Chronicles of Adventure: Walker Heads to Wyoming
Lost In The Wyoming Landscape
One of our favorite people and a friend to the brand since day one is Brett Walker. He is a talent of many forms and a man that is always ready to go on an adventure, no matter what that adventure may be. He is a hard working fella and we love the honest truth behind his work. I don't want to take away from the story at hand so I will quiet down but if you like what you see you should head on over to his website for the full edit and join his monthly newsletter.
Hello everyone. My name is Brett Walker. Some of you might recognize me from the Taylor Stitch site, as I’ve occasionally let the dudes use my mediocre-looking body to show off some of their stellar-looking clothing. In our house, we refer to the Taylor Stitch guys – collectively – as The Dudes, and it’s really the most apt name for them. All of The Dudes are my buddies; they’re co-conspirators of sorts in a variety of illicit activities. Thankfully my wife loves them as much as I do, otherwise most of the things I do with them would warrant me spending long periods of time in the doghouse, which is to say the futon, since we don’t have a dog. Or a doghouse.
Anyway, the dudes asked me to write up a little report about an adventure I had this past July. I know The Dudes because I work at a coffee shop that happens to be located next to their brick and mortar store in the Mission here in San Francisco. In addition to making The Dudes coffee almost every day of my life for the last 3 years, I am also an artist and filmmaker. I typically make short films and videos and a variety of still photographs.
Last summer, I was hired to work as a cameraman on a feature-length documentary film that a friend had been shooting in Wyoming for the last few years. The film is about a 98-year-old fur trapper named Jake Korell, who was one of the last American mountain men. He was an expert outdoorsman, hunter, taxidermist, storyteller, cowboy, and general all around bad ass. Jake had more style than a stack of Pendleton catalogs, and his hunting knife had seen more blood than your Opinel knife has cut apples in Dolores park.
Anyway, my friend Pieter had met Jake a couple of years ago and was fascinated by his story and wanted to make a documentary about him. So in recent years, Pieter spent time in Wyoming documenting Jake’s life and capturing his story. Jake finally passed away in March, and Pieter felt it was time to wrap the project up. This is where I come into the picture.
Pieter needed someone to run two cameras and related sound equipment for him; he had a laundry list of people to interview and various shots he needed to complete his film. He also needed to scan a pile of photographs from Jake’s family’s archive.
These are all things I am more or less capable of doing, and so, armed with all the necessary equipment, which included two Canon 5D’s, various microphones and hard disk recorders, and my giant Epson scanner which just barely fits in my largest Pelican case, Pieter and I left San Francisco by truck and headed toward Jake’s former home of Riverton, Wyoming, which was going to be home base for the following 10 days while we were working.
I should preface all of this by saying that Pieter was someone I had met at the Dolphin Club in San Francisco, where we both swim in the bay. We’d had a variety of conversations about our work and our aspirations as creative people, and he screened for me the hour-long rough cut of the film that he had already edited, and after seeing it, I felt super compelled to work with him.
All good feelings aside, I still went out on this expedition with him, not really knowing him or how we would work together so closely. Any hesitations were thrown out the window somewhere East of Tahoe. We instantly hit it off, and became true partners in crime.
We’d decided to drive instead of fly because we had so much gear we needed to bring, and it was only a 14 hour drive, so we drove almost 10 hours the first day, past Salt Lake City. Being Dutch, Pieter is very European, in the loveliest way possible. But he’s pretty crazy and has this thick Dutch accent, he walks with confidence, and has no problem being up front with people and speaking what’s on his mind. I am a pretty big dude with a huge beard, and I was running around making pictures of everything, so we basically couldn’t go anywhere without causing some sort of scene and having all the locals point and stare. Some of my most favorite pictures I made from this trip are the ones made of the random people we met along the way: the Rodeo Queen in Neveda, the cross country motorcyclist at a view point in Wyoming, and the wedding party that was all crammed into the back of this pickup driving through Riverton.
Our time in Wyoming was pretty wild and intense. We interviewed a ton of Trapper Jake's friends, including his friend Mark, who is a sheep farmer on the outskirts of Riverton, Wyoming. Mark and Jake trapped together often so we went out to interview him, spending the night in his off the grid cabin way out in the Wyoming landscape.
Mark’s cabin is probably an hour or so outside of town, you eventually turn off the paved highway onto this dirt road and drive for another 45 minutes or so, deep into the Wyoming landscape until you find him. Or rather until he finds you, because truth be told, Pieter and I totally got lost out there trying to find him. It’s nothing but dirt roads and mountain ranges and herds of wild horses and antelope. Everything starts looking the same.
As I mentioned Mark’s cabin is off the grid, and his only phone line out there is this satellite phone that kept hanging up on me every time I called it. I eventually was able to get in touch with my wife Kathleen back in San Francisco, and had her call Mark for me, and she miraculously was able to speak to him, and told him where we were, which is to say we had finally stopped driving when we came to the third fork in the road and figured we were pretty lost, and so Mark told her to tell us to stay put and he would come and find us, which he sure enough finally did.
Mark took us around to various places where he and Jake trapped. We followed him around as he tended his sheep – he has a flock of over a thousand sheep – and we basically just hung out with him, drinking coffee in his cabin and hunting rabbits that were roaming around his property. Rabbit fried in butter and onions is a good way to start your morning.
During our time in Riverton, we stayed at Trapper Jake’s house. It had remained intact since he passed away in March and it was right up the road from his son’s ranch, so it was the perfect place to crash.
Jake’s son Jerry and his wife Ida are horse people. They breed barrel racing horses on their farm, and their stud’s name is Smoke n Twist.
One morning, I was going for a walk down near their ranch and ended up getting to view a horse ultrasound. Jerry and Ida are awesome people, real farm working people. Like Trapper Jake, Jerry is an expert hunter and taxidermist, and his living room was filled with animals that he had killed and taxidermied. He also showed me a custom leather horse saddle he was working on, hand tooled and shaped. Jerry is the kind of fellow who does these things without thinking twice about them; for him they are ways of life and parts of his culture that go without saying.
So that’s sort of the brief synopsis of the trip, hopefully soon you’ll be able to see the film somewhere. It’s edited and finished and looks amazing and is currently being submitted to film festivals and studios for wider distribution. I was definitely on this trip to work, and help produce material for someone else’s project, yet when I had the time I was making photographs. My photographs don’t fully tell the story of our time in Riverton, much less the story of Trapper Jake, but that’s what the movie is for. And again, I was there to make a movie; the photographs just came about from the experience of that process. Either way, I hope you enjoy these pictures as much as I enjoyed making them.
A Picture Of Trapper Jake and Wife Martha
Cross Country Motorcyclist
Drinking Coffee With Mark
Driving Through The American West
Jerry and Ida
Jerry and Ida's Farm
Pieter Takes A Bunny
Have Camera, Will Travel