One More Before Lunch

A group of cowboys rides out to gather one more herd to work before lunch.

On a ranch in West Texas, just about the time I took this photograph, the ranch owner, a woman in her 70s, drove up in a truck and invited me to stay for lunch. She said the 20,000-acre ranch was her husband’s dream when they married 56 years ago, and that he’d recently passed away. She continues to run the ranch with her daughters, I suspect, to keep his dream alive.

After the day’s last calf was branded, we drove out to the camp for lunch. Just inside the door of the small house was a long table where trays of chicken fried steak, gravy, pinto beans, corn, and yeast rolls waited. Cowboys lined up in the kitchen to wash their hands and rinse the red dirt off their faces. We filled our plates and found seats, as conversations faded into the sound of flatware clanking against plates. I looked across the room where dozens of cowboy hats hung on a hat rack and spilled over onto the floor. The cook brought out chocolate and coconut meringue pies, still warm from the oven. Conversations picked up again after a few bites of pie. I’d set my camera aside during lunch, but I can close my eyes and remember the sights, sounds, smells, warm pie, and the passions of those I was fortunate enough to meet that day.

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