Texas ranch house thoughts

well, i finished watching the final episodes of Texas ranch house tonight.
i only got to see the last 30 minutes or so of yesterday’s episodes due to the radio show, but i was able to keep up tonight. i paid penance for the missing of yesterday’s by spending a couple of hours last night poking around online, finding interviews with some of the people and such.
so…i realize they spliced two plus months into 8 hours, and it’s easy to manipulate things (like showing footage in non-linear fashion (which they did), not giving context so something is misinterpreted by the audience (which they did), things happening due to rules set by the show but not stating or explaining it on camera (which they did), and so on), but in the end i think the overall final analysis was probably accurate and they probably in general boiled down the essence of the people fairly accurately. maybe it’s not traits they’d like made large, but i think they showed the traits that affected the show overall and led to the major events and the conclusion. for example: they played up the cooke women letting the house fall to pot after the cowboys left for the cattle drive…i wonder how true that was? and while i do think it was spliced to emphasize it, i believe the cooke adults had flaws that were a detriment to their positions on the ranch, flaws that led to the final analysis.
(spoilers coming) i don’t recall them playing it up (though they obviously chose to include the footage), but mrs. cooke at one point complained that the cowboys were always threatening mutiny and she thought they should call them on it. she also complimented her husband on his shrewd hard-bargaining skillz when paying the cowboys, and his treatment of jared. then she convinced mr. cooke to fire jared that day instead of letting him leave the next day. mr. cooke of course did it…and all the cowboys left with jared. there’s the payoff for playing hardball and calling the cowboys’ hands (especially that close to the end of the time out there).
the cooke family was obviously defensive and upset about the analysis, but like i said i think it was probably pretty accurate. especially given the stated goals of the show. plus mr. cooke was the one in the position of responsibility, so any failings ultimately fall on him. even if he is put in an unenviable position of dealing with people he did not get to choose himself, he was the manager/leader and they not only get the glory when things end well, they get the blame when things end poorly.
it made me think of the parts of colonial house that i watched…was it a couple of years ago? the educated older couple from california (he was/is a college professor) seemed to think they were so intelligent and liberal and advanced, yet they floundered around and were rude and disrespectful and so on. again, i’m sure editing can work wonders, but i’m betting there is enough truth there that it was evident to participants in the show.
back to Texas ranch house…it would have been cool to be in austin to watch the show at the alamo draft house and see jared. i did a bit of google searching to try and find an email address, but no definite hit. i’d love to buy him a beer next time i’m in austin and find out more about his experience.

6 comments on “Texas ranch house thoughts”

  1. How’s it going, Terry? They have a re-run episode of TRH on PBS right now, and I hate it. In fact I hate what the producers of the show did with it enough to go looking for blogs to express my feelings on, and I found yours. Since you show zero feedback comments, either you are with the White House Staff, Terry, or just like to write for your own pleasure too. I’m guessing the later.
    The premise of the PBS show was a good one, with lots to learn about nature and human nature a hundred and fourty years ago. But, I like a success story, one of the reasons for watching PBS in the first place, so, for reasons unknown, the casting directors of this particular (and also from the Colonial House show you mentioned) show went out of their way it seems to me to have cast people in positions of authority whom they should have known were one level above their conpetency level.
    The Cooke family was all around a complete disappointment. If a viewer is going to invest 8 hours of viewing getting to know a group of people, as the show wanted us to do, then why purposely select a bunch of lazy-assed, estrogen dominated, incompetent, middle-managers to get to know? All knowing, the producers and casting directors that is, that the owners, the Cooke’s were going to fail to manage a working cattle ranch, according to the Texas A&M and other genuine experts, in the end. Makes me mad still.
    I feel like PBS wasted all of our time and their money and gave us a purposeful dose of defeatism in the process. Who needs more defeatism in our world of the moment? Especially when a functioning ranch and happy people would have been such an easy legacy for the PBS folks to leave with us. Most of the Texas frontier lands have had successful bosses and owners and ranch hands, that’s why they are an inspiration to us all still, and we all have a little cowboy spirit inside of us.
    That big cowboy/computer geek with the mustache was a good man, and I wouldn’t mind swapping stories with him over a brew myself. In fact, if you could say that there was any lessons of worth in the whole show, it became apparent when Jared threw away his several dollars of wages, saddled up his horse and rode away. Sometimes, the a-holes you meet in life will somehow get you to work for them. When the job is done, they will try to cheat you out of your money and respect. When that happens (and you have another job to go back to), quit and ride away. It’s not a bad lesson to learn, just not the one that PBS is advertising. And I’m still mad about it.
    Darn it, I’m going to go on PBS website again and drop some complaints where they belong.
    Thanks for expressing in your blog thoughts that needed to be said, and none of which is in any way off base. I just wanted to add that what we saw was not a normal or necessary ranch experience, but only a dysfunctional one due to mis-casting.
    Makes me real suspicious of any future such “reality” shows on PBS. Ken Burns is their best producer. Any show by him is golden. Adios!

