Cowgirl Yodel , which includes seven songs and three poems, is available for $13 postpaid from: Wood Western Music, c/o Laurie Wood, HC 63 Box 18C, Saratoga, WY 82331. Read some of Cora’s poems and more about her here  on the cowboypoetry.com website and visit her web site, www.woodwesternmusic.com, Cora’s Page, which includes audio and video clips.

 Cora Rose Wood's CD Cover
Cora Rose Wood’s CD Cover






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Audrey Hankins: First Light

Audrey Hankins: First Light

     Audrey Hankins is a woman of leather and lace. Leather saddles, lace kitchen curtains. A cowboy poet who first impressed me with her poem Hollyhocks as I sat in the audience at a cowboy poetry gathering and who later impressed me with the way she brings poetry into her every word and gesture, I am blessed to know her now as a dear friend.
     When Audrey approached me to provide the photography and design for her first CD of cowboy poetry, I felt honored and was excited. I knew that the vision I had for this project would fit her very well. Good friend to both of us, Jim Jones, would supply the music to dance around her words and recite one of her poems as well.
     For a project like this, although I can do all the photography for a CD in one session, I prefer to spend some time with the artist. For Audrey, I visited her at her home in Wickenburg and stayed with her for a few days, photographing in several locations and talking until the wee hours of the morning about our lives and her dreams for this CD as we sat at her kitchen table and started to bring the images and design together.
     Audrey’s son lives in a nearby “horse town” and we went there so I could photograph horses, cattle, and a windmill for the center foldout in the morning light. I worked with the image to create a sepia toned artpiece with “hand colored” horses. The next morning, pre-dawn in uncomfortably cold weather, we headed into the desert east of her home and I laid on the ground, face down in the dirt and stickers (almost backed into a prickly pair as I moved to find the perfect composition), and created an evocative sillouette of Audrey in the first light of day. When we got back to the house and warmed up over coffee and toast, I brought up the images for her to see. Until then, she had another title for the CD. The image that is on the back traycard of her CD got us to talking and inspired her to rename it after one of her poems (the first poem on the CD), First Light. The blessing of that image made the cold and stickers insignificant. The cover/autograph page/inner traycard images were created at the ranch of her close friend Suzi Killman, western singer/songwriter and daughter of equine artist Hildred Goodwine. Audrey loves the cover image as she says it conveys a “come on in and have a cup of coffee” welcoming feel.
     The CD turned out to be as “Audrey” as can be…warm and welcoming and full of stories that are like the woman herself, a bit of leather and lace/sunshine and strength. First Light, which includes 17 original poems, is available for $17 postpaid, from Audrey Hankins, P.O. Box 688, Congress, AZ 85332. You can find out more about Audrey, read a few of her poems, and take a look at her poetry books here: http://www.cowboypoetry.com/audreyhankins.htm#Light

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Muck Stalls, Carry Water

Muck Stalls, Carry Water

     There is a story in ancient zen wisdom of heading out on the path to find enlightenment. Upon discovering a mountain,  first “the mountain is a mountain” then “the mountain is something else” and upon enlightenment you discover that “the mountain is a mountain” again. That truth and the saying “Chop Wood, Carry Water” inspired me to create this photographic print that hangs on my wall to remind me of the importance and truth of simplicity and hard work in the service of others.
     The image is of Kristin True of the White Stallion Ranch, whom I met riding towards the light of dawn as she started the day in service to her horses. I photographed Kristin and one of the WSR staff for a music project with Donnie Blanz for Blue Highways TV (division of RFD-TV) for a song called “Paint her Real” and after photographing them as they worked I can say that these ladies embody this ethic in everything they do.

