A New Spin on agriculture: Munsick’s background influences musicWritten by Saige Albert
Tris Munsick was raised on a ranch in Sheridan County, but music has always been an important part of his life. Today, he’s taken his ag roots and used them to influence his start in the music industry.
“My dad managed a cow/calf operation on the east slope of the Bighorns for 20 years,” Munsick says. “When I was growing up, my parents bought their own little place, picked up some leases and started running their own cows.”
After high school, Munsick mentions that he and his younger brothers Sam and Ian worked around the region on ranches.
“I’ve worked in Colorado, Montana, Texas and Wyoming, and my middle brother Sam worked in Oregon and all over Wyoming,” he says. “Our youngest brother Ian is living in Nashville, Tenn. trying to do his music.”
Munsick was raised around the music industry and says it has greatly influenced his life.
“My dad, Dave Munsick, plays music for a living. He plays quite a bit around the region,” he says. “My brothers and I started playing with Dad. Our family band is called the Munsick Boys.”
The family has recorded several albums, and they continue to play together as often as they can.
“As scattered as we are, it's tough to go hard with our family band,” Munsick says. “We play a few times a year together.”
He continues, “My family might not play together for a year, but when we get together, it works. There is nothing like playing with my family.”
Munsick says that playing as a family is special, and the chemistry they have is natural.
“If we do our job right, when we play as a family, it is special for everyone – not just us but the audience, too,” he says. “We feel a special chemistry together that’s unlike anything else.”
Forming a band
In 2012, Munsick and a group of close friends formed their own band – Tris Munsick and the Innocents. They have played consistently together for the last three years.
The Innocents have been together long enough that Munsick says they are very close.
“The band is family to me, for sure,” he says. “We’ve played together long enough that I’m confident saying that. My brother Sam just joined us. He plays guitar now, which is really awesome.”
Through the summer, Tris Munsick and the Innocents plays across the West. The number of shows they play slows down in the winter, and Munsick explains that it has been particularly difficult while he’s been back in graduate school. However, they’ve got plans to work hard toward growing their presence starting this summer.
Looking at the future
Munsick says they have reached the point where they have two options – pick up speed and make a living playing music or slow down and pursue other careers.
“We either have to go forward or go backward a bit,” he says. “We’re going to try to make a run at it and make a career. We’re going to work hard enough to make a living, so we won’t need to have jobs outside of the band.”
“What the future looks like is a good question,” Munsick says. “We’re going to take this one thing at a time. Right now, graduate school is my priority.”
He continues, “I’ve been around the music industry enough to know that it is a hard road to go.”
Being on the road all the time performing can be challenging, particularly for people with a family.
“Not having a family right now makes things quite a bit easier,” he says, “and if that changes, I’ll have to re-evaluate my priorities.”
“We’re not looking too far into the future right now,” Munsick continues. “I’m looking to finish up school, and we'll then grow the band. I want to see where this takes us to really try to do our music justice.”
Part of jumping in and running with the band means putting his heart and soul into the music, says Munsick.
“We really want to do a good job,” he explains.
At this stage in his career, Munsick has released two CDs, with a third scheduled for release this summer.
All of the music on their albums is original, and he says, “We get the inspiration for these songs from our experiences.”
Munsick notes that he respects those songwriters who are able to take more abstract ideas that they haven’t experienced and turn them into a song, and he strives to continue developing his songwriting ability to that level.
He adds, “My song ideas come to me when I’m driving and have the time to think to myself.”
“Ninety percent of the ideas I have I forget, and 90 percent of the ones I remember don’t pan out,” Munsick laughs. “Every once in a while, we get a song that goes all the way, but it takes a while to bring a song together. The people I’ve met and places I’ve been are the main drivers of my songwriting.”
The influence of the agriculture world has been pivotal in his music career.
“My upbringing absolutely influences my career,” Munsick notes. “We all grew up with an ag background, and we all looked up to cowboys. We wanted to be cowboys when we were kids.”
