West Texas Stories
I’d always wanted to explore Texas. But not the big cities or towns you can easily spot on a map. I wanted to discover the beauty and uniqueness of the places no one’s heard of. For ten days I roamed the Wild West, soaking in its rich and rugged culture. I smoked weed with cowboys, got tattooed by an ex-convict and slept under the stars on a university football field. I may never go back, but if I do, I’ll have friends I can visit.
Matthew, Mallory and Tate Johnson in Crosbyton, Texas. “We met while we were both working as guards at the TDC Psychiatric Hospital,” Matthew told me, “when we had Tate I got a new job installing wind turbines. I really prefer not having to beat the shit out of people for a living.”
Jamie Burns and her grandson Brock at a gas station outside Lubbock, home of Buddy Holly. They were picking up snacks and cigarettes before heading to work at “Quality Auctioneers,” the auction house Jamie’s owned for 25 years. “We sell everything: airplanes, bowling balls, cars, tractors, farmland, even billy goats.”
Cousins Trevon and Cameron Dickson in Odessa, Texas. I rolled up in my white Volkswagen rental car while they were shooting hoops and proceeded to entertain them with my wacky Canadian accent. They were off to work later that night at Taco Bell and said they’d “hook me up” if I came by.
I met Chauncey Foley in the parking lot of the Comanche Springs public pool in Fort Stockton, Texas. He’d recently gotten out of prison and was spending the afternoon with his girlfriend and her two kids. His impressive tattoo collection made me ask if he knew where I could get one in town. I wanted my mom’s name in script – an idea I’d had for years. Chauncey told me he’d do it himself at his parents’ house in the trailer park in exchange for some beer (Bud Light Chelada) for his dad, Randy. We did the tattoo later that night, and as I laid on the bed staring at the ceiling, Chauncey yelled “Y’all need to quit shakin’ the Goddamn trailer!!!” every time someone came in or out. The tattoo isn’t perfect, but Mom likes it, and that’s all that really matters.
I met the Romero family; Jen and her kids Alexis and David, while wandering the alleys of Clovis, New Mexico. It was a Sunday night and they were having a BBQ in their backyard. Alexis had spent the afternoon dying her hair the colour of a traffic cone and David had just finished work at the vape supplies store.
There isn’t much of a story here believe it or not. I met Journei and her two cousins outside their apartment complex in the town of Hobbs, New Mexico. They said their neighbour had a gold, Fanta-themed lowrider and that we could take some pictures with it. So we did, and it was magical.
I met John Denniston at K-Bob’s Steakhouse in Clovis, New Mexico. We were both at the bar, eating dinner and watching golf on the big screen TV. John grew up in New Jersey and joined the military at 18. He explained that new recruits fill out a “dream sheet” to request where they’d like to be stationed. “I picked a bunch of bases up and down the East Coast, close to home,” he said. “They sent me to Clovis. I’d never even heard of it before. I’ve been here for six years now.”
The Goss family (Kyle, Kandice, Kassie and Kap) in the parking lot of the Clovis, New Mexico horse auction. It was Father’s Day and Kyle was getting ready to smoke a massive joint in the front seat of their truck before driving home. “We had to have a second kid so people wouldn’t call us the ‘KKK family.’”
Don Ammons (87) in Post, Texas. I spotted Don at the grocery store while he was cashing in a winning scratch ticket. His sporty, Ikea-themed outfit made him hard to miss. He has five kids, 13 grandchildren and coached football and basketball at the Post high school for 30 years. “When I was 72 I won the town golf tournament. It was in the seniors category,” he said, “but just between you and me, I was the only person who entered.”
Ky Studdard and Bill Herring at the Clovis, New Mexico horse auction. The auction manager wouldn’t let me inside because he thought I was an animal rights activist. I explained I was just a Canadian photographer with a passion for western culture. He didn’t believe me. My outfit of colourful running shorts and Nike Epic React’s probably didn’t help.
Wes Ritchie (19), in Alpine, Texas. He’d just finished his day as a radio-tower repairman and was about to drive eight hours home to Dallas. We did this extremely glamorous fashion shoot in the parking lot of Little Caesars and then he hit the road.
I spent my last night in Texas in Midland, at the Washington Park community BBQ. Locals played baseball, blasted music from their cars and drank booze from brown paper bags as the sun went down. After ten days of driving, photographing strangers and enduring the brutal heat, I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. Just as I was about to leave, this girl showed up out of nowhere and said “Take a picture of my ass!” then disappeared before I could ask her name. It was the last picture I took in Texas. I spent the night in a two-star Airbnb hosted by a construction worker named Jordan, then flew home the next day.