The American West is a big place, full of history, promise and vast stretches of emptiness that have inspired so many to explore and live out where there is a bit more elbow room and a history of independence. The West as a concept in literature, cinema and art is a symbol of promise, hope and independence that I feel fortunate to have experienced since childhood and more fortunate still to experience on occasion through another American institution, the road trip.
The American West and its big spaces with open roads dictated the design of many an automobile and motorcycle and serves as a metaphor for journey. Ever since the original rail ways and Pony Express crossed the wide open spaces, there has been a draw or a calling to travel through these spaces to see the majesty of a land that is still uncrowded and sparse. There are a great many that have documented these places including my friend Ann Torrence with her excellent book on Highway 89 and other local photographers like Guy Tal who photographs the more remote, off highway places in the American West in and around Utah.
There are certainly old places along these back highways, some of which have been around since the earliest portions of the West, other places like this garage came about before the Interstate Highways cut off much of the traffic to smaller towns throughout America. Its easy to see where modern society has seemingly left some of these small towns and if you make the effort to see them, like my friend Chris did on his cross country bicycle trip, you will see that small town America is dying.
There are however, exciting things that are happening in some of these places that could only happen in the American West. My friends Robert and Ann are perfect examples of this exciting renewal through their efforts a couple of years ago when they started planting apple trees at Stray Arrow Ranch. Stray Arrow is something that many of us are marveling at and through sheer determination, Robert and Ann are making something truly new and its something that I’ve had the privilege to see evolve through visits to help plant trees.
The image immediately above was made on the last visit to plant another 300 trees this past weekend. I like this image as there is a timeless quality about it that could represent a snapshot in time from any point in the last 150 years. It also represents community getting together to help plant trees to create something new, a farm that is a mixture of new and old.
I wrote about the first visit down to help plant trees here and I cannot wait until they start growing their first crop of apples as there are a great many varieties that they are experimenting with, primarily as a source of cider, but even some of the “cider apples” like the Ashmead’s Kernel or Esopus Spitzenberg apples are good eating. This farm, an apple farm is something new and promising emerging from the West and I am looking forward to seeing where it goes.