Rodeo

I took a documentary storytelling class at Anderson Ranch in Snow Mass, Colorado, from Ed Kashi that was very influential in my path.  Ed explained his approach in looking for a series of images that make up a story and following a central character to tell the story from their point of view.

On the last night of the class, we went to the Carbondale Rodeo.  I quickly identified a character to follow, Quinten Hayden, and he was excited to tell his story because he was so far ahead in the rodeo standings in bull riding that no one could catch him in the last rodeo of the season.  This was the first rodeo I had ever attended and I met a nice family, the Davis family of Rifle, Colorado, who explained the different events to me.  It started to rain, but by then I was totally entranced with the evening’s events.  I had no rain coat, and the Davises offered a black trash bag and cut a hole in it for my face.  The rest of the class left for Anderson Ranch, and I stayed and shot the rodeo from behind the chutes in the rain, in my black trash bag.

After the rodeo ended, I got a ride into town to catch the last bus of the night headed for Snow Mass.  I stayed up most of the night editing my photos and showed a strong portfolio of images in the morning.  Ed was impressed and kind enough to write a letter of recommendation to Brian Storm of Media Storm in Brooklyn.  I attended the storytelling workshop by Media Storm and learned a process of crafting a documentary story by establishing the narrative spine and then adding background video to illustrate the story.

I followed Quinten to the Colorado Pro Rodeo Finals and saw an amazing sight.  A blonde woman riding like the wind rescuing cowboys off the backs of bucking horses.  She also threw a lasso to catch bulls and pull them out of the arena after they had thrown their riders.  She was Jessica Mosher, a fifth-generation rancher from Karval, Colorado.

Rodeo came out of ranching and the world’s first rodeo was held nearby in Deer Trail, Colorado, in 1863.  This is the home of rodeo and I had found a family that has homesteaded on the Plains of Colorado since 1906.  The Moshers were very generous in letting me into their lives and I spent most of three years staying intermittently at the ranch in all seasons and following family members to rodeos.  I got to experience another way of life from my own and was fascinated with the challenges of raising cattle.  My visits were during a period of prolonged drought over fourteen years.  The resulting movie, Pickup Man, has been winning awards at film festivals.

As I traveled with the Moshers, I got to learn about cowboy culture.  Ranching requires cooperation between distant neighbors, especially at brandings.  Ranching also requires knowledge passed down from generation to generation on managing the land and caring for cattle.  Strong bonds form between members of this American subculture because they have specialized knowledge and must depend on each other to succeed.  Rodeo is the main form of entertainment and children start off at a young age with events tailored to their abilities.