When I learned that just six people worked this 30,000-acre property, I was at first incredulous. But they were proud and taciturn people, and didn’t waste time with idle talk. The land they worked was a vast patchwork of pasture and grain, and looking to the horizon, the only living things I could see were sheep.
The people truly loved the land they worked. “This is a wonderful place,” they said, and their clear, unwavering gaze reinforced the sincerity of their words. In that moment, I began to understand how people can look at the same sights, and see totally different worlds.
Though unrelated by blood, the people of the ranch obviously shared a common bond. They seemed to always be thinking of ways to make the work easier for others. The pride they took in their work was soundless and unspoken, but I could tell it was deeply shared, passed down from generation to generation.
With an angle of view wide enough to capture its vast scale, and a sensor big enough to render every detail, the Sigma DP1 Merrill was the perfect camera to photograph this proud heritage.
Born to the life, Blaine has shouldered his responsibility as heir to the ranch’s continued success. He’s a man of few words, always kind and gentle to the horses, with a blade-sharp gaze.
Handsome young Ben gives a wolfish grin when women tease him for “bein’ so purty.” On the range, though, he’s dead serious, an authentic cowboy through and through. You can see it in his easy moves, and the confident way he holds the reins.
Scott doesn’t talk much, especially about himself. But one look tells you he’s the real deal—a genuine cowboy. Even when he’s not in the saddle, the clothes and gear say it all.
Rattlesnakes are common in this part of the country Tracie warned me, nonchalantly exhibiting a finger where she had been bitten. As much as the fearsome evidence of the bite, I was struck by the years of love and labor reflected in her hands.
Sonny is a legendary figure, a hero to ranchers and townspeople throughout the area. Although a bad leg has ended his days in the saddle, he still sports his trademark mustache. “I started growing it when I was 17 so I’d look old enough to buy a drink,” he explained with a wink .
Imperial Stock Ranch
The Imperial Stock Ranch is a privately owned ranch with a history that spans four generations, stretching back to 1871. It was where Columbia sheep — renowned for the quality and quantity of their wool and meat — were first bred, and at one time it was the largest sheep ranch in North America. Today, low-cost imported wool and mutton have put most other ranchers in the area out of business. But the Imperial Stock Ranch is flourishing, providing the finest lamb, mutton and beef directly to restaurants and other customers who appreciate true quality. The ranch is also self-sufficient, and produces all of the grain and hay it needs to feed its livestock without using any chemical fertilizers — a shining example of sustainability that has attracted attention from around the world.