Category Archives: Rurality Photos

A boy and his cow #1

Never had I considered Keigan’s efforts noteworthy prior to attending the Waskom FFA Jackpot Show.  Well, perhaps I unintentionally disparage his efforts when no disparagement is meant.  Always have I considered what he hopes to accomplish with Bella a noteworthy endeavor.  But photographically and linguistically?  Not so much.

So when he and his parents invited me to attend their first show, I happily agreed, not only because I consider them dear friends but also because I had never before seen a livestock show.  That Keigan hopes to gain university entry via his efforts has not escaped me, thus I have wished him well since I first discovered this project, and yet I had not fully recognized or appreciated the fullness of the whole, but rather I had observed and participated in the smallness of this part and that part.

But a show?  Their first show together?  A collective step forward on the path that hopefully will become his collegiate ticket and her lasting well-being?  Or more importantly, the preliminary go at a years-long journey that wends about such hopes and ambitions and promises as to require Herculean strength, Heraclean endurance, and Damon and Pythias-like friendship and loyalty?  Yes, their first show together represented a very different—and much bigger—aspect of this than I had considered.

Denise and Keigan tending to Bella prior to the livestock show (20120818_02831)

In the weeks preceding the show I asked Keigan repeatedly if he felt nervous.  “Not at all” he would flippantly reply, though no one involved believed him.  While Bella had participated in a few shows prior to her becoming Keigan’s partner, he had no experience with the show circuit or its idiosyncrasies or the totality of its myriad requirements, requirements fluid and unpredictable and based on the personality of each judge.

Yet denial can be a powerful sedative to calm frayed nerves; likewise it can be a stimulant that awakens distressed anxiety.  Therefore we urged him to accept his concern as normal, to admit it insofar as it would help balm them.  But Keigan is young, and as the young are wont to do he maintained the strength of his denial even as his friends and family recognized the growing worms of fear and doubt squirming beneath his skin.

Keigan spending time with Bella prior to the livestock show (20120818_02837)

When at least he stood upon the verdant grass of the Marshall City Arena and faced the magnitude of what was to come, surrounded by trailers galore and enough livestock to fill a farm, the boy who is a young man refused to crumble, refused to sway before the force of this thing he hopes to accomplish.

Passing up the opportunity to play in that day’s high school football game because, as he said, Bella represents his best chance to fund college, the maturity oft hidden beneath carefree youth seized the worms of fear and doubt and, though unable to kill them, it nonetheless sought to take control of them—he nonetheless sought to take control of them.

Bella foaming at the mouth (20120818_02839)

As much as in response to Keigan’s worry as to her own, Bella’s apprehension manifested in many ways, some of it behavioral and some of it psychosomatic.  Her previous experiences notwithstanding, she had not before faced a show with Keigan, and like all animals under such circumstances she was as much attuned to her own stress as to his.  Any chance for their collective success hinged directly on their ability to work together, to overcome those relentless worms of fear and doubt, to deny them fodder for growth and to stop their incessant wriggling.

The Keigan and Bella cheering squad: his parents, Kurt and Denise, his ag teacher, and family friends (20120818_02851)

Yet both the boy and his cow had unremitting support from family and friends, not to mention his ag teacher (agricultural education teacher for the uninitiated).  While not one of us entertained the idea that we could magically cure the stressful ills Keigan and Bella faced, we accepted as undeniable truth that we could be there for them, lending ear and shoulder and words and strength, the quantifiable and unquantifiable manifestations of relentless succor.

Keigan and Bella sharing a moment before the livestock show (20120818_02854)

At last time came to enter the showground.  Significant time still separated us from their preliminary entry into the arena, their first joint effort to show, yet Keigan and Bella had to face the initial obstacle: his leading her from the trailer to the competition area.

Alone together, he soothed her and she him, the two reaching through the worms of fear and doubt to seize upon the powerful relationship they had built in the months prior.  That relationship, I will admit, is as moving to witness as it must be intimate to experience.  Like Damon and Pythias from Roman mythology, Keigan and Bella have achieved a depth of loyalty and friendship from which burgeons unquestionable trust.  But would that be sufficient to stop the incessant squirming of those metaphorical worms?

Keigan and Bella leaving the trailer behind as they head into the arena for the livestock show (20120818_02855)

Where he leads she follows, and so she did on that day, albeit from both a boy and his cow poured forth tangible fear borne of stress and self-doubt, borne of the unanswered questions growing from the daunting task they faced together: his first show and her first show with him.  Oh how the worms wriggled and writhed, obvious to any witness, yet equally how Keigan and Bella focused on each other to quell the incessant struggling within.

