Scott Slusher – The Cowboys’ Cowboy Photographer

Scott Slusher – The Cowboys’ Cowboy Photographer


Scott Slusher

Scott Slusher is an Oklahoma native and Texas-based photographer who is best known for his stunning images of cowboys and life on working ranches. After seeing Scott’s work, it is crystal clear that he has a deep understanding of the ranching lifestyle and has invested more than his share of time out in the heat and dust, on horseback or in the branding pen. Given his immersion in the tough, hard-nosed world of ranching, you may be surprised to learn that Scott was trained as a fashion photographer and still works with a variety of big-name companies on their fashion and clothing line spreads.

So what allows Scott to have success in two worlds as diametrically opposed as ranching and fashion? Well, as you’ll hear in this interview, Scott has a habit of pursuing his interests with a single-minded intensity and curiosity, unafraid of getting in over his head, venturing outside his comfort zone, or working harder than expected. Combine those traits with endless energy and a knack for making friends with everyone he meets, and you’ll understand how Scott has managed to work his way onto iconic ranches, riding alongside and photographing some of the best ranch hands in the business.

Scott’s enthusiasm and love of people really come through in our conversation, so I know you’ll enjoy it. We talk about his childhood in Oklahoma and how his father’s work as a veterinarian and horse breeder shaped his outlook. We chat about his time as a photography intern and how he chose to dive head first into no-fun chores (like mopping the floor), and how that optimistic, high-energy approach has paid off time and again throughout his career. We also discuss how he broke into photographing cowboys, and how his respectful approach has allowed him to be accepted by ranch hands throughout the West. We cover a ton, so check out the episode notes for a full list of topics and links.

If you don’t already, be sure to follow Scott on Instagram at @slusherphoto—if you love the West and the ranching lifestyle, I can guarantee you’ll love his work. Hope you enjoy this episode.

All images courtesy of Scott Slusher


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:
2:45 – How Scott describes his work
4:50 – Where Scott grew up
8:30 – Time working at a vet clinic
12:00 – Applying to art school in Dallas
14:00 – Finding focus in art school
18:00 – Work ethic during his first internship
22:30 – First time taking photos of cowboys
26:00 – Making folks feel comfortable during photo shoots
27:20 – How he broke into the cowboy culture
33:00 – Working at the Four 6s Ranch
36:15 – Importance of networking
40:00 – Close calls during ranch photography
44:45 – Close call during a rodeo
49:30 – Importance of social media in Scott’s career
1:04:00 – Important books
1:09:00 – Favorite films
1:14:00 – Words of advice to the listeners
1:15:00 – Connect with Scott online

Information Referenced

Duke Beardsley – Art in the Big, Bold American West

Duke Beardsley – Art in the Big, Bold American West


Duke Beardsley

Duke Beardsley was well on his way to a career in medicine, when, just before med school, he took a hard turn onto a new path when he decided to pursue art as a full-time vocation. Since then, he has become one of the West’s most revered artists, producing paintings of cowboys, anglers, and the Western way of life in a style that is uniquely his own. His work is big, bold, and completely original, and it continues to grow and evolve in ways that surprise even Duke himself.

Thanks to a childhood spent between Denver and his family’s eastern Colorado ranch, Duke has been immersed in cowboy culture for as long as he can remember. He has been drawing non-stop since he could hold a crayon, and as a child (sometimes to the dismay of his parents) he demonstrated a proclivity for sketching western scenes on the walls of his family’s home. Duke is also a committed conservationist with a deep devotion to preserving the West’s landscapes and heritage. This eclectic mix of experiences and interests, combined with a formal art education, allows Duke to produce works that are ambitious, inspiring, and engaging.

I stopped by Duke’s Denver studio earlier this week, where we had a fun and wide-ranging conversation. We chat about his decision to change his career goal from medicine to art, and the value he gleaned from a formal art education.  He explains that life-long obsession with drawing on walls, and he tells some stories about how, as an adult, drawing on walls has led to surprising professional opportunities. We talk about his artistic process, his meditation practice, and how he managed his extroverted personality in the solitary world of creating art. He also discusses why land conservation is an issue that is so near and dear to his heart, and offers up some excellent book recommendations.