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Cowgirl's Reflection

Cowgirl's Reflection

    A few years ago I attended a photography workshop with Jay Dusard, who is an iconic cowboy/western culture photographer, at the (former) Portreros Ranch in Tubac. In the early morning light we had two models in western garb with their horses available to us and we were working with the man as he moved in and out of the light of a large tree. I maintain awareness for opportunies other than what is right in front of me and I turned in a circle to see if I was missing anything. Often, my favorite images come from the space “around the main picture” and this example is one of those images. Waiting her turn, sitting easy in the saddle with her face turned up to the morning light, was our other model…both horses relaxed and her obvious enjoyment of the coming warmth on this chilly morning evident. I moved away from the group quietly to better compose the photograph and created this image, titled Cowgirl’s Reflection.
     I approached Jay and showed him what I was seeing. The morning light was just right to create a reflection on the still pond by the barn. The next 15 minutes or so were spent as a group photographing the model as she stood and rode on the other side of the pond, as we enjoyed the beauty of the scene.
     This image has a dreamy quality. What most people don’t see right away is that the reason for the mysterious feel of this photograph is this: It is upside down, showing the reflection in the water only!
The Cowgirl's Looking Glass

The Cowgirl's Looking Glass

The second photograph was made a few minutes later. Which one is your favorite?

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Rusty McCall at family ranch in NM

Rusty McCall at family ranch in NM

     Heart Sessions are photography sessions that are donated or deeply discounted for people and animals who have touched my heart in exceptionally meaningful ways. These sessions are often donated, including travel and Artist Choice images when I can afford it. Large prints and other desired media/merchandise is deeply discounted for the recipients. The resulting images are also provided for press releases, publications, and websites gratis, with only the request for photographer’s credit and proper respect/credit given to the Heart Session recipient.
     I devote myself to documenting and honoring culture and spirit in all of my photography and I donate time/services/photography to many rescues and cultural events and altruistic offerings. What, then, is different about Heart Sessions?  These sessions are very specific “calls to action” inspired by direct experience and/or from hearing about the person or animal(s) from those who’ve lives have been touched by them. Often they are given priority over my own scheduled work and  personal needs due to circumstances that precipitate planning quickly. Sometimes I get a few days to plan it out yet many of these Heart Sessions have occured within hours or even minutes from the time my heart was first moved by these exceptional souls.
Examples of Heart Sessions:
     In  the image you see here is Rusty McCall, a 22 year old seventh generation rancher and Cowboy Poet. At four years old, his mother Deanna held him up to the microphone at the Elko Cowboy Poets gathering and so became the youngest cowboy poet to perform at Elko. He is a bit wild(normal for his age and gender) and does best out on his horse riding the circle on his favorite horse (shown here), Pardner. There will be at least one entry devoted to Rusty here in my blog, so watch for that. The short(er) story, for this entry’s purposes, is that I met Rusty a couple of years ago at the Prescott gathering in August and was immediately impressed by his charisma and talent and the way he brightened the day of anyone he met with a smile and a joke…and it was evident by watching him that his friends were true and loyal, earned by Rusty through his ethics and devotion to them. The only place this young man sits in the middle is on a horse…everything else about him goes to the extremes of serious grace and exhuberant laughter. The year I met him he had been diagnosed with neurofibromatosis (tumors on the nerves, in his case in the brain) and he had some paralysis on the right side of his face with some related sight and hearing problems. Last year, he had brain surgery and had to go through an extensive recovery period.
     This year, when he found he needed another intensive surgery (brain) he made the decision to do so after three western gatherings, Elko, Cochise, and Alpine. He made it to Elko and I was looking forward to seeing him in Sierra Vista for the Cochise gathering, but he was not well enough to attend. It was there that I spoke with his mother Deanna about coming to NM to photograph him at their ranch. Diane Tribitt wanted to do an article on Deanna with a portion of the article dedicated to Rusty and they spoke of making that happen. Shortly after the Cochise gathering, I drove to the McCall ranch in NM and spent a few days with them photographing Rusty up horseback as well as with his mother and father and their horses. Rusty surprised me with his willingness to try anything and once I turned around to see him jumping Pardner off a wash-bank with ease and perfect balance (Rusty has balance issues). So, when I laughed and asked him if he’d be willing to do it again, he did…five more times! Rusty cannot be kept down in body or spirit.
     When I returned to Tucson, Rusty was ever on my mind as I thought about the Alpine gathering coming up in just one week. His last performances before his surgery, just three days before in fact. I talked with my husband who immediately said to go. I was un-decided as my heart said I MUST go and my brain said I couldn’t afford it. My heart and the blessing of my husband won out and I drove to Alpine, TX, for the gathering. Every time Rusty had a performance I was there to photograph him. He was on the main stage on Saturday night and after a phenomenal recital of a poem joked with the audience. “Some of you know I’ve had some physical challenges lately and I’m really glad to be here. In just a few days they are going to do brain surgery on me. I don’t know why since I don’t have a brain.” How could I NOT donate Heart Sessions to a young man like this? One print I have gifted the family with, so far, is a 16×20 mounted photograph of the one heading this entry…an image to inspire him to work towards getting back on Pardner to once again ride the circle. (Read up on Rusty’s progress in upcoming entries here and on this page: http://www.cowboypoetry.com/mccalls.htm  There will be an upcoming article on Deanna and Rusty McCall in I.M. Cowgirl, by Diane Tribitt and I will be donating images to that article. I’ll update you as I find out more about the issue it will be in.) The following images are of Rusty in Alpine, TX for the Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
Rusty at Alpine Gathering (With close friend Gail Steiger)