“The heart and soul of my music is based in the western culture and the lifestyle that we’re immersed in all the time,” Munsick comments. “We wouldn’t be where we are without these experiences and our background.”
The cowboy lifestyle is a challenge, as is a career in music, but Munsick says he is up for the task.
Tris Munsick and the Innocents are preparing to release their third album this summer, which will reflect their highs and lows, as well as their experience traveling the country from east to west.
“This new album will touch on everywhere we’ve been the last few years,” he says. “We’re excited about it.”
Elmo and Flo: Wyo cartoonist retires his syndicated seriesWritten by Natasha Wheeler
After 43 years creating the largest weekly, syndicated cartoon feature in the agricultural sector in both the U.S. and Canada, Jerry Palen is retiring.
“I’m going to miss it. I really will miss it,” he says.
Although, he mentions, “I am still drawing cartoons. It’s a bad habit, and I can’t break it. We’d like to do one more cartoon book.”
Palen has published nine cartoon books to date, in addition to yearly calendars and his weekly series.
In addition to cartoons, he also creates watercolors, oil paintings and sculptures.
While he's retiring Stampede, Palen hopes that newspapers and magazines will continue to run the popular series, saying, “I just got a nice letter from the Governor saying I can’t quit, so somebody reads it.”
Governor Matt Mead’s grandfather, past senator and Governor Cliff Hanson, is honored with a monument at the state capitol created by Palen.
“Every U.S. president since Jimmy Carter has requested my art work to present to heads of state, etc.,” he mentions.
As for Stampede, Palen says, “I grew up with this cartoon series. My father, by vocation, was a large animal veterinarian, so he got to go around to all of the ranches and farms. Of course, he always carried around two helpers that he didn’t pay very much, my brother and me.”
He continued, “Watching all of those wonderful people out in the country is where the ideas for this cartoon series came from.”
Palen also developed a passion for his craft by helping his father verify the originality of various pieces of art, visiting museums and collections throughout the country.
“One of the biggest I was ever at was the museum in Kansas City. It was huge. For every one artist that is on display, there were probably 10 or 12 pieces in the basement that had never been shown. It was neat to see all the different artists, and I took advantage of it. I picked up my father’s love of art,” he explains.
Fascinated by the discussions of art and conversations with museum directors who described art and the artists, Palen announced at the age of nine that he, too, would be an artist.
“One of the best stories that my wife Ann likes to tell is we met in a high school art class. Of course, she got an A, and I got a C, but I got a wife out of the deal,” Palen says.
After high school, Ann went to San Francisco, Calif. to study at Mills College, and Palen went to the University of Wyoming, earning a degree in economics and political science. After he graduated, he went to Santa Barbara, Calif. to study with artist Nicholas Firfires.
“I got to study with Nick for several years. That was a real door-opener because he was a really fine artist and wonderful man,” he remarks.
At that time, kinetic art became very popular, but it wasn’t a style that interested Palen. He returned to Wyoming and became an examiner at a bank.
“I did that for a few years, but in the evenings after work, I would go back to my room and start messing with my artwork,” he comments. “I would whine to my wife that I didn’t want to be in banking for the rest of my life.”
One day, Ann convinced him to take the day off from work and gather up his favorite cartoons.
He continues, “On a Friday, we packed 10 cartoons up and took them to the Western Horseman in Colorado Springs, Colo. There, I presented them, and they were really impressed. They bought all 10 of them for five dollars apiece. With that kind of ‘big’ money, I went home and on that Monday, I called in and said, ‘I quit.’”
From there, the series took off. As different publishers discovered his work, they would reach out to Palen to find out if they could include his cartoons in their publications as well.
One of the first publishers to contact him was Bob Larson, publisher and editor of the Wyoming Stockman-Farmer. When he asked about the name of the cartoon series, Palen said the first thing that popped into his mind.
