Bucking broncs, drought, and tourism are just a few challenges for the Wright family’s 150-year-old way of life.
We call it flyover country, the vast, seemingly empty swathe of land most of us only see from 30,000 feet while traveling coast to coast. But as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Branch writes in his new book, The Last Cowboys, “Down there, in the nooks and crannies, there are people working extremely hard to make a go of it.”
Meet the Wright family: seventh-generation cattle ranchers and bronc riders in Smith Mesa, southern Utah. Battling unforgiving land, the encroachment of tourism in Zion National Park, drought, and bucking broncs, this tight-knit extended family is determined to continue a vanishing way of life.
When National Geographic caught up with the author at his home in San Francisco, he explained how he spent nearly five years with the Wrights as a fly on the wall, how bronc riding is a vital source of income, and how climate change is affecting the family’s cattle-ranching operation.