Rusty at Alpine Gathering (With close friend Gail Steiger)

Other examples of Heart Sessions include a 14 year old Irish Wolfhound who was blind and deaf and had been the primary companion for a widow, an octogenarian Cowboy/Cowboy Poet who has long inspired me and others with her fortitude and ability to trail-blaze who went riding in the desert about an hour north of me (an opportunity not likely to present itself as she lives in another state), a 27 year old gelding who had helped “his woman” to ride through the obstacles life was challenging her with, a western singer/songwriter whose deeply compassionate nature touched all who met him as he fought cancer. (The Western world mourned when we lost him four months after his session. His widow now has a book full of 8×10’s of him that bring her joy.) Spirit moves me to continue these Heart Sessions.

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Georgie and Sam Heading Out

Georgie and Sam Heading Out

     During the Heart Session I did with Cowboy/Cowboy Poet Georgie Sicking, I created this image of her and my good friend’s fiance Sam Scott (Diane Tribitt’s beau) when they were heading out to enjoy a ride in the desert in Florence, AZ on February 9, 2009. Titled “Heading Out”, the brilliant blue sky with gold tones of dust and horse blended to make a piece of art that moved my heart to share it with Margo Metegrano of cowboypoetry.com. This month, the photograph is featured in her Art Spur project, published on cowboypoetry.com here: http://www.cowboypoetry.com/artspur.htm  Please visit cowboypoetry.com (you’ll get addicted!), follow the poems that come in for Art Spur and while you are there if you start clicking on the poet’s pages and gathering reports, you are bound to come across a bunch of the images I’ve donated to the site over the last few years.
     Diane Tribitt will be using this image as the cover for her upcoming new poetry book, also. Diane is a Minnesota poet, writer, and rancher and she was present when the photo was created. Georgie is a dear friend of hers. She’s also the Senior Executive Editor of “I.M. Cowgirl” magazine (www.imcowgirl.com). Her latest CD is “Ranchin’ Rhymes.” Read more about Diane Tribitt and her poetry at www.dianetribitt.com. 
She wrote a poem inspired by Georgie and this image, which I’m honored to share with you here:
Headin’ Out

Throughout her life she’d been condemned
for havin’ cowboy dreams
But she fulfilled her destiny,
enduring all extremes

She lived for ropin’ cattle, and
she roped ’em with be best
Tied ‘t burrows, cows and mustangs,
surpassing every test

She’s thankful God has blessed her with
the opportunity;
for cowboys who had taught her and
a mom who’d set her free

to live the life she dreamed of
with horses, cows and rope
as a lady and a cowboy,
on horizons brimmed with hope

She taught her kids to understand
the only life she knew
and blessed them with the gift of being
“you, and only you”

Each time she passed the reins to them
she made sure she was near,
yet far enough away from them
they wouldn’t sense her fear

She has loved some horses dearly
and disliked quite a few
She has lived by cowboy ethics
Honest, loyal, tried and true

Though she is blind, now, she still sees
what some refuse to see
for her soul was borne of nature
and her spirit’s proud and free

She was born to be a cowboy
and there ain’t any doubt,
When most old hands are headin’ in
they’ll meet her, headin’ out

© 2009, Diane Tribitt, All rights reserved

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