This was a lot of fun and I really appreciate Duke inviting me into his studio. Be sure to check the episode notes for links to everything we discuss, and check out Duke on Instagram, Facebook, and his website.

All images courtesy of Duke Beardsley


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

2:40 – How Duke describes his work
3:30 – Growing up between Denver and eastern Colorado
5:15 – Artistic energy in Duke’s family
6:30 – Duke’s early path toward medicine
8:30 – Transition to art school
9:40 – Biggest lesson learned from art school
12:20 – Focusing his art on horses and the West
14:20 – Life post-art school
15:30 – How Duke’s art is different now from 20 years ago
18:30 – Drawing on the wall
20:20 – Why Duke paints big pieces
21:31 – Story behind Duke’s line ups
24:45 – Getting in “the zone” while painting line ups
26:40 – Working on multiple pieces at once
27:50 – Working with galleries
29:00 – Process for commissioned paintings
31:45 – Extrovert or Introvert?
34:30 – Duke’s artistic process
38:00 – Duke’s meditation practice
41:00 – Drawing on the wall at Las Pampas Lodge
44:00 – Working with Fishpond
45:50 – Passion for land conservation
49:30 – Favorite books
52:34 – Favorite films
54:00 – Surprising activities
54:45 – Most powerful outdoor experience
57:00 – Favorite place in the West
58:40 – Best peice of advice ever recieved
59:45 – Duke’s request of the listeners
1:00:30 – Connect with Duke online

Information Referenced

Teal Blake – At work, outside the studio

If you love art and the American West, chances are you’re already a fan of Teal Blake. His paintings of bucking horses, working cowboys, and the Western ranching lifestyle are some of the most authentic and creative around. Teal’s art is authentically Western because he’s so authentically Western—he has worked on ranches for all of his life, has ridden rodeo on the professional level, and has been making art since before he can remember. These unique life experiences, combined with a deep-seated drive to create original and striking art, meld together to make him one of the most genuine and fresh faces in Western art today.

Teal grew up in Augusta, Montana, the son of two creative parents who allowed him to roam free—fishing, hunting, and exploring the wilderness out his backdoor. During high school, he discovered his talent for bull riding and rodeo, and he pursued that passion for years, eventually competing on the professional circuit. Throughout all of his various adventures and life stages, Teal was continuously sketching and painting, and after several impressive showings at western art shows, he decided to make a go of it as a professional artist. Since then he hasn’t looked back, and his stature in the Western art world continues to grow.

We had an in-depth conversation in which we discussed Teal’s upbringing in Montana and Idaho, and how his artistic parents influenced his life and work. We chatted about his experience at art school, which ended with him flunking out, yet being the only one from his class to actually make it as a professional artist. We discuss his background in ranching and rodeo, and his process of transitioning into life as a professional artist. We also talk about the important role that external validation can play in a solitary creative endeavor such as painting. As usual, we discuss favorite books, favorite films, and his favorite place in the American West. We cover a lot in this episode, so be sure to check out the episode notes for all the topics and links to everything we discuss.

Images courtesy of Teal Blake


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:45 – How Teal describes his work
3:33 – Process of becoming a professional artist
5:00 – Teal’s childhood in Montana
7:55 – Teal’s parents and their influence on him
9:35 – Early artistic influences
11:20 – Early artistic endeavors
12:00 – Move to Idaho and rodeo beginnings
14:55 – Decision to stop riding bulls
17:40 – Teal’s experience at college art school
21:30 – Transition from rodeo to full-time artist
24:00 – Teal’s first art show
28:00 – Teal’s daily routine and artistic phases
31:05 – Ranch work and its influence on Teal’s work
35:25 – Teal’s attraction to bucking animals — painting and riding them
38:20 – Biggest changes in Teal’s art over the past 10 years
40:33 – Challenge of creating new and original work
43:00 – Thoughts on the business of professional art
48:20 – Favorite books
52:10 – Importance of being humbled
53:10 – Raising kids in the internet age
56:50 – Favorite films
58:40 – Surprising hobbies
1:01:00 – Great advice Teal has received
1:02:15 – Favorite place in the West
1:05:50 – Teal’s advice to the listeners
1:07:45 – Connect with Teal online
1:08:10 – Chappin’!!

