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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.


8/10/2011 11:43:44 PM

Dear Mr McDaniel, and others who think his way: With due respect, as you have not seen this film, you know not of which you speak. Yes, the cowboy still exists. On his ever-shrinking range, besieged by environmental extremists, bad or faulty science and ever more restrictive laws and legislation, the cowboy of today IS an endangered species. What the advent of barbed wire, the arrival of the automobile and mechanized farming have failed to do, the average American's ignorance may well accomplish. Reason? Most Americans have no idea what the rancher and cowboy are up against, or how much ground they lose on the legal field each year. The misconceptions are boundless, and your remark about a 20-mile 2-way radio is but one. Cowboys don't carry those, and even if they did, when a man is 40 miles from paged road and 20 from dirt roads, there's no help that could reach him even if he did carry a radio. The man on horseback is as alone now as he's ever been. And more so, because American has lost all touch with its agricultural roots. Watch this documentary, America. You'll just begin to understand who the cowboy is, and why he is of value to us. Signed: an ex-cowhand.

lloyd mcdaniel_1
7/22/2011 8:10:56 PM

For over a hundred years there have been books, radio, teevee, movies about the "disappearing cowboy'... I make no judgement about this film as I have not seen it, BUT I can't help but note that every time somebody wants to MAKE a film about this there are STILL cowboys out there to be found. The simple fact is that there were NEVER all that many 'cowboys' compared to farmers, townspeople, railroad workers whatever. One rider can work a hell of a lot of critters if they have any idea what they are doing and with that 20 mile 2-way radio clipped to his belt he can get help now if he needs it pretty quick. To ME this is more about the filmmakers need TO make the movie than about the NEED to highlight a subject that frankly HAS BEEN DONE. Ever see THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE??? At the end after Jimmy Stewart has laid his soul bare about sopmething that happened decades before the newspaperman refuses to print the truth. "No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." says he. This movie is more of the same, I'll wager.

nebraska dave
7/17/2011 7:35:29 AM

Jean, you got me on this one. I don't get the DOC channel on my very basic cable network. I did watch the trailer and liked how the documentary looked. It is kind of sad to see the dying breed of American that made this country what it is today slowing slipping away due to technology. I'm not sure I could live the cowboy life but I do like the free spirit behind the life. Thank you so much for always being on the hunt for quality things to watch. Have a great GRIT day.