"Bronc Twisters" by Craig Kelley
The contents in this book are taken from the interviews and photographs I've done over the course of recent time. In January of 2012, I was invited down to Post, Texas by Jeff Williams in order that I could visually document the proceedings of a "first day colt class". This particular class of two year olds, were all candidates for the 2012 Western Heritage Classic in Abilene, Texas in May of 2012.
I was able to witness first hand and capture the age old historical art of "Bronc Twisting" by Jeff Williams and Rod Smith, two current modern day practitioners, that have been at it for over twenty plus years now. They employ the "old school methodology" from the late 1800's that was handed down to them by previous older mentors, who in turn, had received it from older family members or other older cowboys. Jeff, Rod and all the participants in the project have been very gracious in their allowance of my continued presence during their working days in order to capture them and their crews during the regular, everyday routine of starting green, two year old colts. They typically take them through thirty to ninety day regiments of discipline, depending upon the clients wishes. Jeff and Rod, they start approximately twenty colts a month year-around.
The following text interviews and accompanying visual images were all taken by me, born from the idea that Jeff had in his den, late one June 28, 2012 afternoon after the daily session in the round pen with the Beggs Ranch, 2012 "Return to the Remuda" sale class. His suggested idea was that I set out to get the stories of the real "colt starters" of today, both in verbal and visual content, just as I had been doing since January 2012 with he and Rod and get it to publication. Jeff said, "I'm going to give you a couple of names, that in my eyes, are the real deal. Go get their stories then have them make a recommendation unto you, who they have a lot of respect for and continually follow the spider web out."
Seems as if volumes of information is readily available concerning the modern day working ranch life or anything else concerning cowboy life in general, but not a lot has been published in modern day's time about the "Bronc Twisters" themselves. Especially a concentration of a single group that numbers over twentysome-odd participants in one setting.
The trip down the road in order to get to all the various participants on location, took some twenty-eight months in time, over nineteen thousand miles driven, multiples of tens of thousands of hours when you put into the prospective of travel, on-site location time, post processing and selection of any images used. Other considerations had to do with with the printed finished product and all the variables associated with it. I found that outsourcing some of this portion of the projects work would be a necessity. That entailed considerable more due diligence related to searching for a combination of competence and affordability, as this project is self funded.
The number of people I came into contact with that contributed to its fruition is unbelievable. Seemingly, every opportunity granted to me, was one that reduced wasted energy. It would not have happened without them all. Every single participant graciously shared and gave genuine real life insight into their daily world and its life. They all have practiced this historical art form for at least half of their entire born days to some degree or the other.
In the middle of the project, it brought an unexpected highlight. As I got up from the table, after the completion of the interview with Craig Haythorn, it came on me there was another major contributing element in play here. A few more on my list of the project participants turned out to be multi-generational ranchers and horsemen that are still contributing as today's major stewards of animal husbandry and responsible breeders in regards towards strengthening and furthering the original foundation lineages of the American Quarter Horse. Of the twenty-two ranches that have received the AQHA prestigious designation "Best Remuda Award" since its inception in 1992, eight are represented in some capacity. Either they send some of their stock to these particular colt starters themselves or the designated colt starters for the ranch itself were participants in this project...and that could only come about as by being recommended by another participant. It was a personal challenge to accomplish this, I can tell you that, but one that hopefully, my working rancher grandfather would have appreciated now that it's completed.