Information Referenced

Mike Reilly (Photo: Chris Douglas)

Mike Reilly is the Veterans Program Coordinator at Heroes and Horses, a Montana-based nonprofit that uses expedition-style horse pack trips through wild landscapes to help veterans overcome the challenges of life after the military. Prior to his work with Heroes and Horses, Mike was a Navy SEAL and served as a member of SEAL Team 1 in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. As he was transitioning out of the military, he heard about Heroes and Horses and signed on as a student. The program offered a perfect blend of service, teaching, helping others, and adventure that spoke to Mike’s strengths and interests; after completing the program, he was hired as a full-time member of the team.

Heroes and Horses is not a vacation. It’s a rigorous and hardcore three-phase process that takes veterans with no prior horseback experience and, in the course of a summer, turns them into expert horsemen and wilderness travelers. Through the hard work and focus required to make it through the program, veterans are able to forge lasting bonds and discover a renewed sense of purpose—which gives them the skills and confidence to thrive in the civilian life as they begin their post-military lives. Amazingly, this program is offered at no cost to veterans.

Mike hard at work (Photo: Chris Douglas)

Mike was nice enough to take a break from a morning of training wild mustangs to chat with me about the program and his personal story. We discussed how he initially connected with Heroes and Horses and how it helped him through some of the challenges of post-deployment life. Mike explained the organization’s upcoming 500 Miles Project, in which they are training horses from the BLM’s Wild Mustang Program and planning to take them on a 500-mile ride later this summer. He also talks about his military career, and how a collegiate baseball injury was the catalyst that led him to pursue his dream of becoming a SEAL.

Mike is a humble guy with a deeply ingrained passion for serving and helping others, so I know you’ll enjoy this episode. I encourage you to check out the Heroes and Horses website, visit their GoFundMe page, and consider supporting their important work.

 

Photos courtesy of Chris Douglas


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

3:20 – How Mike describes his work
4:00- Heroes and Horses explained
7:45 – Importance of the bond between the veterans and horses
9:10 – Why H&H so effective compared to “traditional” PTSD therapy
11:15 – The circumstances that led Mike to H&H
13:30 – Why Mike chose H&H over traditional channels of help
15:25 – Mike reaches out to H&H founder and E.D. Micah Fink
16:00 – Personal powerful moment during Mike’s student stint at H&H
18:30 – Mike’s attraction to the military
20:00 – From enlisting to trying out for the SEAL teams
22:40 – Why teaching suits Mike’s personality
24:00 – Personal mentors and heroes
25:00 – Importance of purpose and community
27:55 – Ensuring that H&H lessons stick when the students return to “real life”
31:00 – Success stories from H&H
32:35 – Val from Unbranded
33:55 – The 500 Miles Project
36:30 – The BLM’s Wild Mustang Program
39:35 – Training wild horses
42:25 – How Mike defines the word “conservation”
45:40 – Favorite books
46:55 – Favorite movies
49:10 – Favorite place in the West
50:50 – Mike’s request of the listeners

JeffAnnJeff Lee is the co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Land Library, a residential library located on a historic ranch in one of Colorado’s most beautiful and dramatic high country grassland basins. The Buffalo Peaks Ranch, as it is known, will eventually house a collection of over 35,000 books related to natural history, conservation, and the American West. These books will be dispersed throughout ranch in houses and agricultural structures that have been preserved and restored by a growing team of enthusiastic volunteers. The ranch will become a place where individuals can immerse themselves in a natural setting, surrounded by books, for days at a time to read, write, and work on projects related to the West’s unique landscapes.

The idea for the Land Library came to Jeff and his wife Ann (the library’s other co-founder) when they visited a residential library in Europe during the mid-1990s. Given their deep love of books and land, Jeff and Ann immediately saw the potential for a similar concept in Colorado that centered around the history and landscapes of the American West. More than 20 years and tens of thousands of books later, their vision has become a reality—the Rocky Mountain Land Library is open for business and continuing to grow and evolve.

