Saturday, December 4, 2010

Heel Trap

     This weekend I am in Prescott, Arizona, showing my collection of paintings that are featured in my collaborative new book, Cow Country Cooking: Recipes and Tales from Northern Arizona's Historic Ranches.  My friend, Kathy McCraine, gathered the recipes, designed and produced the book which includes her beautiful photographs and stories from the cowboys themselves.
     We searched for a project we could collaborate on, and our mutual respect and love for the history of the West, naturally led us to this book.  My contribution was 21 original paintings of the iconic cowboys from Arizona's historic ranches: the O RO, Babbitts, and the Diamond A's.
     The cover painting, Heel Trap, illustrates my personal feelings about the lifestyle and the project:

Heel Trap

Branding is a good time for both the cowboy and the artist.
On no other occasion do the two professions come together so 
perfectly.  There seem to be paintings at every turn.  The light is
unusually harsh, as it was in this shot of Clay Rodgers dragging
calves at Babbitt Ranches' Redlands Tank, because the sun has 
started its slow, mid-morning climb.  Dust and acrid smoke fill the air.
Hot irons and bunched cattle combine to make interesting paintings.
The business of branding occurs at a breakneak pace, and the images
will be reflected in future works of art: headers, heelers, irons and
dehorners, whetstones and Moore Maker knives.  The action builds, the 
movements are fast, and in an instant the last heel trap is laid, the roar 
of the branding pot fades, ropes are coiled and stowed, cinches are 
slacked, and both the cowboy and the artist long for the next time. 

     Here is one of the many accolades the book is receiving:  "With Cow Country Cooking, Kathy McCraine continues her fine chronicle of the American West, particularly northern Arizona's historic ranches, where meals include a pleasing variety of ethnic fare and tasty standards.  McCraine writes of ranch traditions and culinary characters, and her superb photographs capture the essence of the lifestyle.  A bonus:  Mark Kohler's wonderful Western art and his discerning take on his subjects.  Cow Country Cooking delivers it all --- mouthwatering recipes, eye candy, historic details and an entertaining perspective on ranch life." --- Fran Smith, Books Publishing Director, Western Horseman. 

     It has been my honor to be involved with this project and book, and it is 192 pages of inspiration, history, and food to make your mouth water.  I invite you to partake.

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