Portraits: Texas Ranchers Remember An Epic Drought | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Portraits: Texas Ranchers Remember An Epic Drought

"Between 1950 and 1960," according to NPR's John Burnett, Texas "lost nearly 100,000 farms and ranches," and rural residents who had made up more than a third of the population dwindled to just a quarter of the population.

They had all moved to towns and cities after an epic, seven-year drought. For a recent story in Texas Monthly, Burnett teamed up with photographer Michael O'Brien to gather an oral history of that drought — asking ranchers what they remember.

In Burnett's radio story, you can listen to the voices of ranchers like Nancy Nunns, who recalls receiving a raincoat in 1951, and outgrowing it without ever once wearing it.

And in O'Brien's photos, the voices spring to life.

"I traveled 900 miles in 4 days and photographed 8 ranchers for the story," writes O'Brien by email. "The farther west we traveled the harsher the land, which was echoed in the faces of the ranchers."

His photographs were mostly made with a 4x5 view camera; some were shot with leftover Polaroid film from Hard Ground, his book about homelessness. Those large negatives have a way of capturing detailed landscapes — like the contours of a face that has weathered the elements.

"The most touching moment came at the end of a long, hot outdoor shoot when Bill Schneemann, 77, a rancher in Big Lake, helped ... carry heavy lighting equipment back to the car," writes O'Brien. "Bill was worn out and used a cane to get around, but he picked up 30-pound sandbags and hauled them quite a distance. A tough rancher with a gentle heart."

Hear the ranchers tell their stories in the radio story.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

From Bond Girl To Medicine Woman: Jane Seymour's Big Break

The actress is best known for her role as Dr. Quinn, the physician on the American frontier. But her big break came years before, when she played 007's tarot-reading love interest in Live and Let Die.
NPR

'Into The Wild' Author Tries Science To Solve Toxic Seed Mystery

Jon Krakauer has long been haunted by how Christopher McCandless died in the Alaskan wilderness. In a scientific journal, he and a chemist show that the seeds McCandless consumed can contain a toxin.
NPR

5 Things You Should Know About Ben Carson

The pediatric neurosurgeon, who entered the presidential race Sunday night, performed pioneering operations on conjoined twins and hasn't held public office before. Here's what you might not know.
NPR

The Promise And Potential Pitfalls Of Apple's ResearchKit

Apple's new mobile software platform is designed to help collect data for medical research, but concerns have been raised about privacy and informed consent.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.