For anyone who has listened to this podcast, you know that the Land Library is my dream come true—it combines ranches, conservation, nature, and books—so I was obviously extremely excited to chat with Jeff. In a little over an hour, we covered a ton of interesting information, including the project’s backstory, the history of the ranch, and Jeff and Ann’s long term vision for the Land Library. Of course, we discuss books, and Jeff has many excellent recommendations that were brand new to me. It’s worth noting that the Land Library is in the midst of the a fundraising campaign, so I encourage you to visit their KickStarter page, watch the video, and donate to the cause… I just did, so you definitely should too! Links to everything are in the episode notes.

If you love the West, love books, and love the land, I can guarantee you will love the Land Library and this episode. Enjoy!

Photos courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Land Library


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:40 – How Jeff describes his work
3:45 – Back story on the Land Library
4:40 – Jeff’s introduction to the West
7:00 – Lake Powell, water, and differences between the East and West
7:55 – The early beginnings of Jeff’s book collection
10:55 – The initial idea for the Land Library
13:50 – Challenges of storing tens of thousands of books
17:00 – South Park, Colorado described
19:30 – Early search for a Land Library site
23:45 – Unique experience on a ranch versus pristine wilderness
25:45 – Current state of the Land Library
28:10 – Cook’s House restoration – Kickstarter Campaign
29:40 – History of Buffalo Peaks Ranch
34:10 – How Jeff defines “conservation”
35:30 – Interesting people and groups who have visited and volunteered at the ranch
40:00 – How Jeff and Ann were able to take the Land Library from an idea to reality
42:20 – Jeff’s recommended books about the West
44:45 – Recommended biographies
51:00 – The interconnectedness of historical figures
52:25 – Purchase these books at your LOCAL bookstore!!!
53:20 – Books that Jeff has gifted or recommended
57:40 – Jeff’s most powerful outdoor experience
1:00:10 – Favorite location in the West
1:03:30 – Jeff’s request of the listeners
1:04:40 – Connect with the Land Library online

* Please buy these books at your local bookseller!!!

 

speaking-to-colorado-rocky-mountain-school-high-school-students-about-river-restoration

Connor Coleman

Connor Coleman is the founder of Resiliency Lands, a progressive, conservation-minded land management and advisory group committed to promoting ecological and resource resiliency. Prior to starting Resiliency Lands, he held a variety of positions closely connected to the land, jobs that would be on the wish-list of anyone who loves adventure and the American West—wildland firefighter, cowboy, bison manager, and conservationist, just to name a few.  Connor is currently based in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, and he resides on a spectacular ranch just outside of Carbondale.

You may be surprised to learn that Connor was not born and raised in the West or on ranches.  On the contrary, he grew up in Ohio, went to college in North Carolina, and after paying his dues in east coast conservation and earning two master’s degrees from Duke University, he headed West to focus his energy on western landscapes. Thanks to an insatiable curiosity, a rock-solid work ethic, a service mindset, and a willingness to insert himself into new and uncomfortable situations, Connor has carved out a professional niche for himself in Colorado doing rewarding, exciting, and important work.

lighting-a-prescribed-fire-in-nc-on-right

Connor during his firefighter days.

Connor’s education and unconventional career path can serve as a great blueprint for anyone who loves the American West and wants a life centered around land, conservation, and natural resources. When I was in my early twenties, I would’ve loved to meet a guy like Connor who could point me in the right direction. So in this episode, we talk in depth about his career and his ability to “put himself out there” to create exciting professional opportunities.  We dig deep into his thoughts on conservation in the West, as well as issues related to forest fires throughout the country.  Connor loves to read and learn, so he also has tons of great book and film recommendations.

connor-fly-fishing-grand-mesa

Connor enjoying evening fly fishing

We cover a ridiculous amount of information, so be sure to check out the episode notes below for the full list of topics we discuss. Enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Connor Coleman


