Straight West: Portraits and Scenes from Ranch Life in the American West

Verlyn Klinkenborg
August 2000

Straight West is a book of ninety exquisite and moving black and white photographs about the deep interior of the American West, a place whose people are defined by their relations to animals and the land. The country of Straight West is enormous, stretching from the Mexican border to Montana, but it is also intimate, a matter of heart as well as geography. Lindy Smith’s moving, powerful photographs capture a world that is too little known, a landscape of ranch-work, self-reliance, and hard-won trust, a place as much defined by dogs, sheep, cattle, and horses as by humans. As Verlyn Klinkenborg writes in the accompanying text, “there is no place in America like the ranching West for enunciating what it means to come from outside - outside the West, outside the ranch-life. And Yet there is no place in America more welcoming when you make it clear that you understand the call of the work at hand, no place where the work itself is more social…because so much ranch-work is solitary by nature, any work that can be done with friends and neighbors, like gathering cattle, becomes not only a neighboring but also a gesture of cultural solidarity. It contains a degree of formality - a sense of how things are done - that is easily lost on outsiders.” This is a book that no one who loves the American West, or fine black-and-white photographs, will want to miss.