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Cryin' For Daylight: Echoes From Texas Ranches

Open through Jan. 6, 2023

Photo of cowboys on horseback
Photo by Louise O'Connor

In the 1980s, Louise O’Connor began to interview and photograph men and women working on and around cattle ranches in the Coastal Bend region of Texas – Refugio, Victoria, and Goliad counties. O’Connor recorded thousands of hours of interviews over a 30-year period, creating a vast and rich archive of stories as told by hundreds of men and women from all walks of life and representing a wide variety of cultural and ethnic origins. O’Connor’s own background as a fifth-generation member of a pioneering ranching family not only gave her access across this area but also instilled a deep understanding of the region’s history, where ranching dates to the early 1720s, when the Catholic church brought Spanish soldiers and cattle to Presidio La Bahia.

In this exhibition, you’ll be able to hear many of these remarkable people talking about their challenging and difficult lives with tremendous knowledge, sensitivity and humor. The audio clips are organized into themes, such as their love of the cowboy life and the land, their horses, the many roles and responsibilities on working ranches, the role of women in the male-dominated ranching world, and more. All told, there are 2 ½ hours of these stories available in the gallery, so we encourage you to return again and again.

O’Connor was motivated to create this oral history in order to document the methods, stories, and traditions of a ranching culture in the face of tremendous change. Yet she became enraptured by the vibrant storytelling of the people as they spoke of their lives and their dreams, and most especially by the way they expressed and reflected upon their profound understanding of nature—of the land they lived and worked on and the animals they lived among. We are deeply honored that Ms. O’Connor has donated her vast archive of recordings and photographs to The Wittliff for our permanent collection.