Wyman Meinzer: 11 Questions

In this exclusive Q&A, the photographer discusses growing up on a ranch and the relationship between man and working dog.

Wyman Meinzer and Ditto

Wyman Meinzer and Ditto

Wyman Meinzer grew up in the 1950s and ’60s on the 27,000-acre League Ranch in West Texas, where his dad was the foreman. A true artist living where trees are scarce and water is scarcer, Meinzer sees, shoots and shows beauty in places most of us would pass by. In 1997, the legislature proclaimed him the state’s official photographer. One of the latest of Meinzer’s 23 books is Working Dogs of Texas, a collaboration with writer Henry Chappell. To see this and his other work, go to Meinzer’s website at

What can you tell us about that dog in the recent picture with you?

His name is Ditto, and he belongs to my son Pate, a hog hunter on the side. Ditto is part Catahoula cur and part pit bull. Someone gave him to Pate, and he turned out to be the most incredible hog dog you’ll ever see. For those people who lean toward the sport of hunting wild boar, he’s a jewel, totally fearless. He’s a catch dog. He runs in and grabs ‘em by the ear and won’t let go. And he’s a gentle giant, a precious dog. Kids ride him like a horse, and he loves to be petted. But when it’s time to hunt a hog, he turns into a complete professional.

Wheezer, Wyman, and Pam

Wheezer, Wyman, and Pam

How about the two shown with you (right) when you were a kid?

The one on the left is Wheezer and the other is Pam, named after an old girlfriend. They were just mongrels, good at mousing and chasing rabbits. I would take my .410 shotgun off into the brush and the dogs followed, and it was all about chasing rats and rabbits and having a good time.

What’s the best dog you ever owned?

Everyone has their own personal interpretation of what a best dog is. The dog I was closest to was one called John, a Norwegian Elkhound. A rancher gave him to me when I was living on the Pitchfork Ranch right out of college in the ‘70s, trapping coyotes. That dog and I really bonded. He was a quick learner and was amusing as well. He knew my feelings. He knew when I was upset. We’d spend a week at a time not seeing anybody but each other. I just loved that dog.

What did growing up with dogs do for you?

It gave me a connection with canines. Being raised out on a ranch, dogs are an important part of your life, whether you’re a kid chasing rats or a rancher with work to do. Your dogs are your remuda, so to speak. On a ranch, dogs aren’t just pets. There’s a reason to have them, a functional reason.

Who’s the most interesting person you met while researching your dog book?

There were points about each person that interested me, but Henry McIntyre really stands out. He’s an old lion hunter, who, with dog and horse, ventured into the Davis Mountains after mountain lions, and I find that intriguing.

Notice anything special between man and working dog?

Law enforcement men and women actually love their dogs. Your lion dogs, your bobcat dogs—the owners are not as close to them, although of course they know them by name. But in drug enforcement, there’s an obvious connection other people don’t have with their working dogs. There must be absolute trust. When you’re dealing with drugs, with criminals, with explosives, the trust must be absolute or you can’t function. It’s like the trust two police officers have in each other.

What’s your favorite subject to photograph?

The sky. The sky offers changing weather, cloud structures and energy to people who take time to observe it. The sky is never the same, and you can never take two skyscapes exactly alike. Something about the energy and color and magnificence of the sky is unparalleled.

Any tips to make the average photographer better?

Sure. Use thoughtful composition and exact exposure, and seek out the finest light. Too many people rely on Photoshop to carry them through, since digital photography has come on the scene. I’ve seen people crank their photos to a surreal level. Digital photography makes you lazy. Go for the light.

Any special memories of life on the ranch?

In about 1966, my dad put me on a Massey Ferguson with no top, no shade, no nothing, and I had to plow an 80-acre field with a one-way plow. It was an experience I’ll never forget!

What did ranch life give you that city kids didn’t have?

Growing up on a West Texas ranch teaches a young boy or girl how to be more independent, because you spend a lot of time alone, and you learn to accomplish things with less. A lot of people would have had fear doing what I did when I finished Texas Tech, but I loved it. I moved onto the Pitchfork as a trapper, living in a semi-dugout with no bath, no electricity. I took my bath in a number 2 washtub in water pulled up from a cistern for 3 winters.

Wow, I bet that lifestyle made you popular with the girls.

I didn’t see many girls.

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