  2. well, seeing the level of turnover in white house staff, it’s possible i may be on staff and not even know it yet! 😉
    barring that circumstance, i just like to see myself write. although knowing the remote location of my blog on the internet, it does make me wonder how deep in google results you had to go before you happened upon me.
    i’ve spent a number of hours reading a couple of groups set up specifically to discuss Texas ranch house. one is a forum on the “television without pity” site:
    and the other is the yahoo group “Texas_ranch_house”:
    if you haven’t checked them out, you should. there are a lot of folk miffed at pbs, the producers, the director, the cookes, etc. a few of the trh participants haved posted on the yahoo group (mrs. cooke, vienna cooke, johnny, ian, maura (once)) and a couple on tv without pity (anders, jared). they provide a lot more details about life on the range that didn’t make the cut to the final 8 hours.
    after having read a lot of that stuff and thought about things, i do think the trh staff had to have an idea things were going to be awkward. although the editing definitely muddies the waters, and the firings of nacho and stan probably made things more weird than they’d originally expected them to be.
    i think mr. cooke probably is a nice enough guy, who can’t lead and is best when doing non-confrontational things as a middle manager. he needs people who look at him as an authority figure and don’t question him. he wants to be liked and wants to be friendly. he seemed to think he was better at a number of things than the experience showed him to be. i certainly hope he doesn’t try being a “tough” manager at his real job often. his lack of understanding of the cowboys’ styles, particularly robbie’s personality, was saddening (and maddening).
    mrs. cooke is probably also nice in limited social doses. as long as she’s doing her fun stuff and not being bothered or disagreed with. but she appears to take offense easily (way too easily), and feels justified in being mean-spirited when she perceives she or her family has been slighted. the “i’m not going to take crap” stance, followed by passive-aggresive sniping, is an annoying trait to have come out in full bloom on the show.
    for the most part, when mr. cooke was around the ranch hands and free of his wife, he seemed reasonable, level-headed, and agreeable — even if somewhat awkward. but it seemed like his wife was always pushing him to show authority and take charge and such (except between the two of them where she appeared to take control most of the time). and not only was he not that good at it, it wasn’t a very good way to run the ranch and deal with the situation and people he was working with. but she seemed to think she was going to be a tough, hard-nosed ranch owner, thus by proxy so was her husband, and those no-count, immature hired hands better show some respect and do as told. too bad she didn’t understand how robbie earned respect by being a contemporary and by example instead of being authoritarian.
    i come from a line of German ranchers in central Texas. my grandfather was a cowboy, running his family’s ranch when young, then working as a hand for a number of different ranches around the state. my ancestors moved into central Texas when it was still as much the indians’ territory as the europeans.
    me? i lost all that. i grew up in a small town, playing with computers and watching tv and avoiding most ranch work. which i still had to help with, but by then it was a side project or hobby more than a family business or important source of income. i’ve only in the last few years really started to get interested in and appreciate the stock i come from. that’s part of the reason i felt like i identified with jared (the computer guy). plus jared was just a cool guy (or at least edited to look like one).
    whatever the final opinion of Texas ranch house, it did get people to talking though, right? it made people have a reaction. and maybe in some ways that makes it have some value.
    and yes, it was mighty nice when jared dumped the silver on the ground, got *his* horse, and rode away, and the rest of the cowboys followed suit. the cookes set themselves up for that, and it was a long time coming.
    thanks for taking the time to comment!

