For folks who managed to grow up in cowboy country without learning a thing about ranch life, a hard twist refers to the old-time Manila hemp lariat rope that is tightly twisted or hard twisted. It can also be used to describe a small, physically strong person who very rarely breaks –– much like the Western women in the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame’s new summer exhibit.
Hanging through September 11, Hard Twist: Western Ranch Women returns after a popular run at the museum in 2012. Featuring 29 different ranch women in their natural element, the show collects more than 60 striking black-and-white photographs by hall of fame honoree Barbara Van Cleve.
Inspired by the apparent lack of images of ranching women, Van Cleve, who grew up in Montana on a ranch that dates back 134 years, spent most of 1986 through 1994 traveling the Rocky Mountain West on horseback, photographing and interviewing women on the range, on their ranches, and at rodeos. In 1995, the fruits of her labor were published in a book of the same name.