It was still early. There was an occasional cow mooing or horse neighing from some minor disturbances but the stockyard was still relatively quiet. Earl was often the first up. He looked down at his old and leathery hands before putting his achy feet on the straw-covered floorboards.
Earl had been working in the stocks since before the fire burned through in ‘11. Times have changed since then. The yards have gotten quite busy with all the international buyers looking to purchase stock capable of pulling wagons full of war equipment and men.
Soon, the place would be bustling with noise. The cowboys would be rustling cattle in and out of stalls. The horse traders would be walking through investigating the stock. And the auctioneers would be chatting with the owners determining fair pricing. Earl had to get to work so he grabbed the bucket in one worn hand and the shovel in his other.
He wasn’t technically the senior man there in terms of title but he had the most respect. The younger guys often turned to him for questions. He guided them with a gentle tone. He found his way to work more effectively than the yelling and bullying some of the “managers” preferred. To each person he met, he reached out carefully gripping their hand in his rough, callused, working hand.
The days were long. Earl usually didn’t turn in till well after the stockyards had gone quiet again. And tonight, he looked down at his hands. The stories they could tell, the memories they could share. They were working hands.
These photos were taken shortly after the country began to reopen from COVID-19 the first time. Most people weren’t traveling yet so we practically had the place to ourselves.
The Forth Worth Stockyards were originally established in 1887 as Union Stockyards. The name was changed in 1993 when the ownership changed. During World War I, the stockyards became the largest horse and mule market in the world when demand for stock increased due to the war. An estimated $11 million was spent on stock at the time. If you would like to explore more about the history of the Fort Worth Stockyards, check out https://www.fortworthstockyards.org/history.