Saturday, April 27, 2024

Full Moon over Taos

Am back in northern New Mexico for a week. Of course I had to make a trip into Rancho de Taos to photograph the St Francis de Asis Mission once again. 
This Mission is my favorite go-to place for Southwest photography.

 This time it was to capture images of the Passover Moon above the Mission. 
Here are a couple of the results of that trip.

Starting off with,
on the west side of the Plaza is the Plaza Cafe.
 It has been here serving New Mexican family recipes for many generations. 
It is a very popular local family-owned and operated restaurant.

The clouds were quickly moving across the sky...
Sometimes, almost totally blocking the moonlight and other times opening up for a bright moon.
Had to play with the light and camera settings to capture an acceptable image.

As the moon was slowly setting in the west,  
the sun had awakened the dark sky, burning off the clouds.

This photo is a homage to two of Ansel Adam's NM photos:
one, the St Francis Mission, and the other, his famous "Moon Over Hernandez, NM".

Maybe I should call this "Ansel's Moon".

After being here since 4:30 A.M., I was ready to find some coffee and a bite to eat. 
The Plaza Cafe would not open until 11 A.M., but it is only a short ten-minute drive to downtown Taos 
and its popular Michael's Bakery. Their fresh-ground coffee and cinnamon bread French Toast with strawberries and whipped cream was a delicious, tummy-warming treat.

Through an east-facing window, the bright Taos sun shown in,
illuminating the lady at the table next to me.

It immediately reminded me of that southwest style of painting that many Taos artists apply in their oils.
Artists have been coming to the Southwest and Taos in particular since 1920, 
in search of that special Taos light.

I was delighted to be able to capture this image without disturbing her thoughts.

In a few days, I will head back down to the Houston area. 

Ride safe my friends

Sunday, April 21, 2024

First Responders Rodeo and Wild Game Cook-Off

The First Responders Association of Law Enforcement, Firemen, and EMS held its 15th annual fundraiser last weekend at the Waller County Fairgrounds near Hempstead, Texas.

Several members from our Northwest Houston Photography Club were asked to take photos of the events.

Following are my photos and impressions from the evening's activities.


Rodeo etiquette, leave your work shoes at the front gate,
put on your cowboy boots.

and your Stetson.

You can't have a rodeo without horses, lots of horses.
That is one well-worn saddle for the lead pickup man.
 Note: pickup men have nothing to do with trucks or single bars.

...and that is one tall drink of water.

He is the lead pickup man.
More about them later.

Before the rodeo starts, there are many volunteers busily working
 behind the scenes, preparing for the cook-off.

These ladies are shucking shrimp for gumbo.

For the Ponderosa Firemen, he is busy slicing sausage links and onions.

The hands and knives are faster than the camera...

Small samplers of pork ribs were slow-smoked to perfection.

... the yellow mustard brightens up the hot links on flour tortillas.
That is some good eat'n right there.

Of course, the mounted Sheriff Deputies are here to maintain order.

And no rodeo can be complete without a clown or two...

Participants are starting to line up for the mutton-busting event.


That event pertains to putting a 3 - 7 year-old child on top of a full-grown ewe, 
who doesn't like having anything on its back?

The sheep are led into a chute where the child is placed on its back and told to grip tight and hang on. When the gate opens, the sheep takes off running, trying to unseat whatever is on it. The youngster who hangs on with style, for six seconds or more is named Event Rodeo Champion, winning the traditional silver belt buckle in recognition.

Anxiously waiting for the event to start, are the toddlers and youngsters wanting to see 
if they have the right stuff to be a rodeo champion.

Interestingly, New Zealand has banned this event, 
not to protect the children but for concern that it stresses the sheep.

Here in Texas, there is no shortage of families registering their children to participate. 
They had to limit it to 40 mutton busters.

The youngest rider will be in for a surprise when he sees what he is going to ride. 
Sheep look small until you have to sit one and hang on for what will seem like a very long six seconds.
Riders cannot weight more than 50 lbs, 30-40 is more the norm.

Fitted with a helmet and a protective vest,  the first Bust'r is out of the chute.
Ride'em, cowboy!

Launch time, Pop told me to keep my head down and hang on tight.

Grip tighter son...

Well, this won't go far...

Hug it like it's your favorite teddy bear.
Loves her pink boots!

Mommy, why did you talk me into doing this...

Oh oh, this ewe is going sideways... fast.

I don't want to see where we're going.

Like a rocket sled on ice.. faster, faster, faster

Those that survived, (all forty did) line up to receive their trophy.

Some were ready to go again... but the sheep are now exhausted

And who will be the winner?  

... trophy time. Every rider gets a trophy... and a memory.

Save this sad little girl looking for her boots..

Oops, I was wrong. 

She was called up to receive the Rodeo Champion belt buckle 
for hanging on for the full six seconds and doing it with style.

She's a very happy Champion Mutton Bust'r.
(She did have her boots on when she rode).

Proud Mama shares her joy.


Everyone is then asked to leave the arena as they prepare for the next event, 
Bronco Busting.

No mutton here; it's time for the big boys to show their rodeo skills.

And it's on, the first bronco exits the chute...

Seems simple, right?  Just hang on till the eight-second buzzer sounds. 

Well, there's a little bit more to it than that. The cowboy has to ride for the full eight seconds with one hand on the rein and not touch any part of the horse or themselves with their free hand. They must also keep both feet in the stirrups and have their spurs touching the point of the shoulder when the horse's feet touch the ground on the first jump.

