George raised cattle for most of his life. In retirement, he chases wildfires. For safety, George carries two bottles of water, a Coke, a candy bar, a shovel, and a handgun.
Casey, Cow Boss, 71 Ranch, Deeth, Nevada 2012
Casey and Rowdy Horse Training, 71 Ranch, Deeth, Nevada 2012
Many modern ranchers use all-terrain vehicles, airplanes, or helicopters to round up their livestock. Horses have become outdated. The 71 Ranch in Deeth, Nevada, consists of 38,000 acres of semiarid farmland, where cowboys still herd cattle on horseback. Here, Casey Higgins trains his horse not to rear when a cow pulls back on the rope.
Rowdy Moving Cattle between Pastures, 71 Ranch, Deeth, Nevada 2012
Tom and Donnie Cattle Roping, Burson Cattle Company, Silverton, Texas 2012
Tommy Trying to Shoot Coyotes, Big Springs Ranch, Oasis, Nevada 2012
The Big Springs Ranch was named for a spring that supplies water to the city of Wendover, 30 miles away. The 350,000-acre ranch is now owned by Newmont Mining Corporation, which just announced the discovery of a multimillion-ounce high-grade gold deposit there. Surrounded by desert, Wendover will have to find new water.
Dakota, Michael, and Jesse, Bronc Riders, Eureka County Fair, Eureka, Nevada 2012
Dakota and Jesse prepare to compete in the saddle bronc rodeo event. Each rider will attempt to stay on a bucking horse for eight seconds, holding on with one hand. Rodeo is the official state sport of South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. Events test and exhibit necessary cattle-ranching skills.
Rodeo Clown, Fremont County Fair, Riverton, Wyoming 2010
Adam Killing a Cow, Mortensen Family Farm, Afton, Wyoming 2010
Adam, Afton’s middle school science teacher, helps the Mortensen family kill and butcher a Hereford cow. The Mortensens own the last remaining ranch within Afton town limits. Their neighbors sold and developed the surrounding property during the housing boom of the past decade. To pay the mortgage on his ranch, Gary Mortensen works as a truck driver for Halliburton in the oil fields of North Dakota.
Stacy before Church, Diamond Valley, Nevada 2012
Driveway, 71 Ranch, Deeth, Nevada 2012
Mikaela and Annie, Baptist Camp Meeting, Clark, Wyoming 2010
Don Flood Irrigating Alfalfa, Diamond Valley, Nevada 2012
"I settled here in the 1960s. Everybody down in Eureka said, 'You can’t farm there. That’s an alkali flat and it’s way too cold.' Well, they were right about a lot of it. But I was too broke to leave for the first 20 years, and after that, it was too late." –Don
Baling Hay, Diamond Valley, Nevada 2012
Loan Office, Happy State Bank, Silverton, Texas 2012
"It's very expensive to put a crop in. You have to prepare the ground, and you've got seeds, fertilizer, herbicide, diesel for your tractors, and wages for any hands you've hired. Probably 90% of the farmers around here have some kind of loan with us. With the drought, some farmers haven't harvested a crop for three years. Eventually, they'll run out of water for irrigation. Running out of farmers is our biggest fear."–Kyle
Kyle Fuston is the branch President of Happy State Bank, the only bank in Silverton, Texas.
Broken Vault, Happy State Bank, Silverton, Texas 2019
Briscoe County Jail Cell, Silverton, Texas 2012
Jaime, Ranch Hand, Wells, Nevada 2012
Many working cowboys and sheepherders are guest laborers from Chile, Mexico, Bolivia, or Peru. If there is a shortage of domestic labor, the H-2A visa allows agricultural employers to bring foreign workers. Ranch hands spend long stretches of the season herding livestock in remote regions without electricity or running water, rarely seeing a town or paved road.
Future Site of Long Canyon Gold Mine, Big Springs Ranch, Oasis, Nevada 2012
Thomas and Kimberly Swimming, Jeffrey City, Wyoming 2010
In the 1960s, Jeffrey City was a mining boomtown with over 5,000 residents. The uranium market collapsed a decade later and Western Nuclear Corporation shut down the last mine in 1982. Most residents moved away, many trucking their houses with them.
