Last week we released the first film from our season here in Colorado. (If you haven’t watched it yet, please check it out here!) It tells the story of Keri Brandt, a former vegetarian who married into a cattle ranching family. Keri’s perspective on raising animals for human consumption is nuanced and insightful. But apart from having a great story to tell, she is also an incredibly kind person. Their whole family is, in fact (which includes husband David and five-year-old son Rider). I experienced their warmth firsthand when I stayed at the Off Family Ranch ranch to film the story.
When I first arrived there, Keri and Rider took a break from making lemonade to greet me and show me to my accommodations for the evening; a personal guest cabin for which the word “quaint” couldn’t be used more appropriately. We then got to filming, and it became quickly clear to me that these are good people. They were quite comfortable (at least seemingly so) when I followed them around with a camera as they did their evening chores with the cattle. And they were also very patient with me, as I seemed to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time, periodically sending cows into brief states of panic by my ominous presence. Keri and David politely told me that I “should probably not stand there.” And “that’s not the best spot. Try over here instead.” Or my favorite: “go over by Rider.”
When the work was over, Keri and I sat down for a long interview, which she agreed to do only with beers in-hand (lucky for me their fridge was well stocked with IPAs, my favorite kind.) I felt right at home as we ate dinner together around a table, and I chatted with Rider, mostly about the cool drone he watched fly over his home and animals.
The next morning was the big event: The cattle drive. This was when Keri and David, along with the aid of many friends and family, move hundreds of cows from one pasture to another by parading them through traffic on the main street of Del Norte. As I followed them in my 2002 Honda Civic to try to keep up and best capture this phenomena, things went wrong. My car died. I wasn’t sure what the issue was at the time, but I had to leave it behind because things weren’t going stop for me. I got picked up by David’s parents, and filmed from the back of their truck.
After the cattle drive had ended, David and Keri really showed their true colors. Even after a long day of intense cattle herding on horseback, they immediately came to my aid to help fix my car. David towed me back to their ranch with a rope and quickly got his hands dirty, taking apart my car to figure out what the issue was. When we knew what replacement part I needed (a new alternator belt), they lent me their car to drive an hour round-trip to the store and buy it. Then they helped me install it. As repayment, I gladly accepted their humble request that I take an order of 50 lbs of ground beef with me on my journey back to Durango to be delivered to a pizza restaurant here in town. It was the least I could do.
The film has been online for a week now and it’s nice to see that it’s been getting decent views and a overall positive response. I think that this certainly attests to their unique story, but maybe it’s success is just as much due to their likability and warmth as a family. I am incredibly grateful that my work allows me to meet and spend time with these types of good people. This particular story will be one I will always remember kindly.