Once the rider is either thrown or slides off the horse, the pickup riders spring into action. Broncos will continue racing wildly around the arena without a rider, until the cinch is loosened. 
The pickup rider's job is to keep the animal from hurting itself while reaching over and loosening the cinch. Then guiding it toward the exit gate without hurting himself or his mount.

Only a well-trained pickup horse will get near a wildly kicking, scared bronco.

Cowboy rides with focus and concentration...
first in color.

Then in Black & White..

The pickup cowboys have to work fast to contain and calm the now riderless bronco.
Broncos are untrained or partially trained horses. They are not accustomed to having riders on them.

Jumping out of the chute springs the next unhappy bronco.

After eight seconds, the rider is to dismount with the help of the pickup man. 
That's how they got their name, pickup men.

However, sometimes, the leather strap the rider uses to tightly tie their hand to the saddle does not loosen. Riders cannot dismount until it loosens. If they fell off, the horse would drag them wildly around the arena. The pickup cowboy's most dangerous job is to help the rider safely dismount by jerking him off of a racing bronco.

This pickup man and one scared rider raced around the arena several times before the strap was loosened enough so the rider could be safely pulled off. It was a tense and dangerous moment for the riders and the animals.

Pickup men are the most talented, experienced cowboys you will ever see in a rodeo. 
Like firemen, their job is to save lives.

With the cowboy out of danger,  it is now time to contain and calm the excited bronco.

After the Bronco Busting, the real cowboys take a break to rest,
 before the next event...


Bull Riding...
If you thought Bronco Busting was wild, 
bulls are even wilder and harder to ride.

Horses tend to buck up and down while racing around the arena.
Not the bulls...

Bulls will wildly twist, spin, up, down, and around, 
often only a few yards out of the chute. They would think nothing of slamming a cowboy 
into the steel railing.

There are no pickup men for Bull Riding. 
Bulls can outweigh a horse and can quickly injure it
 even if the bull's horn tips are removed.

So they have rodeo clowns... 

The clowns help entertain the crowds during any lull in the action inside the arena.
More important is their role in distracting the bull once a rider is thrown.  
Bulls have been known to stomp on, even gore a cowboy when they are on the ground. 

The clowns might look like they are a bit overweight when in reality, 
they wear heavy padding under their costume to protect themselves from angry bulls.

More often than not, most bull riders do not stay on for the full eight seconds.
They fly off to a hard landing... eating dirt. 

Bull - 1, Cowboy - 0.

Touching the bull or themselves with their free hand or failing to reach the eight-second mark results in a zero score. American bullriding has been called the most dangerous eight seconds in sports. 

That was an exciting evening to be up close amongst all the action. 
Has been twenty years since I last photographed a rodeo. 

This was a fantastic adrenaline-packed evening in Hempstead, Texas 
with the cowboys, cowgirls, First Responders, and all the rodeo heroes.
Everyone here helped to raise funds to benefit those 
who put their lives on the line for us.

 Hope you enjoyed seeing a few of the images captured that night 
and reading the story behind the events.

Ride safe and far...


Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Texas Sidecar Open House

In March, the Texas Sidecar Company hosted its annual open house in Donie, TX. I took advantage of the nice weather to visit with Kent Silk, the owner, and his growing crew. 

One of his satisfied customers arrived with her happy daughter.  
Mom looks pretty pleased with her hack.

Before the workshop was overflowing with visitors, clients, and potential clients,
I was able to capture several images of sidecar rigs in production.

A KTM 690 Adventure rig with an adventure sidecar. 
This is a new sidecar model for TSC.
The sidecar "monkey" does more standing than sitting on this type of sidecar.

This is not your typical blue sidecar rig.
 It is a one-of-a-kind, custom build for a client 
who wanted a sidecar for his Janus 450 motorcycle.
Kent mentioned that this beautiful rig was almost ready for delivery to the client, but 
they were waiting for one more black powder-coated wheel for the sidecar. 
When you build a rig of this caliber, you can't give the customer mismatched wheels. 

This is a beautiful attention-getting town rig. Has that antique vibe. 
Due to dim indoor lighting and strong sun light. you can't tell but the blue and gold of the tub perfectly match the colors on the bike.

A black and silver Harley rig is complete, awaiting the client to come ride it home.
Kent and his crew are sticklers for details and quality work. 

This Indian rig is also complete, waiting for its out-of-state owner to ride it out the front door.

Texas Sidecar does not have an inventory of rigs ready for sale. Everything here is a customer's bike. Either being fitted with a sidecar or having work done on their rigs.

I understood that their backlog of work is currently at six months. If you want a sidecar built 
for riding this summer, you are out of luck. Better order now for summer riding next year.

By ten a.m., visitors started rolling in from all over the State of Texas. 
The weather is beautiful, a free lunch and friendly sidecarists are on hand. 
What more could you ask for?

Rigs were lining up as they arrived. Soon the parking area would be full.
It might be March, but the Spring riding season has already arrived in central Texas.

Of course, as found at any sidecar gathering, there is walking around admiring the different rigs, asking questions, greeting old friends, and thinking about what your next rig might look like. 
So many ideas, so many possibilities, so many questions. 

Anyone who has been around sidecars very long realizes there is no standard look or brand of motorcycle involved. There is no production line that pops out sidecars like a cookie-cutter.
Every sidecar is unique. Unique set up for every owner.  Unique for different purposes.

From the dirt-bashing KTM adventure rig shown above to the smooth Harley highway cruiser 
to the antique-looking Janus town rig. All unique to satisfy the owner's intended use.

Even if it is just to make a child smile.
Memories are made of this.

Well done Kent, Ana, and crew.
The Texas Sidecar business is growing and thriving in Donie, Texas.

Ride safe and long Y'all