A Meaningful Roadtrip
By John Langmore
Southern Oregon’s ZX Ranch operates on over a million acres and is an outfit every cowboy wants to work for at least once. I worked there in 1979 as a sixteen year-old. I was also let go from there in a way only cowboys would understand. Without saying a word to me, Ray McLaughlin, the buckaroo boss at the time, roped a horse from my “string” of horses and gave it to another cowboy. Ray never said why he gave one of my horses away and I knew better than to ask. Understanding the implications, I simply collected my paycheck that evening and left for another ranch.
I made my way back to the ZX thirty-four years later to photograph there. That’s when I met Tucker Hoatson. Tucker and I were the only two staying in the bunkhouse at the time and when given a Sunday off we decided to head south for the Ranch Hand Rodeo in Winnemucca, Nevada, not fully appreciating we were committing to a round trip of 650 miles. It was March and snow blew across Tucker’s oversized sedan as we wound our way down off the Pueblo Mountains into the high desert of the Oregon-Nevada border where wild burros, horses and pronghorn antelope move unchallenged through a landscape devoid of fences or any sign at all of human life, other than occasional signs stating the obvious: "Open Range - Wild Burros".
After a few brief hours in Winnemucca catching-up with old cowboy friends we turned around for the six hour drive north knowing we had to be saddled up at 4:30 the next morning. It was a meaningful roadtrip that closed a chapter from my youth and inspired a friendship I’m glad to have preserved with a simple photo.