Diane Prather

Diane Prather

Diane Prather: Content, photos make 'Great Ranches' a great read

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"Great Ranches of the West" is Jim Keen's newest book, and he'll be at Downtown Books on Saturday for a book signing. Keen is an award-winning photographer and filmmaker.

Jim Keen also is the photographer for "Great Ranches of the West." The stories are by Keen, with Ami Reeves (who Keen credits with "wordsmithing" the stories).

Featured in the book are one or two ranches from each of the Western states. In the introduction to the book, Keen wrote that he chose to focus on ranches that are family-owned and family-operated.

He wrote that the men and women on the ranches "see ranching as more than just a job. It's a 24/7 life style."

Keen traveled to and stayed on 30 ranches, where he listened to the stories about ranch histories and, while taking photographs, also participated in some of the ranch work.

One of the book's ranches will be of interest to people in Northwest Colorado. Keen spent time with Doak, Alan, Scott and Neil Chew at the Chew Ranch locations. When he arrived there, the Chew brothers were loading sheep.

The headquarters of the Chew ranch is in Utah, near Dinosaur National Monument. That's the location of the cattle business. The sheep-raising operations are just north of Steamboat Springs. Keen's photographs of the two areas are breathtaking.

Readers also will learn about great-grandfather Jack Chew, who came to the West from Iowa in 1865. Jack Chew was then 13.

Another of the 30 ranches in the book is the Bonds Ranch, near Saginaw, Texas.

It was established in 1933 by P.R. "Bob" Bonds, who raised Hereford cattle. Now, the ranch is run by Bob's younger son, Pete, his wife, Jo, and his daughters, Missy, Bonnie and April.

A sign at the ranch reads, "Jo Bonds Dance Studio: The Dance Ranch." Besides doing ranch work, Joe teaches ballet and tap to students in preschool through high school - right there on the ranch. It was the only ranch Keen visited with a dance studio.

The Duff Buffalo Ranch, near Scott City, Kan., runs 600 hundred buffalo. When Keen visited, he learned that fences must be at least six feet high for buffalo, and the animals are too ornery to be herded by horseback. Instead, they're herded by pickup trucks.

Nine days after Keen left Pine Creek Ranch in Nevada, tragedy struck its family.

And there's so much more in this interesting book with absolutely gorgeous photographs.

The reader will find a "GR" brand on some of the book's pages. It was designed by John Hamilton.

Jim Keen is both photographer and filmmaker. For his photographic art, he has won close to 100 hundred regional and national awards. For his video work, Keen has received three Communicator awards and six Telly awards. His film, "Silent Climb," was featured at the Breckenridge Film Festival.

"Great Ranches of the West" is published by KM Media of Colorado Springs, 2007. The hardcover book I reviewed is $49.95. There also is a limited edition, leatherbound edition.

Call Carol at Downtown Books for information.

Copyright Diane Prather, 2008. All rights reserved.

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