Fresno Ranch, an abandoned horse and mule operation located in a remote stretch of the Rio Grande River bordering Mexico, gives evidence of a human presence spanning centuries. The ranch saw a period of entrepreneurial mule breeding and ranching, and ownership by Texas artist and publishing heiress Jeanne Norsworthy, who built an off-the-grid, hand-constructed adobe studio on the premises.
Photographer and freelance writer E. Dan Klepper spent seven years, off and on, living and working at Fresno Ranch. By 2008, when the 7,000-acre property was acquired by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to become part of Big Bend Ranch State Park, the adobe studio dwelling and its associated structures had been sitting vacant for almost ten years—many rugged miles from the nearest electrical power line or municipal water system.
Between 2006 and 2013, Klepper assisted his friend Rodrigo Trevizo, park ranger and caretaker for the property, with the various chores required to keep the ranch in operating condition. The two excavated and repaired the primary water network, cared for the livestock, cleared brush, and maintained a small, solar-powered electrical system. Days of 110-degree heat, boiling water for washing and cooking, and keeping a wary eye out for rattlesnakes alternated with evenings spent in the flicker of kerosene lanterns, listening to the rasping of the ravens as they scoured the canyon in the gathering dark.
In vivid images and well-considered prose, Klepper reflects on his experiences at Fresno Ranch, “witnessing the unfolding of a natural world unfettered by the overpowering human footprint that has dominated so many of our remaining wild places.” For aficionados of fine art photography, cultural and natural history enthusiasts, and fans of the Big Bend region and its austere beauty, Why the Raven Calls the Canyon offers a provocative visual journal of off-the-grid living that celebrates the unique landscape of the Big Bend.