Sunday, January 25, 2015

Flat out beautiful

The Taos Plateau from the west rim of the Rio Grande Gorge just above the John Dunn Bridge

Between Victor "Cuba" Hernandez and the Taos Plateau you've endured a plague of arid expanses on these pages. The Plateau is a sweep of land that exemplifies William deBuys' description of dry places making the lamentable transition from grasslands to desert scrub. It's also part of the new Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, the lesser part to almost everybody but me.

And speaking of the immortal Cuba, I'm excited to report that I will helping him herd 500 sheep to Colorado within the week. Patron Alfonzo Abeyta's grazing lease ends on January 31 and the borregos must head north or be left to wander the plateau for eternity.

And now I can say "more to come" with absolute certainty. Applause line.

An abandoned corral east of Pinahetosa Peaks
Old homestead near Cerro Chilla

"Monument" will be the subject of a two person show in May at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art in Taos I will share the spotlight with the talented painter Peggy Immel. Be there or be square in the parlance of the sixties.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Working Hands

This photograph dates back more than forty years. It's from Old Sturbridge Village in western Massachusetts on one of our frequent visits to the charming recreation of a New England farm town in the 1820s. It’s a place our family loved when the children were young and when we were first in the thrall of the four seasons, the patina and the history of early America. Still are.

Old Sturbridge depicts life in rural Massachusetts of that early time. Interpreters play the roles of blacksmiths, basket makers, coopers and the like. It was a magical place to celebrate Thanksgiving in the old tavern, something we did several times when we lived in Wellesley.

The elder shown here deftly wields his knife to forge a whistle out of a pea pod. His weathered hands pay homage to rigorous life on the frontier. The brim of his straw hat shields hands from the high November sun.

It's a scan of a negative from my first DSLR, the seminal Pentax Spotmatic, and though I've lost some shadow detail, the image carries me back to the richness of New England and deep feelings that will never fade.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I can't hear you

Starting with Monday's post (This just in from Cuba) readers have been unable to leave their comments. I can comment but you can't for reasons I cannot fathom. My settings are as "open" as they can be yet reader comments are lost in space.

I'm asking for your comments to this post so I can assess whether the last post was an anomaly or is a continuing problem.

Thanks for your help. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

This just in from Cuba

The post about Sr. Hernandez two weeks ago sparked the most attention in while. That’s mighty gratifying and it sparks my interest in digging deeper into the lore and legend of sheep ranching in these parts. More will be revealed.

These shots are a combination of ones taken in January 2011 and from my recent visit with Victor. There’s a paucity of copy in this one probably because I have paucity of ideas for same. The older ones in color give a better sense of the breadth of my beloved Taos Plateau with the Sangre de Cristos reaching skyward in the distance. They also do a better job of connecting Victor and his perros to the sheep grazing on the llano.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Southside Johnnie

JT in Santa Fe

This taut and sinewy dude claimed he was a Chicago street tough in an earlier life. According to JT only a zencentric martial arts discipline and some gaudy hip-hop dance moves saved him from the Cook County jail with the crib next to a gangbanger named Tyreese.

While I’m not a big nose ring fan, he carries off nostril décor better than most.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Cuba's Gift

Victor "Cuba" Hernandez
I first introduced you to Victor Hernandez also known as Cuba in my January 29, 2011 post. Then last Friday I encountered him again at his campsite on the flank of a sheep strewn hillock across from San Antonio Mountain.  The second time was every bit as special.

Peggy and I and our son Garrett and his wife Michelle were exploring along US 285 north of Tres Piedras hoping for a decent photograph to declare itself. My expectations were along the lines of getting one keeper of a landscape for a show that Peggy and I have scheduled for May. Anything more would be gravy. 

Prophetically, just as our conversation had turned to my 2011 adventure with Cuba I turned east to the Taos Plateau. After half a mile we passed between two shallow hills with rocky spines and I spied a corrugated trailer with hundreds of grazing borregos just beyond. “It’s Cuba,” I shouted with total delight. I couldn’t have shown the timelessness of northern New Mexico any better. It was an absolute gift.

As we got close to the trailer a slightly hunched figure came out to greet us. My passengers were just a little apprehensive since Cuba was packing heat. I rolled down the window greet him while summoning my slightly improved Spanish to remind him that I had visited several years before, that I had photographed him with his dogs Daddy and Puppy and had mailed photographs of him and his perros to his patron, Alfonso Abeyta. His eyes lit up as he described the photographs as “grande.” They were, in point of fact, not so grande 8”x10"s but no matter.

Cuba and Daddy
I got out of the car for a proper handshake when he immediately showed me the weapon he was toting while describing its provenance in rich Spanish only detail. He told me that his meticulously maintained Mauser España bolt action had once been used by Pancho Villa. The rifle was dated 1890 and if Victor says the Villistas used it they used it.

He proudly declared that he was seventy years old and said he would be camped with his sheep till February and then would herd them to the Abeyta spread just over the Colorado border. It was minus 15 in his neck of the woods last night. You get the picture.

The portrait up top was worth the price of admission.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Less is Less

In keeping with last week’s homage to the old and short, here’s the image that launched about a million photographs since October 2, 2003. This is the one that yanked me by the drawers into the digital age. I have to blame something.

Butternut Squash, Fryeburg, Maine