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Journalism Gives a View into Other Lives Like Rancher Tom Lasater

Rancher Tom Lasater gives a treat to one of his prize Beefmaster bulls near Matheson, Colorado in August 1982. Photograph © Stewart M. Green

I've spent most of my adult life telling stories with words and images, except for a few misspent years hauling bricks, mixing mortar, building scaffolds, and being a general layabout climbing bum. My work, although I hardly call it work since it's pleasurable, has been as a journalist, photojournalist, and nonfiction writer of travel and adventure travel books and articles.

Being a journalist has given me a lot of great adventures and I've met, talked with, and photographed so many interesting people. Being a journalist gives you a voyeur's license to look at and into other lives and times and places. It's a privilege and honor to be part of what is now dubbed "Fake News."

This is a photograph I shot in August 1982 on a magazine assignment about the ranching life in eastern Colorado. I spent the afternoon with 71-year-old Tom Lasater, a witty, sharp-tongued ranchman who ran cattle on a 28,000-acre parcel east of Colorado Springs near Matheson, just beyond the encroaching suburbs.

I shot this image of Mister Lasater giving a treat to one of his prized Beefmaster cows, a breed that he developed and patented. The breed began when his father Edward began a project of cross-breeding Brahman, Hereford, and shorthorn cattle on a 400,000-acre ranch in Texas in the 1910s and 1920s. After Edward died in 1930, Tom left Princeton and perfected the new breed in 1937, not introducing new genes and "closing the herd."

Tom was proud of the Beefmaster, telling me, "It's the most efficient animal on which you'll find the greatest quantity of lean meat per total pound." Rather than selling his beef the traditional way, Lasater sold it mail order, ensuring a steady customer base.

Taking a puff on a cigarette in a black holder, he continued, "We're the Sears Roebuck of the cattle business, the only successful ranch to do this. When I first came up with this idea I asked all the old-time ranches what they thought and none of them liked it so I knew it would be a success."

Later that afternoon he said, "This is my life on this planet and once I'm gone if my heirs want to turn these cattle into hamburger, I won't give a damn. The important thing is that while we're here, we give it hell."

One last Lasater tidbit. The fellow who came out with me to the ranch was trying to shut one of the ranch gates while Tom and I talked in the Suburban. He couldn't get it closed. Tom watched him, then snarled, "Damn city boy, can't close a goddamn gate!"

So he got out and did it himself.


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