Keigan leading Bella to the arena for the livestock show (20120818_02856)

So their first show began, a journey started months before heading toward fruition with those first few steps, the safety and comfort of the known left behind and the trouble and trepidation of the uncertain ahead.  We did not know what to expect.

And always in the background the worms of fear and doubt twisted and turned and fidgeted, distractions from the task at hand and enemies of goals within reach.

— — — — — — — — — —


  1. Keigan and his mother Denise tending to Bella prior to show
  2. Keigan and Bella prior to show
  3. Bella foams at the mouth when she’s stressed; this was her first show with Keigan, so her stress was as palpable as his
  4. The Keigan and Bella spirit squad: his parents, Kurt and Denise, his ag teacher, Bruce, and family friends
  5. Keigan and Bella sharing a moment before heading to the show arena; there is a real and tangible relationship here, one that has formed over time and is inspiring to witness
  6. Keigan leading Bella away from the trailer toward the show arena
  7. Keigan leading Bella to the show arena (notice the look on the background girl’s face)

And a less-than-stellar photo, a blooper as it were:

Bella foaming at the mouth with her tongue up her nose (20120818_02838)

Foaming at the mouth with her tongue up her nose, it seemed Bella refused to take the show as seriously as we expected.  Or at least she refused to take my photography efforts as seriously as I expected.

A boy and his cow

I don’t do people photography.  That has been a mainstay of my photographic endeavors for many years.  Not because I don’t like taking pictures of people, but rather because my focus has remained on nature and has met with success in that arena.  And this has left me with a rather daunting lack of experience when it comes to photographing people, thus my unflinching comfort with ignoring that area.  At least until now.

An artistic impression of my friend Keigan and his calf Bella leaving the Waskom FFA Jackpot Show in Marshall, TX

Those who I consider dear friends, Denise, Kurt and Keigan, recently invited me to a livestock event, the Waskom FFA Jackpot Show, and their invitation came via the fact that one of them—Keigan—is pursuing collegiate entry by way of a FFA show cow, the calf named Bella.

Thus begins my tale, both linguistic and photographic.

This is about a boy, Keigan, and his cow, Bella.  But it’s also about photography, FFA, family, friends and college.  Most importantly, it’s about life.

I will learn about taking pictures of people and livestock in the same moments that I decide to share those moments with you.  I will learn to cherish and protect my beloveds in the same moments that I share those moments with you.  And I will learn to understand livestock and farm life at the same moments that I share those moments with you.

So come with me, if you will, on this journey:

Dear friends recently asked me to attend a livestock show with them, most notably because one of them is showing a calf hoping to place well as means to earn university passage.  This is their story.

Above: Keigan and Bella leaving the Waskom FFA Jackpot Show in Marshall, TX.  More to come from this show, not to mention from their ongoing journey.

To the ends of the Earth – Part 2

A man sitting in early morning fog fishing from his boat in the middle of Big Cypress Bayou (20081011_13535)

Along the way, and well prior to the light burning away the fog that lifted slowly from the bayou’s surface, I stopped long enough to appreciate a man fishing from his comfortable perch as the still waters rested quietly in the forest’s embrace.  Here the mist still reigned.

The Big Cypress Bayou disappearing as it bends through the Piney Woods (20081011_13537)

Yet as the morning grew older and the light warmer, the lack of wind could no longer keep the fog from succumbing to its fate.  Only in the distance could its remnants be seen, in retreat and in anger its form fading silently…silently.

The stillness of the bayou remained, though.  Beautiful, silent, unchanging from my view yet a thriving universe of life and death both above and below the mirrored surface.

A bridge stretching over Big Cypress Bayou (20081011_13556)

Before leaving the waters to the sun’s embrace, a haunting prospect struck me while I made my way beneath the bridge: How many times had I traveled across this concrete monster without ever stopping to notice it from a different perspective?

Its strength marched forward on concrete pillars into the final grasps of a waning cloud resting upon the earth.  I paused long enough to appreciate that a utility so constructed might still offer a bit of elegance when viewed from someplace other than usual.

A partly cloudy sky stretching above the family farm in East Texas (20081011_13663)

A full day followed.  Despite that, however, every once in a while I would stop and lose myself in the beauty of it all.  Clouds billowed to life in defiance of what had been done to the fog, and the blue and the sun found themselves doing battle to rule the day.

The outcome of this war made for more stunning vistas from the middle of the Piney Woods.  I couldn’t help but notice the view each time I turned.

Beauty of the mundane

Inherent like the color of eyes, beauty hides tucked away in every scene, every small and large vista.

Move slowly enough with eyes attentive and beauty of the mundane leaps out like caged beasts set free.

Drops of dew on a blade of grass (20080629_08465)

On a single blade of grass dwell whole worlds made of rain.

