I'm really excited to share some photos and observations from my recent trip to the Kokernot o6 Ranch located between the cities of Alpine and Ft. Davis, Texas. At over 150,000 acres, the o6 is one of Texas' biggest ranches, stretching from near Alpine all the way to Interstate 10 near Balmorhea! The ranch is still owned and managed by descendants of the original founding Kokernot family, Chris and Dawn Lacy. What makes a trip to the Kokernot during spring branding season so memorable is the fact that they still use the same techniques and methods perfected by their Old West ancestors. At a time when many large-scale cattle operations are using helicopters to herd their cows, cowboys on horseback still span out onto the open range to gather the herd for branding calves on the Kokernot o6 Ranch.
I'm going to break up this story into three parts for my blog since there's so much to cover: Part One is the organizing and preparation stage that starts at the base camp before dawn. Part Two will show herding of the cows to the branding location, and the cowboys "working the herd" before the final group of cows and calves are brought into the branding pens, and Part Three will be all about the branding process.
The only way to preserve the traditions of our old west forefathers is to mentor and train the future generation of cowboys. These two young boys are sons of cowboys who work on the ranch. I was amazed at how skilled they already are at such a young age, and they even held their own in the branding pen. Another very impressive thing to me besides their skill levels, was how extraordinarily polite and well-mannered they were! These kids are being brought up right by some dedicated and proud fathers.
ROUNDING UP THE HORSES
My photography group and I were on the ranch for four full days, and during that time the base camp had to be moved to a different area. We started the first three days working out of Camp Nine, and then we moved to Camp Five for the final day. These shots show the remuda being moved between camps.
EACH COWBOY SELECTS HIS OWN MOUNT AND MAKES SURE THE HORSE IS READY FOR ACTION
ALL COWBOYS (& COWGIRL) LEAVE BASE CAMP TO HERD THE COWS & CALVES TO THE BRANDING PEN
Once all of the horses are saddled up and made ready for the day's work, it's time to head out to find the cattle. According to a plan set up that morning, each man is given an area to start, and they all slowly gather up the cows and calves and herd them toward the branding area.
This adventure on the Kokernot o6 Ranch was made possible by Vicki LeBlanc out the Houston area. She operates a tour two times a year (Spring & Fall) to the Kokernot which she calls "Shooting West Texas." This spring marked her eighth year putting on the workshop/photo tour, and she does a great job organizing and making your photographing time the best it can possibly be. This was my second time attending, and it was even better than the first. She limits the group size to ten, so you never have a problem getting in other people's way. To learn more, click on the link below.