Buckaroo Country Photography – Mary Williams Hyde
- April 11, 2018
- Tiffany Schwenke
There is a certain quality embedded in all of Buckaroo Country Photography. The traditions and heritage throughout the Great Basin buckaroo culture has been being documented by the talented Buckaroo Country Photographer, Mary Williams Hyde.
If you have read other articles of mine, then you have probably seen the talents of Buckaroo Country Photographer, Mary Williams Hyde. Mary has been so kind to allow me to use some of her amazing photos in articles I have written about people she has photographed. When it comes to top hands across the American West… Mary Williams Hyde has photographed A LOT of them!
I recently asked Mary a few questions…
Please tell us a little background about you, your Buckaroo Country Photography, and your journey thus far.
I was raised on a Bly, Oregon cattle ranch, the BK, one of three ranches that were Yamsey Land & Cattle Co., started in 1911 by my Great Uncle Buck, and managed by my dad, Ted Hyde. I loved ranch life with every fiber of my being. For as long as I can remember, my job, for the most part, was taking care of the cattle. My dad would probably not have called himself a buckaroo, but the men I rode with were certainly lifelong followers of the old buckaroo traditions. (I learned to tie the buckaroo tail knot as a teenager.) In fact, I was never taught to drive a tractor as most farm kids get to do and as my siblings got to do after I left for college.
I dropped out of the University of Nevada, Reno, to marry into a prominent Red Bluff, California ranch family, certainly expecting to live on a ranch the rest of my life. Two and a half years later, with two toddlers and a third on the way, severe domestic violence and abuse forced me to flee, never to marry again. In 1972, I started working for the Herald and News, the Klamath Falls, Oregon daily newspaper. I began by selling classified ads where I first learned how to use the camera needed for used car and open house photos for clients. Later I moved to retail ad sales, where I had the opportunity to learn advanced skills from award winning photographers, as taking photos under often difficult circumstances for major clients was an enormous challenge. I worked there for 15 years, until the stress of daily deadlines caused major burnout. I gave them a half year notice, and enrolled that fall in Southern Oregon University to finish my Bachelor’s degree. In the end I also completed a Master’s Degree in art and communication. I have had nearly fifty solo and group shows of my contemporary-style paintings and hand-done prints with many awards and recognitions. My art and graphic design background is foundational to my photography. And, even though I never lived on a ranch again, I found a way to ride/own horses until my late sixties.
In 1990 I opened my own graphic design and advertising agency firm. For the first three years, my most important client was Spanish Springs Ranch, a city slicker style guest ranch near Ravendale, California. The guests were mostly from large urban areas, with no experience with horseback riding or driving cattle, who were attracted to experiencing a real working cattle ranch lifestyle. I worked on the marketing team, and it was there that I took photos at the owner’s nearby 3-Dot Ranch of buckaroos who worked for him, including Dave Weaver, a co-founder with his wife, Gwynn, of the Californios. I also took buckaroo photos for two years at another historic ranch, Soldier Meadows, at the top of the vast Black Rock desert area in Nevada. Those photos touched my heart and relit the passion I had for ranch life as a young person. Later I was present for the two days of the million acre MC Ranch remuda sale, a very sad time for our region. In the middle nineties, I first visited the million, three hundred thousand acre ZX Ranch to photograph bull turnout day. Then, overwhelmed by difficulties keeping my business going and my staff paid, I experienced financial failure and extreme stress for the next ten years. I rebuilt my business, learning that working by myself was the key to success, but didn’t take ranch photos much. Today I have graphic and web design clients all over the United States, including monthly ad and in-house promo work for the Western Horseman magazine advertising department. But, still, the life of being self-employed is always challenging, and sometimes flat out frightening.
In the early part of the new century, because I grew up with both buckaroos and non-buckaroos, I began researching every aspect of buckaroo traditions to make sure I knew about them inside out, and started collecting traditional buckaroo gear. In 2005, I knew I was ready to immerse myself in photographing as many people who keep the old buckaroo traditions as I could find. I showed up at a Paisley ranch bronc, horse and muley roping knowing no one. Looking back, I can’t believe I didn’t get run off by people worried about animal rights activists. It was there I first photographed Glen Shelley who let others know I was “OK”. I am so grateful, and have been privileged to photograph this iconic buckaroo every year since, at brandings and ranch bronc riding events near Burns, Oregon where he lives. Then it took several years of letting people look over my photos to make sure I was representing the traditions correctly before it became easier to visit the ranches where they worked. Since 2005 I have traveled about 300 times to mostly eastern Oregon and northern Nevada, but also to Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, northeast California and Colorado to photograph buckaroos at ranch rodeos, traditional ranch ropings, and ranches. I think I have taken as many as a million and a half photos in my lifetime counting newspaper advertising photos. After editing and throwing out the bad buckaroo country photos, I have more than 500,000 left in my http://buckaroocountry.smugmug.com archives for people I have photographed and others to see or purchase.
In 2010 I was approached by Western States Ranch Rodeo Association founder, Marc Page, who asked if I would help him get the WSRRA up and running. I was delighted to become part of his team, and I am very proud to be part of the hard working crew who made the association grow from nothing to thirteen western states and Canada.
Each year since then, with the exception of the 2017 WSRRA National Finals when I was sick enough to be hospitalized, I have been the official photographer of the event. I also work closely with Marc, Sarah and Naomi to create and manage the website, the Finals event program, press releases, and the ads and posters as needed.
Now in 2018, I have mostly completed the task I began in ernest in 2005. I will continue to sweep the corners so to speak, as there are still a few important ranches I haven’t visited. And I hope to continue visiting Jordan Valley as long as I can physically handle camping for four days, plus a few of my favorite ranch bronc riding events and the WSRRA National Finals. I also have developed an interest in wildlife photography which actually has more potential for producing the income I need to keep a roof over my head than the buckaroo photos do. Whenever my photos become essential to my survival, I get really focused. I hope everyone will understand.
I recently was asked to create and present a Powerpoint show of my photos for both the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada and the Shooting the West event in Winnemucca, Nevada. It caused great anxiety and great joy to share my photos with these two new audiences. The biggest task was representing the unique buckaroo traditions of stockmanship, horsemanship and gear in a way that folks familiar only with the Texas-style, Pro-rodeo style larger cowboy culture could see as distinct and valuable. I was pleased with the enthusiastic feedback I received, while at the same time, keeping the clear thought in my head that the photos are not about me, they are about the people I photographed. I thank everyone for allowing me the great privilege of documenting your lives.
While I am very passionate about the photos I have taken, the laser-like focus I have needed has taken its toll financially, physically and has been hard on my family. It is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t lifestyle choice that hasn’t been without complications. That said, I hope I did the right thing for myself and for the people I photograph….only time will tell I guess. Hope others will agree.
To other photographers: follow your heart, take hundreds of thousands of photos, and buy the best camera you can afford.
I have three Facebook pages where I share photos: Mary Williams Hyde, Buckaroo Country, and Buckaroo Country Photography. I also have a webpage: http://www.buckaroocountry.com/BCblog and my photo archives: http://buckaroocountry.smugmug.com
About Tiffany Schwenke
My family has been ranching and raising horses for over 100 years. We raise, train, and market AQHA horses at North Four Mile Creek Horse Ranch. We produce the annual event WYO WILD RIDE RANCH RODEO. I am a wife and a mother to 3 amazing...