The first time I met Jeremy Holland that I can recall? Well, that’s probably a story better suited for another audience and another medium. Anyone who knows Jeremy shouldn’t find that hard to believe. One thing that I can tell you about that first meeting is that I laughed. And laughed. And laughed. I believe I also picked my jaw up off the ground a few times.
He’s a character, no doubt about that. An entertainer. He may potentially enjoy eliciting shock from folks. I don’t know. That’s only my guess. And, I don’t know him that well, so take my assumptions with a grain of salt. Here’s the thing. I like Jeremy. A lot. I don’t know many folks who don’t like him. In fact, I can only think of one. Ha!
Anyway, I’ve been trying to get this guy to talk to me for a while. Our schedules have just never aligned. I knew I needed photographs of him doing his thing. So, basically, I had to be available to go take pictures of him while he was working cattle. And, tougher than that, I have to convince the guy to come sit down with me and answer a bunch of prying questions. (As I write more & more of these bios, I have a feeling it’s gonna get harder & harder to convince folks to agree to this. Sigh.)
Nonetheless, we finally make plans for 9am Monday morning. It’s 8:15, and I text him, “Where do you want me to meet you?” (And, yes. I text in complete sentences, and so should you.) “Just there at my house,” comes the response. “Ok.”
Thirty minutes later, I hear the chime of my phone alerting me to a new message. “Do you know where I live?”
I think to myself, “hmmm… no. I do not know where you live, actually.” Ha! I get my directions, and I hop in my car… my little car. My girl car. My low to the ground, no power, four door hatchback. I’m on my way. I turn right on the dirt road just before the railroad tracks just like he told me. “Hmmm,” I think slightly irritated, “I am so gonna get stuck on this road.” I pick up my phone and call him. The conversation proceeds as follows:
Me: I take a right on the road right before the railroad tracks?
Me: I can’t drive down that road. I’ll get stuck.
Him: Nah, you’ll be fine. Tons of girls have driven their car down this road.
Me: (exceptionally irritated and slightly flabbergasted by his comment) Have you seen my car?!? There’s a big ol’ puddle. If I get stuck, you’re pulling me out.
Him: (insert laughter) Ok. Just drive a little to the left of the water.
Me: (as I’m driving through the water that covers the road against my better judgement) Oh. Huh. You were right. I made it.
I laugh feeling slightly foolish. I make my way further down the road, and I feel my car being pulled left and right as the road sees fit. Whether it’s from the wet ground or the deep ruts, I don’t know. I roll up outside his house to find him, Dalton Steed, three horses, and two puppies waiting around. Wait! What’s this?!? I make note of the fact that he’s not wearing a denim shirt. No. He’s wearing blue and white plaid. Hmm… he must have missed that memo. That or he’s just a rebel. The latter is probably more likely the case.
He warns me, “These are just colts. If I get bucked off, you can’t laugh.” I agree knowing full well that I’ll die laughing. Unless he hurts himself… then I won’t laugh. He takes the lead rope and starts to walk. The colt doesn’t budge.
“This should be interesting,” I giggle to myself. After a little nudging, the horse follows him. They make their way into an arena, and Jeremy hops on. The colt immediately shows it’s disdain and starts to buck. And, here I am scared of horses far too close to this ornery creature for my liking. After struggling with it for what seemed like a full five minutes, Jeremy gets it under control. And, I realize then that I would absolutely NOT laugh if he gets bucked off. And, my fear of horses is strengthened in that moment, as well. One of these days I’ll have to get over that, right?!?
As they rode out to herd the cattle, I watched that cantankerous colt take a little jaunt here or there. I can tell that’s not where the cowboy wants the colt to go, but, with a little patience, he gets it turned back in the right direction every time.
I stand there, camera in tow, and I watch them ride into the distance. I can see why the cowboys like this life. Wide open spaces… the solitude of a bit of untamed land outside of the city limits… no neighbors… just blue skies, the sun peeking through the clouds. It’s really quite peaceful and beautiful. I’m enjoying my Monday morning. I can hear myself think. The romanticism of this lifestyle is beginning to be revealed to me. I almost forget I’m working.
