Road Stories

Real Western Faces

Sculptor Bill Nebeker of Prescott, Arizona, and his retired roping horse, Bugs.

 The images that tell the story behind the story are sometimes worth sharing.

Sculptor Bill Nebeker of Prescott, Arizona, and his retired roping horse, Bugs.Sculptor Bill Nebeker of Prescott, Arizona, and his retired roping horse, Bugs.

Under red cliffs and big skies, in pastures dotted with greenthread (Navajo tea plant), or in the shade of a wood barn: That’s where you hunt up the Western Horseman stories of people and horses.

But beyond gathers or roundpen work, it’s the unexpected scenes along the way that become my favorite images, and that tend to fill my personal journal.

Like the look on sculptor and cowboy artist Bill Nebeker’s face when he talks about his 34-year-old retired rope horse, Bugs. Long after hundreds of team ropings and brandings, Bugs carefully packed around Bill’s ailing and aging father before the elder Nebeker passed away. It makes Bill proud of both his horse’s heart and his father’s determination.

Mark and Kathryn Marley ranch outside of Roswell, New Mexico.Mark and Kathryn Marley ranch outside of Roswell, New Mexico.

Or the behind-the-scenes laughter of a ranching family that genuinely enjoys each other’s company. Kathryn was a city girl who fell in love with Mark Marley and found herself learning how to raise a strong family in the rough country west of Roswell, New Mexico. She sure did it.

 Or capturing ranch hand Sheila Carlson’s elusive grin. In the moonlight with her dog and a gun, she’s tough on people who are not mindful of her stock, yet tender with her first-year heifers grazing the rocky pastures in northern Arizona. She actually smiles a lot, but rarely for the camera. 

Sheila Carlson is saddled up at her cow camp in northern Arizona.Sheila Carlson is saddled up at her cow camp in northern Arizona.

And Nancy Winn simply handing husband Jerry a cold bottle of water. He, alongside their sons and sons-in-law, just spent a tough half-hour getting a fresh herd across an active railroad crossing on the Winns’ ranch. It’s a hand-off that points to two lives lived with the other in mind.

Jerry and Nancy Winn ranch south of Navajo, Arizona.Jerry and Nancy Winn ranch in northern Arizona.

These images show the heart behind Western horsemen and horsewomen everywhere, don’t you think?

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