Edmond Van Hoorick

  by Mike Capron
The romance for the west lives on. Cowboys don’t hold a mortgage on loving the west. People all over the world have had the cowboy on a pedestal ever since the days of the first trail drivers.

Edmond Van Hoorick was not different. Edmond showed up at Fig. 2 Ranch during a spring cow works. We were loading wagons and shoeing horses, getting ready to leave for another razoo of spring branding. We were at the HQ on the highway and Edmond happened to be driving down the highway headed to other parts. He spotted our outfit, stopped and inquired if he could take some pictures. Sure, we all agreed, and he went to work.  We got ready in an hour or so and he inquired where we were going. Branding calves around the ranch didn’t mean much to him and he wanted to go. I told him we would be gone for a couple weeks at least and maybe more depending on weather and how the works went. That was fine with him and he headed to his car to get his war bag.  He left with us; he was a trooper and never slowed or showed signs of discomfort. He stayed for two years and took thousands of pictures.
Edmond was from Belgium, immigrated to Switzerland and traveled the world taking pictures. He was a professional photographer in the days of the photo stock companies and Ektachrome  64.  Long before Digital Cameras. He had 70 plus books published of landscape photos and many cook books also. He would travel on visas all over the world. 
I never saw him get in the way or be uncomfortable in any way. We didn’t take advantage of him, much , but we didn’t pamper him any either. He would ask questions some, but tried not to be out of place when he did. 
We were moving camp on a long afternoon and quiet ride. I think he was getting bored with the silence and he said, “Mike……..Why do all of you still carry guns?”
I snapped around and said, “Edmond……This is Texas, and you never know when the Indians might attack.”
He was slow to ask any more questions after that. He rode in the wagons with the cook or in the hood wagon always looking for an unusually interesting photo. He was a genius of a photographer. All the photos I ever saw were beautifully composed. He broke lots of rules, and made it work. You could look at his photos and see Edmond in each of them. He stayed with us at the Fig.2 ranch for 2 years. He used it as his base camp, traveling when he needed to complete other projects for his photo business.  He loved the spaciousness of the Chihuahuan Desert.
Back in the day of the photo stock companies he would get orders for photos of a certain subject, which he would fill with existing photos or make arrangement to get them. One time he had an order for some photos of cutting horses.  After he filled the order, he contacted me and wanted to know why the stock company was so upset. He said they wanted pictures of cutting horses and he sent them the photos of us cutting horses. I had to explain to Edmond that they wanted pictures of horses cutting the herd of cattle not the ones you took of us castrating the horses.
Edmond loved the west and the cowboy way. He wanted a hat just like mine, but a little bigger brim. I was wearing hats made  by Buster Mills from Pecos at the time. Next time I was in Buster’s I ordered him a black hat just like mine but with a bigger brim. He loved it and wore it everyday. He had no idea of how to wear or take care of a hat. He used it for pillow and a drinking cup just like the old time pictures you see. Consequently it got to looking very rough and just like the men in the Fredrick Remington paintings. Brim going every which way and no shape to the crown. We were at a roping and bar-b-que in Ft.Davis and I was visiting with Buster when we saw Edmond pass by a short distance away. 
Buster commenting on Edmond’s hat said.” My gosh, where did that man get that ugly hat.!!”
I said, ” Buster that is one of your hats.  I ordered it myself from you .”
“No way,” replied Buster . 
I hollered at Edmond to come over and meet Buster. I introduced him and asked to see his hat. He was so proud of his hat and was beaming when he handed it to me. I showed it to Buster and he looked at the inside inscription . “Made by Buster Mills” Pecos Texas.  Buster was shocked and offered to make him a new hat. But Edmond declined, said he liked this one. 
We were living at the ” Bab Camp” at the time, which was about 12 miles from the pavement. The water supply wasn’t good, very salty well, but plenty of it. Edmond took a quick bath every morn outside on a skid pallet next to the yard hydrant. We had water in the house but only at the  kitchen sink. There was a nice wood cook stove and some furniture in the kitchen. My bed was on the porch and Edmond had a bed in the back room. The outhouse was about 50 yards west of the house. There was a good horse trap and a nice set of corrals just north of the house. Salt grass country but plenty of it. Four wing Salt brush, mesquite and some salt cedar was the mainstay of feed and cover. Mostly jackrabbits and rattlesnakes were our neighbors and Edmond was on constant watch for rattlesnakes . He didn’t like anything about them and fretted over seeing them. 
I was gone one day and he was at the Bab Camp by himself. He was in the kitchen when a big rattler came visiting looking for a shady spot, and crawled thru the kitchen door from the front yard. Edmond gave him the house and went outside. He found my gun in the pick-up and came back ready to do battle with Mr. Snake. But Edmond wouldn’t go in the house. He was running around the house looking in the windows for the snake. He finally found him in the bathroom and started to open fire on the snake, through the bathroom window.  But since Edmond had never fired my 45 colt pistol, his shots were not harming the snake, but there was lots of lead in the air for a short while. Lucky for the house that the 5 shots was all the ammo that he could find. He tired to hit him with rocks by throwing them thru the windows but here again not harmful to the snake. I came home and we managed to find the snake under the claw foot bathtub and get him moved back outside. We were careful not to leave the doors open from then on. 
We lost the lease on the Fig. 2’s and I moved to the Dipper Ranch south of Marfa and Edmond moved to a beautiful ranch house that he leased. It was at the base of the Guadalupe Mountains on the Salt Flats.  It was most impressive and fit Edmond to a tee. He loved it and it was like a ship on the high Seas. He also had a house in Dell City and was a force in the world of photography until Digital Photography came to be. It was a new mountain to climb for Edmond and he had to revamp his business. He was well on his way to reaching the top again when 9/11, 2001 hit. The events that day changed the world for all of us. But it was the end of Edmond’s world as he knew it in the United States of America. Immigration laws changed and Edmond was caught in a  bureaucratic system of legalization, trying to make our borders safe. He had to leave and hasn’t been able to return. Edmond is a cowboy and he fits on any crew, even though he doesn’t have the right crease in his hat. He was in Africa the last time I talked to him and he was still Edmond, very much alive and not afraid.
Mike Capron 


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