Grit Blogs > The Open Book

Gathering Remnants

By Jean Teller, Sr. Assoc. Editor

Tags: Gathering Remnants, Documentary Channel, Kendall Nelson, John Plummer, American cowboy, television,

Jean Teller   Cowboys. Just the word conjures a figure epitomizing the essence of the American free spirit. And our imaginings of who a cowboy is are wrapped up in our Hollywood experiences: John Wayne, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Clint Eastwood, Will Rogers, Jeff Bridges, even Mel Brooks.

A new documentary, Gathering Remnants: A Cowboy Tribute, to air at 8 p.m. ET/PT July 23 on the Documentary Channel, dispels some of the romance surround the American cowboy, and at the same time, offers an inspiring look at the lives of these unique individuals.

It’s a rare up-close-and-personal look at the world of a cowboy. Spotlighting five cowboys, the program explores what exactly a cowboy does in today’s technologically expanding world. Each of these people – four men and one woman – speaks for a dying breed steeped in individuality, a code of behavior long forgotten in today’s fast-paced world, and a way of life viewed with nostalgic sighs.

From the book Gathering Remnants, filmmaker-photographer Kendall Nelson focuses on a cowboy, his horse and a teepee amid the prairie sage and endless sky. 

You’ll meet “buckaroos” Sticker Wiggins, Ruth Jackson, Mark Jensen, Darrin Pfeifer and Tom Hall, as well as musician/historian Red Steagall, cowboy poet Baxter Black, and Chuck Hall, cowboy and brand inspector. They’ll talk about “eating dirt,” the hard work, the injuries, the economics of ranching, the laughter and the tears, as they herd horses and cattle, train horses and brand cattle. Each seems totally at ease in their chosen environment, riding and roping. And each has a certain view of the world that is at once conservative, intellectual and opinionated.

With a wonderful soundtrack of authentic music, Gathering Remnants is beautiful and visually stunning view of the ranches that still span hundreds of square miles, with cattle and horses running over vast expanses of sagebrush covered land. And each sound bite from these cowboys and others involved in their world gives us a better sense of what they go through every day, how they handle the loneliness and the joys, and what they see for the future.

From the book Gathering Remnants, filmmaker-photographer Kendall Nelson catches some of the action as the cowboss catches fresh mounts for the cowboys. 

An obvious labor of love by director/producer Kendall Nelson and director of photographer John Plummer, Gathering Remnants will leave you with a new appreciation for the American cowboy and a sadness that this way of life seems to be disappearing in the crushing onslaught of modern technology.

Learn more about the Documentary Channel, and watch a trailer for Gathering Remnants, on the Documentary Channel’s website. For more information on the film and the book on which it’s based, and to order the book or photos by Nelson, visit the Gathering Remnants website.