Rusty McCall: Punchin’ Cows instead of Clocks (An Interview)

Rusty McCall: His personal favorite image

Rusty McCall: One of his personal favorite images

I photographed Rusty McCall six months ago at the McCall’s ranch in New Mexico and then a few weeks later at the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine, Texas. As Heart Sessions, the photography was donated and I’ve gifted prints (one, a large mounted wall print of the image above) to the family since then. This month his mother Deanna is the cover feature article for IM Cowgirl and I’ll be posting a separate entry regarding that publication. In the article by Diane Tribitt, Rusty is mentioned and you can also find out more about this exceptional young cowboy poet at his page on This week, Rusty agreed to be interviewed by me and I share that interview with you here.

LFM: What is the first poem your remember that you related to so well it felt like you had written it, and why?
Rusty: I was kind of young to remember the significance of my first poem, but it sort of did remind me of one of my first horses, a little bay called Poco. The poem was taken out of a compilation of poems by John Lomax and went like this:

 I’ve roamed the Texas prairie,
I followed the cattle trail,
I rode a pitchin’ pony
’til the hair come off his tail.

LFM: You’ve often “ridden the circle.” What’s a favorite story of a time when it was just you and your horse riding the circle?
Rusty: I would say there really is not a favorite time. Every time is different and it’s great to just be Pardner and me riding along without a care in the world.

LFM: If someone were talking about you in 100 years, what would you want them to say about you?
Rusty: If you’ve ever heard Gail Steiger’s “A Cowboy’s Prayer,” there is a line in it that goes:

“And maybe someday when they’re old ‘n gray, they’ll think of me and someone’ll say
He sure made a good hand and we always did know he would be there when we needed him most”
(To read the song lyrics in their entirety,  click here)

LFM: You’ve met some great Cowboy Poets in your travels. Who are the Cowboy Poets you most wish you could have met and swapped stories with?
Rusty: Poetry gatherings are different each year. You get to sit and tell stories with different poets every year, so I can say there is not really anybody I haven’t met or talked to. About the only people I can think of would be Ian Tyson and Tom Russell just to tell them how much I love their music. There are always poets and musicians that join the cowboy poetry “family” so I’d would like to meet them and visit with them too.  As to the ones who are long gone, I’d like to meet them all, but especially Jack Thorp and S. Omar Barker because they both were from NM and spent some time in this country.

LFM: What is your personal favorite image that was created during our photography sessions when I came to the ranch? Describe the photograph and why it is special to you.
Rusty: I think one of my favorites has to be the one of me sitting on my horse on the top of the hill looking back. It  looks like I don’t know that I’m being photographed and I’m just ridin’ out lookin’ for cows.

LFM: Who are some of your best friends and how do they inspire you?
Rusty: I’d say two of my closest friends would have to be Gail Steiger and Amy Auker. I’ve got a lot of good advice from them and we e-mail each other almost every day. They have taught me to live for the moment, because you never know what tomorrow’s going to bring.

LFM:What are you most passionate about in life?
Rusty: I’d say just being outside, living this lifestyle with no clocks to punch and planning your own day.

Deanna and Rusty gave updates on his health and gave permission for me to share them with you.
From Deanna: He has deafness due to his last surgery, but it hasn’t affected his personality or intellect. He still cracks jokes, and as Gail Steiger says, he blows you away with his emails and thoughts. He rides his 4 wheeler all over the trails, and is already thinking about trying to ride his horse before too long. (I don’t think he’s ready for that, yet!) He is able to walk without a cane, but his balance is still a bit shaky, and he can hear a few words occasionally, but not enough for a conversation. He sees the docs September 8th, and that will give us a little better idea of what’s going on and what to expect.

From Rusty:  The worst is over, with things slowly starting to get better. I can almost hear again. I can hear “environmental” noises real well and I can hear a few words. I am back to walking on my own two feet, but am still having problems with my balance. It has been six months since I last rode a horse and I really miss it. I would say I’m at about 65% recovered.

Rusty and his horse, Pardner: One of my personal favorites

Rusty and his horse, Pardner: One of my personal favorites

About Lori Faith

Lori Faith Merritt of Photography By Faith utilizes the Art of Connection to specialize in equine and cultural images that transcend the ordinary.
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