The Texas Outback
Ranching on the Last Frontier
Texana - Photography
11.5 x 9, 192 pp.
82 dualtone photos., Map.
Pub Date: 09/01/2005
Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Texas Photography Series
Price:        $50.00


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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The Texas Outback

Ranching on the Last Frontier

Photography by June Redford Van Cleef
Text by Bill Wright
Foreword by Elmer Kelton

Surrounded by the spectacular setting of the Big Bend’s rugged mountains, deep canyons, and arid pasturelands, a hardy group of settlers and their descendants have forged a livelihood and a way of life. Through vivid images and interviews with these men and women at home and at work, June Redford Van Cleef and Bill Wright offer a glimpse into this remnant of Texas’ corner of the Old West.

Stories handed down from grandparents and great-grandparents tell of roping bears and mountain lions as well as cattle and goats, of drought years and gully washers, of homes across the Mexican border and homes built from the earth itself, of suffering and triumph, family bonds and loneliness. How they came to this remote area, why they stayed, what they hope for—these are the human elements in a region better known for its natural elements.

In dramatic photographs, the leathery, lined faces of men and women who have spent a lifetime working cattle in the desert sun offer visual contrast to the sheer rock cliffs and barbed wire fences behind them. Light and shadow, earth and sky play through the vistas where little else is play. Sheriffs, homemakers, herders, store owners, and cattle ropers people the spaces. Features familiar to Big Bend aficionados and remote areas usually seen only by those who live there provide memorable scenes where the heat and even the silences almost emanate from the page.

The old ranches of the region are breaking up; new landowners have come for different reasons and will put the land to different uses. But before the culture of rugged individualism and stoic stewardship of the land disappears completely, Wright and Van Cleef have captured it, as a record of and tribute to those who dared its challenges.

June Redford Van Cleef founded the photography department at Collin County Community College, where she is a professor. She also maintains her own photography business and is represented by Afterimage Photograph Gallery in Dallas. Her earlier book, The Way Home: Photographs from the Heart of Texas, was published by Texas A&M University in 1992. She was born in the Big Bend and grew up on the ranches her father managed there.Bill Wright, a well-known photographer and businessman, is a member of the Texas Committee on the Arts. Several collections of his photographs have been published and acclaimed.

What Readers Are Saying:

“What a delight! These oral narratives not only focus on the range cattle industry, but reveal the character and personalities of the individuals who are perpetuating the industry. . . unique in its singular focus, depth, breadth, and perception, [this volume] has genuine historical merit.”--Kenneth B. Ragsdale, author, The Year America Discovered Texas: Centennial '36 and Big Bend Country: Land of the Unexpected

“If you cannot walk the raw Texas earth and hear the plain talk of the people who live upon it, then it is best to see it through the eyes and hearts of those who do. June Van Cleef’s photographs possess that remarkable clarity to not only show us this place and its people but also – as Paul Strand once admonished – to make us all ‘care about them by revealing the core of their humanity.’ You couple that with Bill Wright’s brisk and distinct narrative and you have much more than just a volume of arts and letters. You have a testament that carries us beyond the living history of the state and on into the borderlands of the eternal.” --Roy L. Flukinger, Research Curator of Photography, Harry Ransom Humanities Re

“Features Van Cleef’s dramatic images of the area’s inhabitants as well as their captivating narratives.” --Southwest Art

“A delightful book full of beautiful pictures of breath taking country and honest hard-working people…if you like travel and learning more about the great Lone Star state, get a copy, you’ll be glad you did.” --Mexia Daily News

“Photographer June Redford Van Cleef and writer Bill Wright do a superb job of taking us into the beautiful, rugged and hard-to-reach world of the Big Bend.” --Bryan-College Station Eagle


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