The Real Cowboys of Brewster County, Texas

Journey to the high desert where much of the land remains untouched, except by the cattle.

April 18, 2018 5:00 am

If you drive I-10 East, two hours past El Paso you will reach the Van Horn Exit,  only a midway point to our destination. You begin to drive south into the high desert of the Big Bend, officially known as the Chihuahuan desert, with towns averaging of no more than 7,000 residents, such as Fort Davis, Alpine and Marfa.  Sitting atop an ancient volcano, which when erupted burnt all the oil away, or so the story goes,  what remains today is the pristine land of the United States, untouched (except by the cattle) since its founding. Many of the ranches go back three or four generations, as do the occupants.

Walking into the local dive bar, you never know who you are going to meet, well-known authors, poets,  sculptors, painters, astrophysicists, cowboys, Native Americans,  many of whom have never left the state of Texas. As one cowboy put it to me: “If you ask anyone in the world what the best country is, they say the United States. If you ask what the best state is, they will say Texas. And if you ask for the best county, they would say Brewster County.”

In the land where everyone drives trucks just as much as they ride horses, and anyone can conceal and carry (most do), I found the heartland of the United States, and it wasn’t the land, it was the people.

Walt and I met at a Big Bend Brewery beer tasting, where he offered to show me West Texas via his airplane. He ended up flying me to annual Pecos bombing competition, where mostly veteran pilots, flew with their doors open and their wives hanging out dropping cantaloupe, (grown in abundance in Pecos) onto various targets. Nothing like flying around with veteran pilots dropping cantaloupe, from the open door of an airplane. (Kaitlin Parry) On one of my first trips down to Alpine, I had the opportunity to photograph the Sol Ros roping team. Some of the team members were third-generation roping champions and horse breakers. (Kaitlin Parry)
Member of the Sol Ros roping team. (Kaitlin Parry)
Member of the Sol Ros roping team. (Kaitlin Parry) Curtis Evans’ ranch, situated in the Davis Mountains, is a place where local rodeo cowboys train for equine athletic competitions, such as team roping, calf roping, steer tripping, bulldogging and barrel racing. These rodeo cowboys are dedicated to their craft and have dreams of winning a Gold Buckle (the super bowl of rodeo). Many of these cowboys that have come through this arena have reached the pinnacle of a rodeo cowboys career, by making it to the national finals in Las Vegas. Instilling the Western way of life is a passion of these women and men and a staple of West Texas culture. (Kaitlin Parry) Cowboys at Curtis Evans’ ranch. (Kaitlin Parry) Welder at Curtis Evans’ ranch. (Kaitlin Parry) Cowboy at Curtis Evans’ ranch. (Kaitlin Parry) Cowboys at Curtis Evans’ ranch. (Kaitlin Parry) Cowboys at Curtis Evans’ ranch. (Kaitlin Parry) Hawk Sullivan and James McQueen at Curtis Evans’ ranch. (Kaitlin Parry) Michael Molone makes customs cowboy hats and trappings, they are some of the best-made hats that I have ever owned. (Kaitlin Parry) These are two of my favorite men to hang with. John Sufficool and Pat Rogers. John is a well-known sculptor, who once told me everyone in Brewster County could live off the local plants in the desert should anything happen like a zombie apocalypse. Pat, a retired motocross driver, said he has broken almost every bone in his body. He now works as a mechanic on specialized cars, like the one pictured above. (Kaitlin Parry)

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