“I had not even thought about it. That’s big-time stuff. The first thing that came to my mind was Stampede,” he explains, adding that he also came up with the names Elmo and Flo on the spot. “I still don’t know where that came from.”
The ranch wife
Flo, Palen says, was really the character that made Stampede so popular with rural people, and women in particular, all over the United States, Canada and the world.
“Flo shows the importance of women in agriculture. She’s not only the cook, the mother and the wife, she really runs the show. She keeps the books, and she keeps everything in line. I still think that’s true today,” states Palen.
Crediting his wife of 52 years as the inspiration for Flo, he advises anyone who runs a farm or ranch to marry someone smart, who can keep the books, find the right parts at the store during harvest time and change a tire.
“We, as a couple, have had a wonderful time with Stampede,” he says.
The couple also has two sons. The youngest is a critical care doctor and professor at the University of Washington.
“He is married to another doctor, and they are proud parents of our grandson,” Palen comments.
His oldest son resides nearby as an attorney and rancher.
Palen says, “He has a beautiful attorney wife and a daughter. They don’t live too far from us, but this is Wyoming – a three-hour drive one-way is just down the road.”
Speaking of his sons, he adds, “We raised them on our working ranch outside of Cheyenne, where we initiated one of the first intensive grazing programs in the state, tripling our yearling heifer numbers and doing wonders for our pastures. We were very proud of our work and shared it with others.”
Now, Palen will be focused on spending more time with his family and working on art that doesn’t entail the tight deadlines of weekly cartoons.
“We have to close another chapter, Stampede, with Elmo, old Red the pickup, Damit the Dog and, of course, Flo,” he says. “For all of us in agriculture, it’s time we bow down to our tremendous partners – our loving wives, devoted partners and tire changers.”
Western Gear Lander hosts first art showWritten by Melissa Hemken
“This is the first show of this type that we have supported,” says Lisa Hueneke, Lander Art Center Director. “It’s great to be supporting the art of western gear as many of these artists are from Fremont County.”
Crafts exhibited include leather tooling, rawhide braiding, silver engraving, horsehair hitching and wool weaving. Some of the displayed items are for sale, while others are examples of gear that can be ordered.
The Lander Art Center’s show is a great way to familiarize people with the different types of mediums used to make western gear. Richard Gould of Lander, a Lander Art Center board member and horsehair hitcher, was instrumental in developing the show and connecting with gear makers over the past six months.
Gould will be again holding horsehair hitching classes through the Art Center in the spring of 2013. Some of his past students, Becky Shepard and her daughter Milissa Denevan had hitched pieces entered in the show.
“This bridle is the largest piece of I have completed,” says Shepard of Lander. “It took me six months and now I’m not sure I want to use it on my horse! Though my next project will be to make a matching breast collar.”
Shepard began hitching by trying things with her own horse’s hair before taking classes from Gould through the Art Center two years ago. The Western Gear Show is Shepard’s first art show, though she participated in the Wyoming Women in Ag show last December.
“I find keeping the pattern aligned and smooth is the hardest part,” Shepard says. “I like to hitch as it makes tack flashy, but it is also durable. I color my horse hair with everything from beet juice to artificial dyes.”
Shepard’s daughter, Milissa Denevan, now resides in Tennessee and continues to hitch. She recently had the U.S. Army approve her hitched hatbands as part of the official uniform of the cavalry unit stationed at Fort Campbell.
Community members Bill Yankee and Doc Stockton judged the Western Gear Show.
Mike Alley placed first with his rawhide reins, Cache Morse of Ironcreek Leatherworks in Lake Forest, Wash. took second place with elk skin chinks and Leane Linnell of Riverton came in third place for her mohair cinch.
Linnell began braiding mohair cinches this spring after taking a cinch making class with Pop Wagner of Minnesota, who was hosted by Central Wyoming College and the Wyoming Arts Council in Dubois.
“I have a friend who makes cinches and sparked my interest in it,” Linnell explains. “I just loved the class, and the first cinch I made is the one I entered in the gear show.
