The Flying Horsemen
A community dotted with oil derricks from its “Boom Town” heyday sits along the northern edge of Texas. A few miles northwest, a large ranch nestles the banks of the Red River.
“He saw this ad in the paper,” Joreen Ludeke recounted as she explained how her husband, James, bought that very property.
“He saw this ad in the paper of this ranch for sale. He went to look at it, and he bought it. It was awful. It was an old oil field. Just more junk, trash on it than you ever saw. Weeds were this high.” She lifted her hand a few feet off the ground.
James, Joreen and their three children moved into the small, four-room house in 1955.
Though the ranch was in poor shape when the Ludekes took it over, they worked very hard to clean it up and raise cattle, chickens, wheat, rye, barley and six children.
James ranched, taught at the Air Force base and fathered. He also had a strong passion for photography. He chronicled a decent amount of life on Kodachrome slides: from farm work, to landscapes to everyday life.
Two generations later, I began documenting the decay of my grandparents’ land: rusted cars and farm machines, drought-stricken fields, a dwindled livestock population. Paired with the mid-century Kodachromes, these diptychs offer a visual history of Texas ranching. They also serve as a metaphor for American history. As the country invested in higher education after WWII, many younger generations went to college, abandoning an agrarian way of life.
The notion of time in these diptychs shows a progression of terrain, the growth of people and the persistence of memory.