Ranch Country photography
by Robert McCune
May-June 2011. Part Seven
Two hours later and forty miles south (back on pavement), we’re at a roadside rest area. According to the large-scale map, there’s a Quinn River Ranch line-camp a mile west of here, and a dirt-road crossing* of the Quinn River. This wasn’t just Ranch Country. This was Quinn River Ranch Country. (*An un-bridged “ford” crossing? Have to schedule this area of Nevada again. Maybe next year. A week or two later in the year though, when the snow-soaked ground in the higher elevations has dried up).
Was quiet there at the rest area. Had it to ourselves. A light breeze now and then, moving the leaves about. Sagebrush and bunchgrass in all directions. Snow-capped mountain ranges in the distance. We always take advantage of a setting like this and tarry awhile. Bring journal entries up date. Read another chapter of a book. Work on crossword puzzles. A fifteen minute nap. If the schedule allowed it, that would sometimes be as far as we’d get that day. One of Maggie’s avacado-taco salads for dinner. Chips and an O’Doul’s faux beer. Or a Beringer red. A 7.5 oz can of Katy’s Smokehouse albacore tuna this time, with Larrupin dill-mustard sauce and a white wine?
At rest area stops, Murph loves escaping the confines of his plywood-box bed (with pillow) which we keep between the two seats. Outside the van, he strains at the leash in his enthusiasm - running and jumping and spinning at times like a whirling dervish. (The leash is to make sure he doesn’t get too close to a clump of sagebrush and maybe disturb a sleeping rattlesnake).
Maggie was at the other end of the leash in these photos. I kept the camera on him 10 minutes it seemed, thinking that sooner or later he’d pull her over to one of those posts. When it happened, Maggie squealed with delight. “He’s so cute!” (Sheesh). Well, it was a perfectly executed 45 degree salute. There were times, in his earlier learning months, when Murph would throw a rear leg up with so much enthusiasm he’d lose his balance and topple sideways.
The striped post? I’m not sure, but I think it was there to prevent careless drivers from driving into the outhouse. It’s remarkable, the things people on the road do. One other vehicle pulled in the hour or so we were there. In a few minutes it was back on the highway.
Down the highway an hour or two from the rest stop, we came across this herd of free-ranging wild burros. A dozen or so, that I could see. Could’ve been more out there in all that tall sage. These guys weren’t all that friendly, but they didn’t run when I got out and began pointing the camera at them. They just turned and ambled away when I got too close. A 75mm-300mm telephoto lens comes in handy then.
These opportunities come up now and then; a Ranch Country shoot like this. Our style of driving at 50 mph or so on paved highways...most of the time, this makes it easy to slow down, get SHADOW CATCHER safely off the pavement, snap on my snake-proof leggings, collect my camera and gear bag, and walk back to begin the shoot. The anticipation of the next half hour or so is palpable.
There have been occasions though, when by the time we came to a safe place to pull over, the walk back would be as much as 200 yards. The most disappointing (attempted) roadside shoot I can recall was on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation in northwest New Mexico. It was toward the end of day, and on the down-hill grade of a rise in the highway, we passed two horses standing near a barbed-wire gate to a fenced pasture. They were facing away from each other, rump-to-rump. Both, the exact same coloring and size. All this, creating an illusion at first glance, of them being one animal.
An immediate “picture” came to mind as we passed by, of the pushmi-pullyu critter in the Doctor Dolittle books of the 1920’s. (Children stories). But by the time we reached a safe place to pull over, I hadn’t walked back but a fourth of the distance, when one of the horses moved, just enough to break that illusion of a pushmi-pullyu, back-lit in silhouette by the setting sun.
From a website. The pushmi-pullyu (pronounced "push-me—pull-you") is a "gazelle-unicorn cross" which has two heads (one of each) at opposite ends of its body. When it tries to move, both heads try to go in opposite directions.