Out West

Ranchland: Wagonhound

Cover image for Ranchlands: Wagonhound

Anouk Krantz’ new book on Art and Catherine Nicholas’ Wyoming ranch celebrates their stewardship and integrity.

“This is the one world, bound to itself and exultant.” – Annie Dillard

Wyoming has a population just under 600,000. To give that some perspective, about 400,000 cars travel the 405 freeway in California each day. You certainly won’t see that many folks in Anouk Krantz’ wondrous new book Ranchland: Wagonhound, but you will see some of the land Wyoming is famous for. Like her other books on the American West, Krantz delivers a true sense of not only the size and scope of Art and Catherine Nicholas’ Wagonhound Ranch, but also the deep sense of stewardship the Nicholas family and their crew bring to ranching everyday.

Photo of trailers at Wagonhound ranch taken by Anouk Krantz

A favorite comment about Wyoming is “There’s something to be said for a place that hasn’t had all the rough ridden off it,” and that can be said about this part – south of Douglas, Wyoming and north of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

“It was a true privilege to photograph the majestic beauty of Wagonhound,” Krantz says of her experience on the ranch. “Being there, away from the hustle and bustle of a fast-paced life at home in the east, I found myself far removed, standing before a vast expanse of ranchland that rises to the Laramie foothills, then ascends to the great Rocky Mountains, I simply fell in love with it. Art & Catherine were kind, trusting and quite delightful to work with.”

“I loved her passion for the West, the American Cowboy and her artistic style,” Art explains. “So, we decided to do a book together focused on the land and one operation, as she had already done two books on the lifestyle in general. Anouk visited many times in different seasons, and I think she did a fine job in capturing our little piece of the world and those that live here.”

Photo of a Wagonhound cowboy with two kids and a horse taken by Anouk Krantz
Photo of a woman and baby on the Wagonhound ranch taken by Anouk Krantz

To say Art is passionate about the family ranch is quite the understatement. His life growing up in a hard working, ranching family helped create and support that passion.

“My parents settled down together in Maxwell, Nebraska (population 300),” Art remembers. “My father managed the Pawnee Springs Ranch for 30 years. There, he and my mother worked endlessly to carve out a living while raising their children under the honorable and fundamental values of the cowboy’s work ethic:

You work hard and take pride in your work.

You rely on and contribute to your family, friends and neighbors.

You sacrifice for your country.

You are the steward of the land.

These values served as the bedrock for our family and small rural community, and from the very beginning, were forever branded into me as my guiding principles.”

Krantz’ Australian publisher, The Images Publishing Group, also published her two previous books, West: The American Cowboy and American Cowboys. The latter is No. 2 in Individual Photographer Monographs on Amazon, No. 3 in Photo Essays and No. 4 in Photography Collections & Exhibitions. In Ranchland: Wagonhound, we are treated to scenes in the lives of the hard working men and women who make the Wagonhound hum. We see them from the ground and from the air, with some spectacular helicopter shots that help give the viewer a sense of the remarkable lands and vistas that make up the ranch.

If there is a star within the more than 150 oversized and luxurious black and white pages, it is most certainly the land. It’s easy to see why Krantz fell in love with the place. One of the essays in the beginning of the book is by writer Gretel Erlich, who celebrated Wyoming and her experiences there in her best selling books, The Solace of Open Spaces (1985) and its follow-up, Unsolaced (2021). In her essay “Land,” Erlich helps give a unique sense of place:

“‘Wisdom sits in places,’ a Cibecue Apache elder declared. The cowboys who ride the hundreds of thousands of acres of Wagonhound know how learning every detail of the land can smooth the mind. From horseback, they study topographical detail, the names of plants and streams, soil type, weather patterns, shrubs and grasses. Here, they experience a different kind of time where there is no secondhand, only a constant unfolding of seasons, moon phases, constellations, and circadian rhythms. There is still so much we don’t know even as species extinctions are ongoing. If we manage anything at all, we must manage for abundance.”

Aerial view of the Wagonhound ranch taken by Anouk Krantz
Wagonhound ranch taken by Anouk Krantz

Don Reeves, the former McCasland Chair of Cowboy Culture at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, also contributed his thoughts about the ranch.

“People often struggle to find words that can adequately portray a Western lifestyle and its shared values that radiate from its enduring communities,” McCasland says. “Visitors to Wagonhound quickly appreciate the casual dignity, integrity and respect, as they are welcomed with, ‘Yes, ma’am,’ and, ‘Yes, sir.’ Life on the ranch is demanding and requires discipline and hard work from all. Each person is charged with specific responsibilities that are carried out to achieve the utmost care for the livestock, across all seasons and all hours. The best cowboys choose to work for ranches that are respected for the way they care for their land, their cattle and their horses.”

“When my husband Art introduced me to the ranching life over 30 years ago, I found myself transported to a world far different from what I had known in California,” Catherine says. “Ranchers are modest people who do not waste their breaths on trivial banter and exaggeration, but instead apply those breaths towards long days, tending to chores and achieving results. This is the essential fabric of life on a Western ranch. I never could have imagined I would find fulfillment and a rich life here, so far removed from the city. Yet, here I am, 30 years later, deeply committed and passionate about this way of life.”

Branding scene at Wagonhound ranch taken by Anouk Krantz

Ranching is a difficult undertaking under the best of circumstances, yet it is comforting to know, even if we civilians never get to see it or ride out into it, Wagonhound is there and being cared for. As Erlich wrote, “Earth’s metabolism is orchestral. It pumps and bangs, fibrillating, harmonizing, breaking into silence. We are dug in deep on any piece of land, as if it were liquid, and we could stride through its aqueous body.”

Photography by and courtesy of Anouk Krantz and The Images Publishing Group Pty Ltd.

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