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:32 – How Connor describes his work
3:55 – Importance of conserving working ranches
7:55 – Grazing as an vital part of conservation
13:40 – Examples of some of Resiliency Land’s projects
16:35 – Where did Connor grow up?
18:50 – Connor’s decision to make conservation a career
22:45 – Brief history of NC barbecue
25:00 – Early career in conservation
29:10 – Grad school at Duke
30:30 – Difference between conservation in NC versus CO
32:20 – How easterners misunderstand public lands in the west
33:30 – Time as a wildland firefighter
36:30 – Fire policy in the east versus west
40:00 – Longleaf pine book recommendations
41:15 – Adventures at Camp Lejeune
42:20 – Moving out west to work on ranches
45:40 – Challenges of adjusting to the demands of ranch work
48:30 – Working with bison on the Zapata Ranch
49:50 – Bison and bison book recommendations
55:20 – Transition to the Aspen Valley Land Trust
59:20 – Lesson learned working in conservation in different parts of country
1:01:20 – Thoughts on service and giving back to the community
1:06:15 – Favorite books about the American West
1:10:15 – Favorite films
1:12:50 – Surprising activities
1:14:35 – Craziest experience in the outdoors
1:18:45 – Favorite place in the West
1:20:20 – Biggest challenge facing the West
1:23:00 – Connor’s request of the listeners
1:25:15 – Connect with Connor online
1:25:55 – Bonus book recommendations!

Information Referenced

Connors Book Recommendations

Connor’s Film Recommendations

My 10 Favorite Books of 2016

My 10 Favorite Books of 2016


As you may know, I send out a brief bimonthly email in which I recommend some of the best books I’ve recently read. This year, I recommended 37 books, which is an admittedly ridiculous amount of reading. In an effort to distill it down to a more user-friendly level, here are my top ten favorite books that I read in 2016. The subject matters vary widely, but I wholeheartedly recommend them all.

I kept the descriptions as brief as possible, so click on the monthly list link to view the original email with my full review. To sign up for the future book recommendation emails, follow this link or just send me an email.


Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan – One of my favorite books of all time, and you don’t need to be a surfer to fully appreciate it. A true work of art. (Sep/Oct list)

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger – I think about this book on almost a daily basis, and I believe Junger’s ideas on community and purpose explain many of the societal challenges facing the U.S. today. (Jul/Aug list)

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport – This book reshaped the way I approach my professional and personal projects, and it made me even more skeptical of social media than I had been. (Mar/Apr list)

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight – The best business memoir I’ve ever read. (Nov/Dec list)

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari – Extremely interesting theories on the evolution of humans, and it actually pairs well with Tribe mentioned above. (Jan/Feb list)

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko – Part history of the American West and part western water policy primer, all layered on top of a wild, exciting adventure narrative. (May/Jun list)

The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt, A Lifetime of Exploration, and the Triumph of American Natural History by Darrin Lunde – I’ve read an absurd number of TR books, so my standards are high—this one not only explores a little known (but super-interesting) part of TR’s life, but it also details the rise of America’s natural history movement. (Jul/Aug list)

Being Nixon: A Man Divided by Evan Thomas – Richard Nixon was a strange, strange, strange man. (Jan/Feb list)

Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch by Dan O’Brien – Conservation, bison, ranching, regenerative agriculture, emotional memoir, and a natural history lesson all rolled into one book. (Nov/Dec list)

End of Plenty: The Race to Feed a Crowded World by Joel K Bourne Jr. – A cautionary examination of what lies ahead if the we can’t figure out a solution to the coming global food crisis, followed hopeful examples of innovators who are attacking the challenge head on. (Sep/Oct list)





Camrin Dengel – Slow Living in the American West

Camrin Dengel – Slow Living in the American West


Camrin Dengel is a professional lifestyle photographer who lives and works on the quiet side of the Teton Mountain Range in Teton Valley, Idaho. Her work focuses on a broad range of subjects, with an emphasis on sustainable agriculture, hunting, fishing, and life in and around her mountain community. In her work and leisure, Camrin is a devoted proponent of slow living, and she strives to approach her profession and life in a manner that is intentional, simple, meaningful, and positive.

horses

Photo: Camrin Dengel

Growing up in Valdez, Alaska gave Camrin a unique perspective and toughness (she calls it “stubbornness”) that have allowed her to pursue her passion for art full time, while staying true to her ideals and enjoying a slow-living lifestyle. She attended college on a running scholarship with the intention of becoming an engineer, but decided midway through that art and photography were her true calling. After graduation, she moved straight to Teton Valley where she has built a life and business centered around documenting the people and places that make the American West such a special place to live.