Amanda after a Birthday Party, Jackson, Wyoming 2010
Ela and Bly, Wind River Reservation, Ethete, Wyoming 2010
Wind River Reservation spans 2.2 million acres and is home to both Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.
Bob and Ron, Wind River Reservation, Saint Stephens, Wyoming 2010
Bob is a bobcat that Ron found on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Ron runs a bison ranch on the grounds of the Saint Stephens Indian Mission within the reservation.
Guarding Sheep, Bitter Creek, Wyoming 2010
There are currently 5 million head of sheep in the country, compared to 51 million sheep in the 1880's. Ranchers still trail sheep through remote rangelands. Their sheepdogs have distinguished roles as either guardians or herders. Here, the white dog, a Maremma, has been bred to guard the sheep from predators. The black dog, an Australian Cattle Dog, has been bred to manage the herd. Mating between the breeds is strictly forbidden.
Soccer Practice, Star Valley Braves, Afton, Wyoming 2010
Moving Cattle to Spring Pasture, Boulder, Wyoming 2011
With an annual snowfall of approximately 80 inches and temperatures that drop as low as -49 degrees Fahrenheit, county roads are often the only plowed area on which cattle can travel between pastures.
Newborn Calf, Siems Ranch, Merna, Wyoming 2013
Ron, Town Historian, Auburn, Wyoming 2010
Ron, the official historian of Auburn, Wyoming, is a regular visitor to the town’s hot springs. His friend Kyle Erickson purchased the springs in 2003. “I have seen these waters heal mind, body, and spirit,” Kyle says.
Herman Getting Water for Cattle, Siems Ranch, Merna, Wyoming 2010
Cow Entrails, Siems Ranch, Merna, Wyoming 2010
The Siems Ranch is among the last off-grid family ranches in rural Wyoming. After killing and butchering a cow for a friend, the family left the entrails on the snow for the dogs and coyotes.
Teton National Forest and Road Barrier, Jackson, Wyoming 2009
Grand Teton National Park and the nearby Yellowstone National Park contain Wilderness Areas. The federal government defines wilderness as "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." Most of the three million annual park visitors never enter the wilderness areas. The parks are surrounded by government lands that are leased for commercial timber harvesting, livestock grazing, mining, and other activities.
Jewett Elk Feedground, Merna, Wyoming 2010
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department currently manages 22 feedgrounds throughout the state, providing hay to an average of 20,500 wild elk each year. Ranchers want to keep elk out of their hay and pastures during the winter, fearing the wild animals will spread disease and destroy habitat for cattle grazing. Feeding the elk also keeps them from migrating through towns and causing property damage.
Herman and Erin's New House, Siems Ranch, Merna, Wyoming 2011
Dr. Perkes, Afton, Wyoming 2010
A century ago, 41% of physicians in the United States lived in small towns. Now, nearly one in ten rural counties have no primary physicians. Afton, Wyoming had Dr. Orson Dee Perkes, who, before his death, administered the births of over 2,000 people. The current population of Afton is 1,906.
House after Propane Gas Leak, Star Valley Ranch, Wyoming 2010
Alex Running Home from School, Afton, Wyoming 2009
Produced Water, Hamilton Dome Oil Field, Owl Creek, Wyoming 2013
In many of today's oil fields, companies extract 100 barrels of water from the ground to extract one barrel of oil. The Hamilton Dome Oil Field is located on the southwestern edge of Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin. The water it produces contains salts, oil droplets, treatment chemicals, gases, bacteria, and other living organisms. Produced water is typically trucked to a treatment facility for reuse or pumped into disposal wells deep underground. But, at Hamilton Dome Oil Field, the water is discharged into local river systems.
The TS Power Plant in Nevada is privately owned by the Newmont Mining Corporation, one of the largest gold mining companies in the world. The plant powers the nearby gold mines and sells excess electricity to the grid.
