Montana Image is an outgrowth of Saddlescenes Photography, Susan Marxer’s 35-yr. freelance photography business. Her private collection from 30 years on the massive 250,000-acre Matador Cattle Company is one of a kind, documenting ranch life, cowboy crews, cattle, and cowcamp life from a time when the camp was still primitive enough to run a cookhouse using propane. There was no power or phone.
In 2011 the Marxers left corporate life and got their own little place in the next valley over where they started Ranch Services West, a consulting, artificial insemination, and herd-work contracting company. Along with her husband Ray, they run a few cows and put up enough hay to keep horses and herd happy. Photos from working in the Sweetwater and Ruby Valley can be found on the Saddlescenes Facebook page. Contact Sue for available stock photography for cowboy, southwest Montana, and ranch-related images. firstname.lastname@example.org.
AI job at the Rice Ranch in Harrison on the back side of the Tobacco Root Mountains of southwest Montana. ©Saddlescenes Photography
Montana ranch life, cowboys, kids, and sagebrush have been the passion of Saddlescenes Photography since 1981. After marrying her “Favorite Cowboy”, Ray, Sue began capturing photos of the life she’d only dreamed of while growing up on a dairy farm in northwest Montana where sagebrush was non-existent.
Riding with her husband and the cowboy crew, and raising three children in a disappearing lifestyle provided Sue with a wealth of images. In 1982 Ray replaced Sue’s Kodak Instamatic with her first 35mm–a Canon T50. In 1988, capturing her popular “Spring Blizzard” image at the calving shed destroyed the electronic panel. After making the transition to digital several years later, a Canon G-10 eventually became her workhorse. She could hang it around her neck and drop it down the front of her shirt or under her coat to take anywhere–or tie the little camera bag to the front of her saddle. The sensor eventually cracked in 2013. The worst thing she did to that camera was to drop it lens-first into a fresh, juicy cowpie when her spur caught on sagebrush while dismounting to grab a photo. She removed her sandwich from its baggie, put the grimy camera in the baggie, and carried it the rest of the day in her lunch bag wondering how she was going to explain the damage to Canon. Once the manure dried though, she managed to clean it and get the shutter working again by herself.
When Montana’s Matador Cattle Company was sold to Rupert Murdoch in December of 2021, it was time to write a book to record the history of an iconic ranch and the true-west story of life on a turn-of-the-century big outfit founded around 1866 by two intrepid entrepreneurs, Poindexter & Orr, whose business it was to feed the miners. Fred Koch purchased the ranch in 1951 and Koch Industries operated the ranch for 70 years until its sale in 2021. Sue’s husband, Ray Marxer, wrote the first book as a memoir: Cowboy in a Corporate World: 37 Years of Life & Lessons on Koch Industries’ Beaverhead Ranch. Book available at raymarxer.com
Below: Barn dance at Alder neighbors in Montana’s Ruby Valley. Jim Anderson–center guitar–is one of the descendants of the early settlers who established Anderson’s “Ruby Dell Ranch” where this old barn now provides a venue for special events, and, just-for-fun barn dances.