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Photo: Camrin Dengel

I’ve spent a lot of time in Teton Valley and can honestly say that Camrin’s work captures the landscapes and lifestyle more authentically than any artist I’ve ever seen. She is obviously a talented photographer, but she is also a super-interesting person who has managed to sidestep a good deal of the “busyness” and distractions that dominate many of our lives. In our conversation, we discuss her career trajectory, and also her love for the community of Teton Valley. We dig deep into the idea of slow living, and she offers some thoughts on ways for people to adopt a slower, more intentional lifestyle. As usual, we discuss favorite books, documentaries, and challenges and opportunities facing the American West.

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Photo: Camrin Dengel

This is a really fun episode full of lots of great info. Be sure to check out the episode notes for links to everything we discuss. Hope you enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Camrin Dengel


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:30 – How Camrin describes her work
3:50 – Good example of Camrin’s work
5:30 – Teton Valley explained
7:25 – How she ended up in Teton Valley
8:30 – Transition from adventure photography to lifestyle
9:50 – Thoughts on slow living
10:45 – Ways to live slowly as effortlessly as possible
13:25 – Being intentional with social media
14:20 – Advice for adopting a slower lifestyle
15:30 – Growing up in Alaska
16:35 – Unique aspects of growing up in Alaska
18:50 – How Alaska shaped Camrin’s perspective
20:05 – College years in California
21:15 – From engineer student to artist
23:15 – Time with the Alaska Marine Conservation Council
24:35 – Similarities between fisherman, ranchers, and farmers
27:10 – Camrin’s definition of conservation
28:00 – Thoughts on fishing and hunting
31:45 – How Camrin developed the confidence to follow her passion
33:15 – Role models and mentors
35:10 – Other possible career paths
36:45 – Advice to aspiring photographers
39:00 – Photography advice
40:30 – Book recomendations
41:20 – Slow living resources
42:45 – Favorite documentaries
44:20 – Surprising activities
48:00 – Favorite place
49:20 – Ideas for off the beaten path experiences in Alaska
51:00 – The insanity of the Mt. Marathon
55:15 – Biggest challenge facing the American West
57:30 – Request of the listeners
58:50 – Connect with Camrin online
larry-yaw

Architect Larry Yaw

Larry Yaw is a renowned architect based in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley whose work connects people with nature using contemporary, sustainable, conservation-focused designs. Growing up in rural Montana gave Larry a deep appreciation for the utilitarian character of ranch homes and their thoughtful integration into the landscape, aspects that form the foundation of much of his work today.  Through his design, Larry has demonstrated a unique ability to pay homage to the past while boldly pushing beyond preconceived notions of architecture in the American West.

If I had to use one word to describe Larry it would probably be “adventurous”—a quest for adventure seems to guide all aspects of his professional and personal lives.  As you’ll hear in our conversation, Larry has traveled the world many times over, sometimes with his full family in tow, seeking out enriching experiences everywhere from the South Pacific to the Swiss Alps. He is also intellectually adventurous, as evidenced by his deep knowledge of history, conservation, Native Americans, and many other subjects related to the West and beyond.  Physical adventures are a daily occurrence for Larry, whether it’s pedaling single track, stalking trout with his fly rod, hiking in the high mountains around Aspen, or shooting birds on the Montana prairies. All of these experiences provide the fuel that keeps Larry’s professional creative engine firing at turbo speed, decade after decade.

This was a super-fun conversation, and I came away from it inspired and enlightened.  We discussed a broad range of topics including Larry’s architecture, his creative process, and how he has managed to stay consistently creative for so long. We chatted about his early years in Montana, some of his adventures around the world, and his thoughts on conservation in the American West.  Larry is a true student of the West, so he had plenty of book recommendations. There is a lot of great information in this interview, so don’t forget to check the episode notes for links to everything we discuss.