"I just celebrated my five-year anniversary with Newmont. I now make a little over $28 an hour. I never dreamed I would be driving a Haulpak truck. Now here I am, a woman miner! I really needed it, being a single mom. I was a beautician for 23 years with no benefits. Now I have them. Our trucks are Caterpillar 789C and 789D models. They carry 240 tons. I work 12 1/2 hour shifts, 7 to 7:30, rotating days and nights, 48 hours a week." –Alice
Once rock is loaded onto haul trucks, high-grade ore is brought to a series of grinding mills. The resulting slurry is run through a series of leaching tanks which contain a cyanide solution. The cyanide dissolves the precious metals. Gold is extracted, melted in a furnace, poured into doré bars, and shipped to Switzerland for refining. It is now profitable to mine gold if there is an ounce of gold dust in 20,000 pounds of rock. The large nuggets of gold that made the American West famous have been gone from Nevada for generations.
Open Pit, Newmont Mining Corporation, Carlin, Nevada 2013
"Once the gold is removed, it’s not just a matter of refilling the hole. We put in a good mix of rock and dirt with the same soil components that were moved. We contour it and shape it so it matches the look of the surrounding hills, then we cover it with growth media and seed it with native vegetation. And then, for many, many years, we’ll monitor it and make sure the vegetation stays whole." –Derek
Stanley, Carlin, Nevada 2012
New House, Evanston, Wyoming 2010
Naughton Power Plant, PacifiCorp, Kemmerer, Wyoming 2010
The Naughton Plant is located four miles from the town of Kemmerer, Wyoming. Here, combustion exhaust gas exits through a series of flues. Burning coal is the single greatest human contribution to the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Greg and Zane after Horn Hunting, Farson, Wyoming 2011
Recycling, Eden Saloon, Eden, Wyoming 2011
In lieu of a general store, Eden, Wyoming has a saloon. The town’s main meeting place, the Eden Saloon sits across from a one room, historic log cabin church. At the last census, the town had a population of 281. Most of the residents work on ranches or for the natural gas industry at the nearby Jonah Field. Local teenagers volunteer to take empty bottles to the recycling center in Rock Springs, 40 miles away.
Eden Saloon, Eden, Wyoming 2010
Charlie, Carlin, Nevada 2012
Nevada is the only state in the United States to legally allow prostitution. Charlie manages a brothel that he recently purchased from his mother. Just outside the town of Carlin, the brothel is situated off Interstate 80 near a number of gold mines operated by Newmont Mining Corporation and Barrick Gold Corporation. The brothel is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Hot Air Balloon Wedding Ceremony, Taos, New Mexico 2006
In Taos, New Mexico, couples can be married aboard a hot air balloon. With only a minister and a pilot, they float into the 600 foot deep Rio Grande Gorge, and often land at the nearby Great World Earthship Community, known for its futuristic, autonomous solar houses.
Gas Station Gravel, Eden, Wyoming 2009
Mia and Burgundy, Cokeville, Wyoming 2010
Wind Farm, Nolan, Texas 2006
Pavillion Natural Gas Field, Encana Corporation, Pavillion, Wyoming 2010
Roger Weightlifting, Jonah Natural Gas Field, Boulder, Wyoming 2010
Roger is a welder on the Pinedale Anticline and Jonah Field. A former bodybuilder and U.S. Army Special Forces soldier, he regularly lifts weights in the toolshed at work.
The presence of natural gas in the Jonah Field was known for years, but it was not deemed practical to extract with conventional drilling methods. In the 1970s, El Paso Natural Gas Company proposed a project called Wagon Wheel Nuclear Stimulation Project, which was an attempt to detonate nuclear devices to fracture the rock formations and enable natural-gas extraction. The project was abandoned. Today, fracking has made the area one of the most productive in the continental United States.
New Mining Road, Carlin, Nevada 2012
Mortensen Family Heirloom, Afton, Wyoming 2010
“This little town has nothing. It’s dying on the vine. But with the mine here, it’ll bring in jobs and make everything bigger and better. There are people who want that boost to the community. I’m not one of them. The mine will ruin this mountain, and you’ll never find land this beautiful anywhere else.” –Randy