Meeting The Mississippi Delta Cowboys

We were invited to Cleveland, Mississippi by local documentary photographer and avid instagrammer Rory Doyle.

Rory has passion for documenting the more unusual sides of delta life and after learning of our penchant for the peculiar,  wasted no time in inviting us to join him in photographing the Delta Hill Riders Fathers Day event- a get together for cowboys from all the local counties, where cowboys compete in events, BBQ and hang out. 

En route, Rory began to explain that he had photographed the cowboys a couple of times already and had subsequently been invited to snap this event - naturally we were pretty excited to be invited.

After ten minutes in the car we pulled into a large field alongside a collection of cars and horse boxes before stepped out into the intense Mississippi heat. Lining the large field were collections of people setting up seats, cracking beers and saddling up ready to ride.

The first thing that struck us was that the majority of the cowboys were cool looking, young, African-American teenagers - mobile phone in one hand, reins in the other. This was a far cry from the leather clad, tash-sporting, chaps-wearing old white guys that form our cowboy stereo type - probably from watching too many old John Wayne movies (a confessed guilty pleasure of ours) 

One rider particularly caught our eye; just 6 years old, his legs were half way up the saddle of his full-sized horse, but his determination and skill was a force to be reckoned with. Another boy was there riding with his grandfather and other groups of teens had just come to hang out with one another. 

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The atmosphere was unlike anything we've experienced before with hip hop sounding out across the PA, Riders dressed in 'normal clothes' chatting and drinks being drunk to try and combat the crazy heat - these guys were having fun. 

Seeing these kids embrace the cowboy culture was pretty awesome - rather than hanging around the streets and playing computer games like many kids their age, these guys were outdoors, taking part in the community and honing their saddle skills. It was just a shame that it still seemed like a very male dominated pastime, but hopefully that's something that will also change as time goes on. 

After a few hours watching a series of events, chatting to the riders and eating some incredible smoked barbecue we got back into the car full and happy. It was a real privilege to have been invited to the event, learning about localised subcultures such as this is what travelling the world is all about.