Beginning to braid
“I actually braided the cinch in the show for my gelding. I’m anxious for the show to end, so I can go riding with my new cinch!”
It takes Linnell about six hours to braid a cinch. Linnell is seeking to grow her business and is accepting orders for custom cinches according to size and hardware preference.
“I enjoy doing the cinches as you can weave them in lots of colors and patterns with people’s brands and initials included,” Linnell says. “They are a nice useable gift, not something you have to dust or vacuum.”
Mohair is a natural fiber, and Linnell says horses respond to it better than synthetic materials. Sometimes horses’ behavioral problems are resolved through using the softer fiber.
Linnell has also been horsehair hitching for five years and entered a hat band and over-and-under strap in the show. Her mohair cinch includes a shoofly that she hitched. She views cinch making as a progression in her craft and is excited to combine hitching and mohair braiding.
“I think it is awesome to highlight the craftsmanship of this type of art,” Hueneke says. “It is really interesting that these artists are connected to their work not only through the materials, but also through how they are using the gear they create.”
The Western Gear Show will be open until Sept. 15 and is available for viewing during the Lander Art Center’s business hours Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Gould is planning to hold horsehair hitching classes through the Art Center in spring 2013. The Lander Art Center is a non-profit organization established in 200, and provides community and youth art classes, artist studio space and hosts rotating art shows.
Wyo Artist - Bailey attributes masters, sculptors for influenceWritten by Madeline Robinson
Bailey attributes masters, sculptors for influence
Cheyenne – Artist Brandon Bailey started his career in art thinking he was going to be an art teacher, but when he took a painting course in college, he discovered that becoming a professional artist was his calling.
“I started getting into some art shows, and before I knew it, I was so busy with those that I couldn’t finish school,” explains Bailey. “I started doing art professionally about six years ago.”
Bailey is a native Wyomingite, and he incorporates his experiences being outside, with Wyoming’s wildlife and hunting into his paintings. He also rode bulls in college and have been around the ranching lifestyle, which he represents in his artwork as well.
“Those experiences give me the passion to paint those events and scenes,” he describes. “The wildlife in Wyoming and growing up hunting with my dad has been a big part of my paintings. There’s just that lifestyle in Wyoming that is
hard to explain.”
Bailey has also traveled to New Zealand and, recently, Africa to view the wildlife, depicting them in his paintings, too.
Bailey mentions the act of painting itself has always been a challenge, and he continuously tries to improve with each painting he creates.
“I’m always trying to grow and learn as an artist,” comments Bailey.
He states one of the rewards he receives from his painting and art is it gives him the ability to travel and visit places he wouldn’t have otherwise been able to travel to.
“The best reward I’ve had with my art is the travelling and new friends we’ve made along the way,” he says. “My business plan is to be the best painter I can be and just to let everything else fall into place.”
He continues, “My main focus, more than anything, is to push myself, and it can be kind of hard sometimes. Especially when I’ve spent so much time on a piece, I’m never satisfied because I’m always trying to get better. That’s always a challenge that I face. I love it enough to keep doing it but hate it enough to try to get better.”
Bailey prefers to use oil paints for his art because they leave a timeless quality to the paintings.
“The first year I was in the Cheyenne Frontier Days Art Show, I used acrylic paints. Then, my Dad and I went to a museum, and I saw the oil paintings with their big textures and brush strokes and the richness of the colors. When I went home, I threw away all of my acrylic paints and picked up oils,” notes Bailey.
“I said to myself, ‘I guess I’d have to learn how to use oil paints,’ and I have learned by trial,” he states. “I still make mistakes everyday, and I just try to get better with them.”
Bailey mentions he likes to paint with a lot of texture, varied brush strokes and randomness, all of which can be achieved with oil paints.
Bailey has been to the Western Art Show at the Cheyenne Frontier Days (CFD) for the past four years. Recently, one of his pieces was picked to be the limited edition print for the 2015 poster for CFD.
