The Digital Journalist
Selected photos from Michael O'Brien's The Face of Texas.
© Michael O'Brien

The Largent Family/FORT DAVIS - The Largent family of Fort Davis, TX lives as pure a life as possible at the turn of this high-tech century. Television, video games, the Internet and fast cars are foreign to their social lexicon.

They live, in the words of mom Emily Largent, a "fairy tale."

"We live on the land and off the land as much as we can," says the 47-year-old rancher's wife who hails, originally, from Louisville, KY, and visited Fort Davis years ago, then stayed on to teach in the town's one-room schoolhouse. "I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Emily and husband Roy and their seven children--Roy Rust, 19, Ivan, 18, Tate, 15, Caroline, 13, Emily Anne, 11, Maria, 7, and Hannah, 4 -- live on a 4,000-acre ranch 10 miles west of Fort Davis and two hours north of Big Bend National Park, at the base of Blue Mountain. Like their relatives and neighbors--fellow ranching families -- the Largents home-school their children and otherwise raise them as young ranchers-to-be, teaching them more in one year about the land -- and themselves -- than city kids learn in a lifetime.

"We're thankful," says Emily, who holds a Masters Degree in Special Education. "We don't have to de-program them. We're trying to teach our children life skills, give them a broader picture."

The Largents live in a spacious, adobe-walled, century-old ranch house that has been in Roy's family for years. They raise miniature Hereford cattle and, to a lesser extent, cashmere goats. They also own "a few head" of Shetland sheep, and some horses, dogs and cats. They keep milk cows for themselves, butcher their own beef, get fresh eggs from their cousins nearby, can gallons of vegetables every year, bake their own bread, and participate in a food coop for the staples they cannot produce themselves. (They're 40 miles from a good grocery.)

Their daily routine begins at dawn with barn chores, a big breakfast and home-schooling; and continues with a hearty lunch followed by more chores--domestic tasks for the girls, ranch work for the boys--a light dinner and early bedtime. The girls also learn their share of ranch chores so they can help out in busy times and fill in for the boys when they're gone on ranch business.

Although Emily and Roy say they will support their children's life choices, they believe most of their offspring will ultimately choose the ranching life.

"I think they've got the land in their blood," says Emily. "They're happy here. And as it says in Proverbs: 'A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.'"