Approaching The Camera As Nonchalantly As Possible

The U.S. National Archives
The U.S. National Archives

Four men on horseback approach the camera. They know the camera is there, but they are content with ignoring the cameraman for now. They will probably nod their head to acknowledge his presence. The cameraman would, most likely, walk in the center, between the two men with the white shirts.

From the left, John DiSalvio, an Italian-American born on the West Coast to a seamstress and a cab driver. DiSalvio is a solidly built man, of average height. He sits on his horse, looking at either the man looking down at his horse, or at the man smoking, or perhaps even to the man on our far right, in the blue, who seems to be responding to something DiSalvio is saying as the photograph was taken. His horse, a grade horse, was bought for $560 at a state fair in Nebraska. It is his second horse — his first, was put down, after it fell into a small hole, breaking its leg. DiSalvio was thrown from the horse, landing, on his back, on top of a bristle, which he has not forgotten about.

Next to him, on our right is David MacDonell, a fourth generation Scotsman from Montana. David MacDonell, is a black-headed man, his hair as thick as brush, although this photograph prevents you from seeing it — his hat, bought for $12 from a general store about 9 miles out east, covers the majority of his head. His shoulders are broad, his neck thick and his jaws are square. He is not what someone would call attractive, as years of cattle herding has turned him weathered and tough.

Beside him is Harry Wagman. He was born in 1932, in the throngs of the Great Depression. Wagman seems to be the leader of the group. His stance is authoritative. He is the only one smoking out of the group and the only member to be looking ahead, perhaps at their destination. You can see a lasso coiled, above his right leg. Wagman looks like he enjoys cattle herding. He likes the simplicity of it. It keeps him grounded and close to nature, just as God intended man to be. Like MacDonell, Wagman wears a white shirt with blue jeans. His hat was also bought nearby at a general store. It seems that Wagman and MacDonell are close friends (or at least, more friendly, than the other two) considering the distance between the two.

Finally, Ralph “Ralphie” MacPhearson, rides far right, wearing the blue shirt, looking at the rest of the group. He is the only one without a hat. His distance from Wagman and the rest is the farthest. We should speculate that here, MacPhearson is the youngest of the group. His lack of a hat seems to suggest that he had either misplaced it while herding, lost it, or forgot it back in his room. He seems to also be lagging behind the group, as his horse seems to be trotting to catch up with MacDonell and Wagman.

DiSalvio is shouting for MacPhearson to hurry up, as MacPhearson is watching the herd follow the group. Wagman deftly smokes his cigarette, with cold, hard movements, as he has done so for the past 36 years. MacDonell looks down at his horse, not because he has seen something, but to actually sneeze.

The herd bringing up the rear consists of almost 92 adult bulls and cows. It was MacPhearson’s job to make sure that they were all rounded up, which may be the reason why he is catching up with the rest of the group.

The sun seems to be setting, but it is hard to tell in the photograph with all of the dust kicked up by the horses and the cattle. If the sun is indeed setting, the cowboys’ day is coming to an end. It has been hard, but invigorating work. Wagman is in his best mood after the day is over, not because the work is done, but because he feels that he has accomplished something. And if it is the other way, then their work has just begun. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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