Waves breaking against a fallen log (20080628_08048)

A windy day.  Choppy water.  A fallen tree.  Aquatic plants.  The dance of weak light from a party cloudy sky.

I stood mesmerized by wave after wave crashing against this log, the dichotomy of still water on one side and unsettled water on the other, enraptured of the sounds made by winds dancing about me as they pushed the lake to and fro, each breaker singing its own song as it ran headlong toward shore and did battle with every obstacle in its way.

Music heard and seen and felt permeated that time, that bit of shoreline upon which I stood.  I felt lucky to have witnessed it in all its glory.

A rural road winding its way through dense woodlands toward the family farm (20080809_10538)

The rural road that winds its way through the Piney Woods toward the family farm.  At the right times—especially dawn and dusk—this tiny lane becomes otherworldly.  Trees and brush close in from both sides, weak sunlight struggles to dance through the foliage, and a tiny, obscure one-lane road slithers through it on a journey into the heart of nature.

A shallow pool of water with colored rocks at the bottom and sparse grass growing amongst them (20080727_10240)

Times exist when all I want is to be still, stoic, serene, unyielding in the face of too much activity, unflinching in response to so many demands.  This often makes me think of what might be necessary to resist so much emotional and psychological carnage: make me a stone, a rock, an unmoving and unmoved thing that can resist the woes of the world.  How often I ponder what such calm might be like…

Crepuscular rays stream through verdant woodlands and illuminate the beauty surrounding my favorite footbridge (20080824_11279)

Sunrise at White Rock Lake.  Crepuscular rays stream through verdant woodlands and illuminate the beauty surrounding my favorite footbridge in this urban escape.

Too sensitive to live in this world

A pair of fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) enjoying a bit of breakfast (20080921_12530)

As this CNN article points out, “[e]xperts say mental illness does not necessarily cause creativity, nor does creativity necessarily contribute to mental illness, but a certain ruminating personality type may contribute to both mental health issues and art.”

Hardly would I be so bold as to call myself an artist.  But ruminating?

Heavy dew on a blade of grass as morning sunlight pours over it (20080824_11348)

“Sensitivity to one’s surroundings is also associated with both creativity and depression, according to some experts.”

I have suffered with depression—manic and accute—since I can remember, since long before I ventured out into life on my own, since long before my family ever knew me as more than just one of the children, one of Jr.’s kids, one of the Hogle clan.  It had something to do with being gay, I felt, yet its claws dug much deeper than that, its venomous breath reaching to depths I scarcely knew existed.

A close-up of an immature pleated inkcap (a.k.a. fairy parasol, little Japanese umbrella or Japanese umbrella inky; Parasola plicatilis [formerly Coprinus plicatilis]) as it finds itself deluged by sunshine (20080824_11359)

“Some have pointed out that being engaged in creative pursuits makes a person more open to experience, while others say the pressure of being engaged in the arts causes negative emotion…”

Always did I pay attention to that which so many left unnoticed; always did I ponder that which too many left unconsidered.  A curse?  Perhaps.

Empty swings in soft focus and morning light (20080727_10172)

“‘Creative people in the arts must develop a deep sensitivity to their surroundings — colors, sounds, and emotions,’ says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, professor of psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California. Such hypersensitivity can lead people to worry about things that other people don’t worry about as much, he said, and can lead to depression.”

Certainly I’ve been accused of paying too much attention to things that a majority ignore.  In fact, I’ve been told I notice more by orders of magnitude than others who stray within the same spaces I often haunt.

A fence of barbed wire and roughly hewn timber surrounds a pasture of hay bales (20080809_10529)

“‘The arts are more dangerous [than other professions] because they require sensitivity to a large extent,’ [Csikszentmihalyi] said. ‘If you go too far you can pay a price — you can be too sensitive to live in this world.'”

Am I so inclined as to be oversensitive?  Am I too observant as to be a burden upon those around me with my constant noticing, my constant feeling?

And is this the cause of my dreadful sense of doom that vexes me at every turn?

Am I just too sensitive?

— — — — — — — — — —


[1] A pair of fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) enjoying a bit of breakfast.

[2] Heavy dew on a blade of grass, each droplet dazzling like a jewel in the morning sunlight.

[3] A pleated inkcap (a.k.a. fairy parasol, little Japanese umbrella or Japanese umbrella inky; Parasola plicatilis [formerly Coprinus plicatilis]) not yet mature yet facing its demise under the blanket of hot sunshine.

[4] Empty swings in soft focus and morning light, the scene left just as I found it on a hot and humid day when early morning felt as stifling as late afternoon.

[5] A captivating fence made of unprepared timber and barbed wire stretching around a pasture that holds nothing more than hay bales.