  3. Wow. Where in Central Texas? My husband has been drilling oil wells in Hallettsville for two years now on a ranch that is several generations deep and my in-laws have a 150 year old ranch north of Austin.
    I was telling my daughter about TRH and trying to explain the Cookes. She asked where they were from and when I told her California, she said, “There you go”! They really were hopeless on many levels and, sadly, they remain so – not having learned a thing and damned proud of it.
    All in all I really loved the entire series and for some strange reason, can’t let go of it. Apparently I’m not alone.

  4. i grew up in and around brady, Texas. the land we own is in mason county (wnw of austin about 1.5 hours). with selling and splitting among siblings through the years, we own two places of around 100 to 150 acres each.
    even though i completely stumbled onto the show by chance (i almost never watch tv), i went in hoping it’d be more informative and educational, and less about drama and personality conflicts. there are so many interesting things they never mentioned on the show. but some of that is being made up for via online places where people are talking about the series.

  5. I know Brady (Heart of Texas) having driven through it countless times traveling between Odessa and College Station. Pretty place!
    I have watched all of the “house” shows and there are always participants who refuse to accept the premise. I’m not saying I could do any better given the hardships and challenges but considering the lengthy application process I think I would have seriously contemplated the enterprise before accepting. Anyway! TRH ended up a compelling train-wreck and I rather enjoyed the drama. I agree though that there was a dearth of information and education. What, exactly, did it take to raise, preserve food and cook for 15 people given that there wasn’t a stream nearby to keep dairy products cool? How much did rock salt cost? How was soap made? How, exactly, do you keep the fly population down – besides keeping the horse poop far enough away from the house? On one of the forums it was mentioned that the household duties were not as action packed as the cattle wrangling (hence the lack of time spent with the women) but people who tune to this kind of programming in are interested in both. I understand that Louis Baretto (?) came from MTV reality shows so that explains the editing and focus. He obviously didn’t understand his audience. I also read on another forum a suggestion – if there had been a neighboring ranch the show would have been more rounded. Another suggestion was re-editing and presenting a much longer series. A complaint I’ve read over and over is that the DVD doesn’t contain nearly as much “out” material as other shows. I still hold out hope. The PBS obudsman writes that they have received far more mail about TRH than for any of the other house series. Whether they listen is another story.
    Although you didn’t ask for it, you have my sympathy regarding family ranches being fragmented. My husband’s family has 1400 acres that have now been divided three ways, to be further divided 7 ways. There is little hope that after all this time (ranch was started in 1853) that it will survive another 20 years. It saddens me that Georgetown will grow right over it (if developers of “ranchettes” don’t beat the upscale developers to the draw). Besides the Nature Conservancy, I read about the Trust for Public Land. A Colorado rancher, who was sick of watching neighboring family holdings being sold to developers, teamed up with the Trust. The deal is, he set up an easement with the Trust who purchased the development rights on his land for half the land’s market value. The Trust keeps the property intact forever and the grandchildren get to keep ranching. The blurb was in the July 10 issue of Newsweek. If I were the tsar of this family, I would do the same thing.
    Yours, for not turning Texas into Disney World – Terry B.

  6. it’s funny how many people know of brady because they’ve driven through it (usually visiting their grandparents, other relatives, or going to/from college). but brady is sort of in the middle of nowhere, and at least 4 or 5 main highways criss-crossing Texas all cross through brady on their way to the opposite corner of the state.
    i think your comments about trh are accurate. i knew about the director’s background, and i thought it showed in his editing and what he chose to focus on. from jared’s story online about his experience with the indians while he was captured, it sounds like a whole episode (or series even) could have been devoted to that. there was a ton of stuff that got left out. which had to be done for time’s sake i understand, but there’s so much that seems interesting that didn’t make it. that would be cool if pbs actually went back and make an extended version or added a lot more footage to a dvd release.
    that’s an interesting concept with the land. in my nuclear family’s case, i just have one brother, and so far neither of us have any kids, so the land we actually still have may not have to be split any further. plus right now neither of our places are near any development.

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