Other shows he has attended are Calgary Stampede’s Western Artist Showcase, Safari Club International’s Annual Hunters Convention, Art of the American Cowboy and the Southeastern Wildlife Expo.
Bailey has received numerous awards for his artwork, including the People’s Choice Award at CFD in 2012, where one of his pieces was also picked for the poster. He was also the premier artist for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in 2014.
When asked what advice he would give to fellow artists, Bailey says, “Don’t let anyone tell them that they can’t be an artist. That was advice I was given throughout my whole career.”
“Aspiring artists should do the best work they can do and paint because they want to paint and love it,” he adds. “The money and all the rest will follow. Never give up and always stay positive.”
Bailey further notes that young artists can learn from people criticizing their work and then try to apply what they have said to improve on their work.
Most importantly, Bailey notes he appreciates all of the support he has received through his journey of being an artist and with his artwork.
Bailey’s artwork can be found at the various art shows he attends, as well as at galleries on the western U.S. and on his website. Giclees of Bailey’s artwork are available for collectors.
Bailey has collections exhibited in Canada, Africa, Europe, New Zealand and all over the U.S. from California to Florida.
Other than drawing on his own background for his inspiration, artist Brandon Bailey likes to visit museums and study artists such as Monet and Renoir to gain ideas and new methods of painting for his artwork.
“The best teaching tool for me is going to museums and seeing original oil paintings first-hand of some of the old masters,” states Bailey. “I just try to get in my mind how they did a certain color or brush stroke. It’s a slow process, but I’ve been able to apply something new to every one of my paintings.”
He adds, “The old masters have been very influential. I always worried if I idolized somebody too much and their work, mine would come off looking like theirs. By using some of the older techniques and applying those into my western work, it creates a unique feel.”
Bailey notes that sometimes his new brush strokes and use of color works well in his painting, and sometimes it doesn’t, but after experimenting with some of his new techniques, they become part of his repertoire.
Some of Bailey’s other mentors for his artwork have been sculptors and bronze artists, particularly Chris Navarro and Joshua Tobey.
“These guys have pushed me to develop my style and have been very influential for me as an artist,” he says.
Reflections from a cow man’s daughter: UW grad student documents seasons in ranch lifeWritten by Christy Martinez
“I have always wanted to do some kind of project with photography or film that represents the ranching lifestyle, and from the point of view of someone who grew up in it,” she says of the idea, which grew into the photographic collection “Reflections of a Cow Man’s Daughter.”
Faulkner, a soil science graduate student in UW’s Department of Ecosystem Services, formally Renewable Resources, in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, had also applied to a film school program, so she says she felt the opportunity was serendipitous.
“The purpose of this project is to create a photographic collection representing the dynamic and multidimensional life of the rancher, from the perspective of a cow man’s daughter,” wrote Faulkner in her project proposal in March 2011.
After receiving the award, Faulkner began gathering images in March 2011, a project that lasted for a year, through March 2012.
“I tried to capture each season in ranching,” she explains. “It has been my experience that each season on a ranch creates unique imagery with which to work.”
“My initial pictures were from local brandings and spring work,” she notes, saying that reintroducing herself to photography took a lot of practice. “I started locally, but I also had phases of intensity where I sought people out around the state and spent more time editing photos as the year went on and the weather changed.”
Faulkner’s family currently lives on a place outside of Saratoga, but she says she grew up on a ranch northeast of Rawlins, so that is where most of her connections where.
“I also tried to put myself out there, and go to ranch rodeos and other events to introduce myself to people,” she says, adding that most people where completely gracious. “Some people were hesitant, but I was very surprised as to how many people said ok. As a result, I saw some really beautiful places, and it was fun.”
Return to ranching
Looking back on the project, Faulkner says her favorite part was being horseback so much more than she has been while in college.
“I’ve been away the last several years, and being around the people and the exposure to being out there in the ranching environment again was really good for me,” she says.
