Friendly Ranch Colorado 2017
Stranger in a Strange Land. My Daughter’s Extended Family Ranch
Friendly Ranch is owned and run by the Friedlys. Friendly is a misspelling that supposedly annoys Mr. Friedly, though I saw no evidence of it. The Friedlys enjoyed these pictures, studying them as anyone would if they were to find themselves staring at themselves under a microscope, or in a mirror through someone else’s eyes
Elena, my daughter, flying a kite
2016 was polarizing for America. I was with my daughter’s extended family in Colorado, a brown LA Englishman in Trump country, USA. We were invited to stay at Friedly Ranch. It was a potentially hostile environment, in many ways.
Jimi Friedly and Ione Friedly
We’d shoot pool and we’d shoot guns. Shotguns, rifles, archery, axe-throwing. There were dedicated areas of the ranch for all of these activities; the neighbors had their own gun ranges too. Jimi Friedly even had his own ammunition-making workshop.
Stand Bench for Rifle and Scope Adjustment
Mr. Friedly is an avid hunter, and second cousin of Otto Friedli, founder of the Hells Angels. Mrs. Friedly is a singer in the church choir and bakes ungodly Angel cakes that will make you cry for joy. Mr. Friedly looks like the real life Santa Claus.
Pigeon Thrower for Skeet Shooting
Mrs. Friedly also looks and acts like Mrs. Claus. Friendly as a misspelling was initially meant ironically; they were not the only ones under a microscope. If you can shoot straight, play pool, work hard, play hard, and cook well, you’ll get a Friendly welcome.
Axe Throwing Target
I witnessed the extreme Colorado seasons. The landscape could look like the surface of Mars, other times, lush and green. There were accounts of people freezing to death in their own backyards in a blizzard, not finding their way back due to zero visibility.
The soil is not particularly good for growing food, even if the weather would allow it. Only certain plants will grow in the dry earth and high altitude. Even though the land is vast, there are very few farms. Sunflowers were ablw to on the ranch.
Life on Mars
When I first arrived, there was no grass, and very little green color of any kind. Sure enough, after a few months, it was lush and green everywhere and a veritable paradise, with the most perfect weather. Colorado gets more blue skies than California.
White Horse, Dark Horse
At sunrise we'd collect eggs, feed the chickens and horses. After a day’s work we played pool every night with me winning mostly, to the surprise of Jimi, a pool shark by all accounts. Mrs. Friedly played a mean game of pool herself.
The Alpaca Next Door (at the Neighbor’s)
The neighbors had Alpacas, which are high-altitude animals. We were at several thousand feet in altitude which meant that for those not acclimatized, it was difficult to breathe. Walking across the room could leave you out of breath.
Elena’s Mom on her iPad, in Front of the “Twinkie”
The Friedlys had a 1976 Argosy RV that had been passed down in the family. I bought it from them and used it as an office, it was delightful. Later I developed it and later took it to California and sold it. I’ve done it again since with other Airstreams.
If you want to view paradise. All You have to do is see it.
Even with the harsh and ever-changing weather, dry land, deep snowy winter, and the occasional arctic winds that would blow from the north, the environment could be breathtakingly beautiful (quite literally so of course because of the altitude).
This land is your land. This land is my land.
It was a culture-shock coming from politically liberal Los Angeles to the right-leaning rural area of Colorado; some of the attitudes astonished me. Thankfully my unshakeable English accent seems to disarm people, or at least confuse them.
It was discomforting to see local folks were judging people en masse using a color chart as a measure, and seemed to be engaged in an often-unspoken (but sometimes quite verbalized) culture war with certain groups in society. This was their ‘safe-space.’
We ate a lot of Elk, bow-hunted by Jimi. I cooked a lot, which was welcomed. We rarely spoke politics due to differences. They liked my photography of their world, and this was our middle ground. “You’re good at taking pictures. I’ll say that,” said Mrs. Friedly.
Let it Snow
I was taken aback by the beauty of the house, I would want to photograph every corner. It was the first time I ever wanted to take ‘portraits’ of a living room, or a kitchen. It felt like that’s what they were - snapshots of the someone’s soul.
My daughter Elena had grown up, so far, in Los Angeles. I thought that this was the perfect opportunity for her to commune with nature, to roll in the grass, play with dandelions and hug some trees. It was the perfect time for her to experience these things.
When I took her back to California, Mrs. Friedly cried. Jimi Friedly broke his own rule and initiated a hug goodbye (I’m not traditionally a hugger myself either). We had stayed long enough to make parting a little difficult. It was an invaluable experience for my daughter, and their world had reignited my love of photography. It was, by dictionary definition, an inspirational experience.