When I first arrived in Pinedale in the winter of 2005, it was -40F. Not the most hospitable place I’d ever lived. Considering up until that point, I had only lived in Dallas and Austin, Texas. I had visited a few years prior in the summer, and immediately fell in love with the land. Ask anyone who’s ever been, it’s actually quite common.
I was 25, and I wanted to run away from the city, and people. My best bet was the Union’s least populous state, Wyoming.
There I was, in a town of 1400 people, no stoplights, permanently frozen winter streets, and beautiful wilderness on nearly every side.
I had gone to work for a small weekly newspaper. And in my first meeting with the publisher, Rob, I was given my first assignment… Go around town and ask whomever you meet about this particular issue of the day, and get their opinion and quick portrait. We called it “faces”. It was a recurring small section on page two or three. It was the bane of our existence, as we usually waited until the last minute to complete it, and it was common for folks around town to decline our interview. The paper isn’t always a beloved institution, especially when the publisher has rubbed most of the 1400 in town the wrong way. And me being a Texan, I wasn’t immediately accepted. I took both setbacks as a challenge.
Before I headed out “on the town” for that first assignment, bright eyed and bushy tailed, Rob stopped me, looked me straight in the face and said, with a tone of fear and fury, “Whatever you do, NEVER talk to Mike Ramsey.”
I had almost forgotten the name of this apparently nefarious character that my publisher had advised me against ever getting a quote from… until I sat down at the bar at our local watering hole. You see, there isn’t a ton to do when it’s -40 outside, except drink.
The stranger at the bar next to me was a stout, handsomely gruff, whisky drinking looking fellow. Handlebar mustache and all. You could’ve placed him anywhere in the world, and still immediately recognized him as a man of the Western Rocky Mountains, USA. He wore a King Ropes hat, and his pointed gaze could make you tell the truth.
“I’m Andrew,” I said in a young, overly optimistic way. He looked at me for a moment, as if to test if I were for real.
“I’m Mike,” he said in a raspy, gravely voice. “Mike Ramsey,” as he shook my hand.
I chuckled and immediately told him what my new boss had just said.
“If you want me not to do something, best not to tell me not to do it,” I laughed.
His experience with Texans up to that point was from the loud, rich Houston oil men who’d come up to hunt elk, and the few Boy Scout types that would get lost backpacking the Winds, only to be found weeks later as remains from a grizzly feast. He didn’t necessarily have a high view of my kind. In his mind, we come up with gusto, only to leave broken by the harsh wilderness. And that’s not far from the truth.
It was a slow conversion, but we became close friends.
What I’d come to find as I slowly got to know him over the years, is that he is a very good man, who has lived a wildly interesting life. So interesting and worthwhile that many of his stories demand retelling.
Mike, Elk Guide, Wind River Range, County 23, WY, 2016
Over the years, Mike has been (or still is) an elk guide, snow plowman, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) petroleum engineer technician, fishing guide, cowboy, forest fire fighter, painter, avalanche safety, snow machine guide, and much more, I’m sure. He has a deep and unique relationship with the rugged land he chooses to call home.
So as much as I tried to avoid it because he is my friend, Mike had to be the first Wyomingite for my book. And don’t worry, I will explain why Rob so adamantly didn’t want me to talk to Mike, and a few harrowing and hilarious stories from his incredible life.
The Wyomingites, will explore the personalities and stories of the men and women who make Wyoming their home. From each of the 23 counties, come unique and challenging landscapes both shaping and being shaped by the (few) humans who inhabit its borders. The photographs are a unique mixture of landscape panoramic, and environmental portrait.
If you would like to learn more, invest to help make this book happen, or you think you have a wonderful Wyomingite subject for me, please email me directly.
In honor of the NPS Centennial this year, I have put together a special collection of (some never before seen) my favorite National Park prints. Please check it out and know that 5% of all the profits from the sale of this artwork will be donated to a wonderful organization that works hard to help preserve our Nation’s most magical places, The National Park Foundation.. We will be visiting almost all of the 59 National Parks this year, so check back often as we will be updating the page regularly. Thank you so much for your support!
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016 – ONLY 2 SPOTS LEFT!
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
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Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
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