Americana: Morning Roundup


The great American cowboy was a cavalier in a wind-blistered world.

He was aristocracy without a title, a tough, rugged individual who ruled over land that would never belong to him.

His days were long and uncertain, but his years on earth were few.

The cowboy would carve trails where no one had dared ride before, would become the stepchild of an unfriendly and wind-swept prairie.

The man who rode the open range did not build cities.

But cities followed in the dusty wake of his footsteps.

Two decades later, he would virtually be gone, the victim of his own progress, an outcast from the land he had tamed.

An old cowboy wrote: ‘I and they were but creatures of circumstance, the circumstances of an unfenced world.

The end came with the fencing.

The open prairies were closed.

Ranches grew up where cattle and men had once roamed free.

One era faded away.

Another began.

And the West remains a vibrant part of the great American legacy.

In her portrait of the cowboy’s life, Morning Roundup, artist/photographer Judy Helderman says: “Early morning rolls across a ranch in the high country of Eastern Oregon and frames a way of life that has not changed significantly in more than a century.

“Even traces of the historic Oregon Trail can be found in the region that lies between two mountain ranges: the Elkhorns and the Eagle Caps.

“A cowboy, in a haze of dust, looks over a herd of horses, waiting to pick one out and begin a new day on the range. The present, for the moment, is clinging tightly to the past.”

More memorable images from artist/photographer Judy Helderman can be found in the Art Section of Caleb and Linda Pirtle.

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