Ed Forbis - PhMuseum

Ed Forbis

Lola Paprocka Pani Paul

2016 - Ongoing

Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States

“I first learned how to pack mules in the beautiful Wind River Mountains of Wyoming, where I was born and raised on my family ranch. This is where I really fell in love with the cowboy way of life,” said Ed Forbis.

It’s the middle of winter and we are sitting around a small wooden table inside Ed’s modest cabin situated in a residential part of the Grand Canyon. Willie Nelsons “On The Road Again” plays in the background as Ed shows us some old footage from his Marlboro days. Silhouettes of Ed riding bucking horses race across the screen against a burning red Wyoming skyline.

Only a few hours ago we were dealing with doubt and distaste for this place. Our car had broken down the minute we pulled into the Canyon parking lot. Seeing the icy green stalactites hanging from the engine we concluded this was a bad omen. The car was towed.

The following morning, with a replaced radiator by a local mechanic named James, against our better judgement we decided to drive the 50 miles back to the park from our motel.

The plan was to keep it brief, have a quick look, refuel and head back to LA, but this serendipitous meeting with the weather-beaten moustachioed cowboy inside the general store led us here, to the toasty confines of his house and a room flush with Marlboro memorabilia.

“I worked ranches and trained horses straight out of school, one of the bosses, who also happened to be one of the main models for Marlboro, would take me on shoots to ride bucking horses and to help move bunches of loose horses and cattle. I ended up working with Marlboro for 9 years or so...”

After a long career as a travelling cowboy and rancher, Ed is now 60 years old and far removed from the limelight. Ed lives alone and spends his time in nature caring for the animals. He prefers living a simpler life, staying connected with his surroundings. “The best job I ever had,” he told us.

Not anticipating any guests Ed started to fold his hanging laundry. He offers us another can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and continues to tell us stories from his younger days.

“We worked just about every state west of the Mississippi. Got to see some of the most beautiful places in the States. It was one of the most awesome jobs a guy could have hoped for… Had some real close calls but I enjoyed every minute of it!”

Inspired by our nostalgic conversation and with the subtle anticipation to be in front of the camera again Ed offered to saddle up Rooster, his faithful horse, put on his kit and pose for us.

We followed as Ed and Rooster guided us thought the deep snow along a narrow trail only a few feet from the edge of the Canyon. As the sun set around us in the freezing -17c temperatures, we suddenly understood the luck we’d had. If not for a chance meeting with a stranger, we’d have ended up back in the vacuum of LA and missed out on this rich experience. Ed had extended to us the same respect and generosity he has for his surroundings. Content with his life far from the call of consumerism and technology his give-and-take balance between man and nature is inspirational. If we can only find an ounce of contentment that Ed has with his surroundings, we’d consider ourselves lucky.  

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