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  • Writer's pictureKathy Winkler Studio

Soul Train

When I saw this beautiful bison cow in central Texas, she looked like she was part of a western movie. She was running full out with about a dozen or so bison from the back part of some acreage straight up the hill. The bison were focused on the rancher and his wife who were teaming up on bringing them to the top of the hill by beating the bottom of a galvanized tub with an oil-soaked rag securely wrapped around a sizeable stick. They yelled, “cake, cake, cake,” (bovine feed pellets are commonly referred to as cake) while beating the tubs. Worked like a charm. At 35 mph, it didn’t take long for them to reach the fence line directly in front of us. I focused on this particular bison because she was all out with full intention. I really thought this could be a one-in-a-million shot, because let’s face it, not being a professional animal photographer who is out continually taking photo after photo to arrive at that aha moment, chances are good that the average photographer/artist/observer isn’t going to see something like what I saw.

When I go to a bison, bovine, horse ranch or just a farm with different livestock, I take hundreds of photos. It is always just that one out of sometimes several hundred photos that I zero in on because of my emotional connection with the animal. The fact of the matter is, it wouldn’t be a normal occurrence for a bison to be running straight towards you at top speed. This was such a breathtaking moment for me.

One of the best things about being an artist of animals is I get to meet so many wonderful ranchers and hear their stories. The couple who had this small bison ranch did so out of their love of the animal. When the man was getting ready to retire from a top executive position in the oil industry, he didn’t know what he was going to do in retirement. His wife reminded him that he had said when he was growing up in Montana, he used to sit up on the ridge and watch the bison graze, and found it to be so peaceful, and how much he loved doing just that. So, upon his wife’s advice, they bought property and started out with several head of bison. He said they didn’t need a TV, as the bison provided lots of entertainment for them. I noticed they had tractor tires, large heavy-duty balls, and an assortment of other large rubber objects for them to play with. Over the course of several years, I have heard other “how I got my first bison” stories. Some are hilarious.

I wanted to bring to the viewer a piece of what I saw and how much I enjoyed that split moment in time.


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