Continuing the project
Of her future plans, Faulkner says her mom keeps asking her about putting together a book, an idea of which she’s not yet sure.
“I realize that, from a technical standpoint, I wouldn’t have included a lot of the photos, had I had a photographer audience, but I felt a lot of them told a story, even if the picture was flawed, and I found it useful,” she comments. “This project has prompted me to want to improve my photography skills in the future, and the medium is perfect. I’m not sure in what aspect, but I would like to continue the project.”
“I feel that ranching is often misinterpreted, and the purpose of this project was to give a voice to ranching that, I think, is sometimes unheard,” says Faulkner. “That’s what I hope to accomplish.”
Galleries feature photos
One of the requirements of the award is a gallery presentation at the end of the project, and Faulkner says for the show she selected images that she feels represent a rancher’s life, including images capturing the emotion, events, challenges and successes involved in a rancher’s day-to-day as well as cumulative experiences.
Faulkner will show a portion of her images in a university gallery in the Wyoming Union from April 30 through May 17, but a larger show on May 18 at Laramie’s Hart’s Alley is her addition to the project’s finale.
“I have quite a few more images than fit in the small room at the university,” she says.
Faulkner plans to show over 100 photos at her show May 18. The show will run from 6 to 9 p.m., with a dedication and acknowledgements by Faulkner at 7:30, followed by several readings from Faulkner and others.
Reflecting on ranch life
The following is an excerpt from UW soil science graduate student Jennifer Faulkner’s project proposal, which received UW’s Larsh Bristol Memorial Award. She used the project to document ranch life in her photojournalistic project “Reflections of a Cow Man’s Daughter.”
“I feel a strong desire to give back to this culture, which so hugely shaped my connections to the natural world. I feel extreme gratitude to my parents for choosing to raise their children in the country and on the land. To my father I especially owe thanks for exposure to a work ethic and integrity, which have gone unequally witnessed across all of my travels and experiences.
“As a child I spent countless days on horseback, roaming Wyoming’s sagebrush deserts. I have many memories of being forced from bed, already in the work clothes I had put on the night before just to catch an extra few minutes of sleep in the morning. I would eat a big breakfast, eyes half closed, knowing it might be that night before I ate again.
“Once outside, even the jolt of a brisk frost on exposed skin may not raise my alertness. It usually took the jog around the weathered wooden corral in pursuit of my pony of the day, to bring me to a more conscious state. I was usually dreading the day ahead, imagining the soreness in my body from whatever physical endeavors lie ahead. Whether it was gathering cattle on horseback, fixing fence, driving a tractor or trying to get out of some kind of wreck, I could count on being tired and enduring the harsh scrutiny of my dad along the way.
“I was the only ranch kid that went to the schools to which I commuted 45 miles every weekday. I did not own my heritage as a child the way I so possessively do today. I was always anticipating going to town, where there were lots of treats and people who realized a person did not need to work so hard to make a living.
“My parents did not try to impose their choice to live in the country on their children, once we left home. They instead encouraged us to pursue our own passions and happiness. I spent many years away from Wyoming, and the immediate influences of the ranching lifestyle. Despite this hiatus, the remnants of a childhood filled with sagebrush, dust, hayfields, blisters, galloping horses, bellowing cows and extreme consequences for poor choices but deep gratification for thoughtful ones, have left a permanent impression.
“Along with the physical and emotional memories of ranching, I am now able to add the comparisons of my interactions with other types of land managers and users, to my assessment of the rancher as a steward. Not all ranchers do a great job of taking care of their resources, but when they do not nurture the land, eventually the odds overwhelm them and they cannot make it here anymore.
“In my experience ranchers have been among the most hard-working, thoughtful, and honest people, to whom I have been exposed. They are a leery bunch, skeptical of promises and long-winded explanations founded on inexperience. But they also share a love and appreciation for the landscape and its inhabitants, which I find is the ultimate connection between this group of people and all others who seek to protect and honor Wyoming.”