As the boys corral the cattle in a pen, Stone the hog dog and Rooster the cow dog show their youth. They bark. They growl. They startle the cattle. These puppies are also cantankerous. “Get around!” Jeremy calls as if they’ll listen. They’re young, but he is patient.
It occurs to me that every creature involved in this little operation here today is young. The colts, the puppies, Jeremy, Dalton Steed… youngsters. And, they’re all cantankerous. That amuses me. What impresses me, however, is that Jeremy never shows a single sign of irritation. He works quickly. He works efficiently. He is well experienced. He is good at what he does. And, he is teaching others to be good at it, too. He tells me of the puppies, “you have to get them to where they want to work for you and enjoy it.” I don’t know of many other professions where man and animal are coworkers… at least not at this level.
After he doctors the last cow and turns them back into the pasture, he looks at me with a sheepish grin and throws his arms up in the air signaling that he’s all done. And that concludes our photography session.
Now, I want the man to talk to me. This is probably the part he dreads. I honestly don’t know what to expect. But, he sits down with me. He looks me straight in the eyes and answers every single question I ask of him. What’s this?!? Am I going to see a serious side of Jeremy?
And, I discovered that he’ll give me his serious side. He will. It’s just that he’s not that serious. He’s playful. He’s livin’ the life. He’s a good ol’ boy. He’s a good time guy. He warns me (but I already know it) “when it comes in my head, it comes out my mouth.”
That’s one thing that I love about Jeremy, believe it or not. What you see (or hear) is what you get. He’s not messing around. He’s not putting up a facade. I’ve never known him to filter anything, but, then again, maybe I’ve never been around him and the company that would elicit that from him at the same time.
The most serious he gets with me is when we talk about his son and family. He doesn’t give away too much, but I can tell that he has the most conviction when he talks about family values. It’s interesting to me, really. But, even then, he can’t help but inject a little humor. He tells me Brayton turned two in August. “I’ve already got him a good horse started. He’ll be riding by himself this time next year.” I must have looked at him like he was nuts. I mean, I’m 35, and I’m not about to be riding a horse by myself. This kid is 33 years younger than me?!? (Yeah, yeah… we’ve established and agreed that I am abnormal.) Jeremy must sense my half hearted contempt because here comes the humor. “And, too, if he falls off, his hard head will just put a dent in the ground.” He smiles at me in anticipation… waiting for my response.
Ay yi yi.
We laugh quite a bit. Much of the time that he talked, I had the Dukes Of Hazzard theme song on repeat in my head. I did. What can I tell ya!?!
He did tell me that he’d daywork for a living in a heart beat. There’s that common thread amongst all these fellas. “I enjoy it. You just never know what’s gonna happen next.” He’d far rather be outside than inside. As I do with all these guys, I ask him how he’d feel if he could no longer cowboy. He looked at me as if he did not understand the question.
“I mean, if you got hurt or something and you literally could not do this kind of work anymore… how would you feel?” I try to clarify.
Well, he knew exactly what I was asking the first time. He just didn’t like the question. I think I’ve stumped him. He shakes his head and looks a tad confused. “Nobody’s ever asked me that. Life would be no fun anymore. How would you feel if you couldn’t do what you loved to do?!?”
I retort, “Exactly, Jeremy. I know how I’d feel. That’s why I ask. I want to hear from you how you’d feel.” But, he doesn’t have to vocalize it. He shakes his head some more. He stumbles over a few words. His nonverbal communication says it all. Whelp… he didn’t like that question. Ha!
Annnnnd, moving on. We make some more small talk. He succeeds at shocking me and flustering me a couple more times. And, then, he leaves me with probably the worst advice I’ve ever been given. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”
I laugh in disbelief and shake my head. Then I inform him that’s the worst advice he could give anyone. And, just like that, with a laugh, he slides through the window of the General Lee, peels out, kicks up dust, and blare’s the Dixie horn!
Okay, okay. Not really. But, might as well.