Saturday, May 4, 2013

Thanks to the Chapman Family

Blue Sky and Bluebonnets
11 x 14
oil on canvas
First let me share a plein air painting from a few weeks ago that I reworked a bit in the studio this afternoon. I worked on the values overall, and did a bit more to the bluebonnets. I believe it is a stronger painting now.

Chuck wagons and cowboy cooks.

 Today is one of the days that will live in my memory forever. The Chapman brothers open up their Squaw Creek Ranch, just west of Fort Worth, once a year in the spring for their cattle branding. This is an incredible taste of Texas history, Texas hospitality, and Texas cuisine.

One of two cooking areas.
 Last year about 400 people from the area came and I'm sure at least that many were there this year. From early in the morning the cooks are busy preparing breakfast for everyone who shows up. Breakfast included, cowboy biscuits, coffee, sausage, bacon, and gravy. (Best biscuits ever!)
One of the two chuck wagons.
 Everything is cooked just like it would have been cooked on the old ranches and cattle drives of the past.

The cowboys from the Chapman ranch as well as those from the surrounding ranches and counties show up to ride in the cattle drive and to lend a hand with the branding.

The cattle drive on Bear Creek Road.
 The cattle are driven in groups from the surrounding pastures and taken to the branding pens. It was  amazing watching the drive and must have been really incredible to ride in as well. I am so thankful that families like the Chapmans are preserving a way of life that was once the norm and is now almost gone.

The cattle and cowboys on Bear Creek Road.
 After the cattle drive the cows and calves are driven into pens where a few mounted cowboys work to separate the cows from the calves. I've been to cutting horse events many times but this was much more interesting seeing it done on a ranch.
Cowboys working on a calf.
Today on most ranches the cattle would be driven into chutes where they could be given their shots, etc.... But here it was done as it has historically been done in Texas. The calves were roped, put down on the ground, branded, tagged, and given shots.
Cowboys at work.

Many of my artist friends were here taking photos for reference material including Sabine Higgins,T. K. Riddle, Olivette Hubler, Janice Weaver, B. J. and Sheri Jones, Georgia Clarke, Linnea Mckinnie and her husband , and Leslie Talty and her husband. My friend Alonso Zamago and his wife also came out. Between us I believe we took thousands of photos.
Mr. John Chapman
 Many families with children were there. It was just an incredible opportunity for everyone to witness first hand our Texas heritage. Two of the things that I would say surprised me were how much it smoked when the cattle were branded, and how little the branding seemed to phase them. Many of them bawled when they were roped and thrown down, and some when they were given their shots, but I didn't notice any when they were branded.
Cowboys branding a calf.
 I guess I also was surprised at how hard the work actually was just to get the calf down. One mounted cowboy would rope the calf around the neck and another around the hind legs. Then other cowboys on foot would try to grab its legs to bring it down. This usually took three or more cowboys. Then the rope was taken off the neck and while the calf was held down other cowboys and cowgirls did their work tagging, branding, banding and injecting. Then the calves were sent back to their mamas. Several cowboys were knocked down, dragged, and kicked.

Cowboy with a lasso.
After the first group of calves were finished it was time for lunch. The Chapmans provided an all you can eat fajita dinner for everyone present. They were the best fajitas I have ever had. The meat was so tender it was just incredible. I can not imagine the cost of feeding so many people, and I don't know of any where else in the state where you can just show up and be fed a delicious home cooked (pasture cooked) all you can eat breakfast and lunch.

One of the cowboys working on foot.
After lunch more cattle were driven over and the whole process continued, The only difference was these were larger calves and the work seemed more difficult. It was more entertaining to me than going to a rodeo because these cowboys were doing real work that had to be done, not doing it for a competition, like cutting or calf roping in a rodeo.
Two cowboys roping a calf.
 We stayed from about 8:00 to after 12:00 and all of us had a wonderful time. Beautiful scenery of pale green spring foliage with bright blue skies and perfect weather. In fact every thing conspired to make this a perfect day for all of us. Thank you to the Chapmans for creating great memories and teaching us all about our ranching heritage. Your hospitality and generosity are truly appreciated.

Roxie and Johnie


  1. Love the painting, still waiting for bluebells here, it sounds as though we are taking a step back weatherwise from Tuesday, more cold winds and rain. Oh well never mind I'll get out there sometime and it might make some interesting photos in the mean time.
    Your day out sounds very interesting, not sure I could watch the branding, but the rest sounds great,

  2. Great job in sharing this incredible experience, Doug!!!! It sounds amazing and a LOT of fun! Maybe next year I can share in the event. Your photos are fantastic. :-)

  3. Looks like a great event. Maybe next year.

  4. So great that you detailed the day so beautifully for us, what an amazing day it must have been. Love the photo of John Chapman and your painting of the bluebell fields.