Photo courtesy of Larry Yaw


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:45 – How Larry describes his work
3:40 – Larry describes his architecture
5:00 – Montana’s influence on Larry’s work
7:20 – Early years in Montana and Florida
9:00 – College years and path to graduate school
13:25 – Post-grad school early career
15:15 – Decision to move back West
16:30 – Origins of Larry’s adventurous outlook
22:00 – International travel’s influence on his work
23:55 – Around the world family trip
25:05 – Adventures on Aconcagua
26:22 – Cultural influences of travel
27:10 – Rugged individualism versus community
29:00 – Design for an active, mountain-inspired lifestyle
30:20 – Process versus goals
32:45 – His creative process
34:40 – Evolution of Larry’s work
36:30 – Thoughts on conservation
38:30 – Interactions with Native Americans
41:00 – Sustainability and design
42:30 – Interactions with the Blackfeet Tribe
46:30 – “Once Proud” painting series
48:30 – Recommended books on Native Americans
51:15 – Larry’s favorite books
55:20 – Favorite documentaries
56:50 – Favorite outdoor and artistic activities
1:01:25 – Craziest outdoor experience
1:04:00 – Favorite location in the West
1:06:45 – Biggest challenge/opportunity facing the West
1:08:55 – Advice to his younger self
1:12:10 – Larry’s request to the listeners
1:13:50 – Connect with Larry online

 

Pat O’Toole is a rancher who, along with his family, owns and operates the Ladder Ranch, a large-scale cattle and sheep operation that straddles the Colorado-Wyoming border. Pat’s wife Sharon’s family established the ranch in the Little Snake River Valley back in 1881, and now, six generations later, the family’s hard work, thoughtful vision, and a deep respect for the land have made the Ladder Ranch a shining example of the combined effect of productive agriculture and land conservation.

pat-o-toole

Pat O’Toole and his family

Pat’s background is far outside of the norm for many multi-generational ranchers—he grew up in south Florida, majored in philosophy in college, and just before he and his wife enrolled in law school, they decided to return to her family’s land to continue in the family business of ranching. Since then, the O’Tooles have not only run a financially successful operation, but they have simultaneously improved wildlife, bird, and fish habitat throughout the ranch. By thinking outside the box and partnering with both non-profit and governmental organizations, the Ladder Ranch has set a new standard for conservation, creative problem solving, and sustainable land stewardship.

We had a fun, in-depth conversation that covered a wide variety of topics that will be of interest to anyone who loves the West, whether you’re involved in ranching or not. We discuss Pat’s thoughts on cooperation between ranchers and environmentalists, and how the relationship between the two groups is getting stronger and more positive every year. We chat about water in the West, and why it is important to keep water on ranches rather than being sold off to municipalities. We also dig into Pat’s unconventional background, his thoughts on the future of land conservation, and of course, favorite books, history, and his favorite location in the West.

Pat is an interesting guy who has thought very deeply on issues related to the American West, including conservation, water, and agriculture. There’s a lot of great information in this interview, so I hope you enjoy!

Photo courtesy of Pat O’Toole


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:59 – How Pat describes his work
3:41 – History of the Ladder Ranch
4:45 – Discussion of the Homestead Act’s effect on settlement
9:07 – Cooperation between ranchers and environmentalists
9:55 – Benefits of grazing cattle and sheep
11:00 – Rotational grazing on the Ladder Ranch
11:55 – Importance of not breaking up ranches
13:00 – “Hopefuls” and “Hatefuls”
14:28 – The “Era of Limits”
19:00 – Pat’s personal background
21:55 – TR’s creation of Forest Service
23:28 – Amazing feats of past generations
26:00 – Ingraining the conservation ethic in children
28:10 – Pat’s role models
30:36 – The Ladder Ranch’s community of conservationists
33:00 – Importance of keeping water on ranches
37:00 – Flood irrigation explained
41:25 – Importance of keeping water our current water law in tact
42:30 – Leopold Conservation Award
44:00 – Endangered Species Act
46:50 – Favorite books
49:42 – Ferry Carpenter’s ranch library
50:15 – Favorite movies
53:40 – Craziest experience in the outdoors
54:50 – Favorite location in the West
55:22 – History of Battle Creek
57:40 – Pat’s request of the listeners
58:50 – Connect with the Ladder Ranch online
Information Referenced