Monday, May 01, 2006

Genealogist Likes Ranch-Dressing

Tonight on PBS is the premiere of Texas Ranch House—the network's latest effort to shuttle people back to live as their ancestors lived, to learn of the challenges they faced, and to bitch and moan about the loss of modern conveniences.

At center stage will be Lisa Cooke, an "avid genealogist" from California who looked forward to adopting an 1867 persona.

I like to think of it as extreme genealogy. Some people want to rock climb. Some people want to jump out of airplanes. But for me to put on the clothing, to step onto the soil of a ranch and really live firsthand for an extended period of time the way they did. That's extreme. It's, I'm sure, every genealogist's dream and certainly mine. [Link]
Frankly, my dream is to live a life free of disease, hard labor, and inconvenience—the same dream, I suppose, my ancestors had in 1867. "Extreme genealogy" for me is transcribing until my hand cramps up, or traversing a ten-acre cemetery in a single afternoon. And if I go down to my great-great-grandfather's lower pasture to fix a stone wall, it's only because a wall needs fixing.



The best part of this article was your comment at the end. I can't agree enough.


Ron Filion

I pretty much enjoy that we tend to take baths/showers more often.


Sorry about the problems with the links. The first one is good. I have no idea why both keep showing up... one of those spooky blog things that just happen :D

Wild West Janice hehe


Extreme Genealogy

I've been watching this on PBS recently, and I've got to say that it's absolutely hilarious.

The Cooke Ranch is supposed to be run 1867-style by Bill Cooke, but this is nothing like 1867 Texas. Mr. Cooke's wife is the *real* power behind the throne. It's sadly obvious that Mr. Cooke has been castrated by her long, long ago.

Seriously, the guy is totally incapable of making (and sticking to) the smallest decision about the ranch's management without seeking his wife's repeated blessing. And the woman, sheesh! We're talking about a pretty severe personality disorder here. If anything is *extreme* about her, it's her insatiable need for control.

She also has a profound need for continual reaffirmations of respect from everybody on the ranch. When she doesn't feel she gets it, she puts her husband through all kinds of contortions to act as her proxy; because she can't handle direct confrontation with the cowboy ranch hands.

At one point she outright says, "I am the driving force behind making the Ranch House happen." And later, "I come up with all the ideas, and my husband implements them."

It's funny, because in the beginning Mr. Cooke tries to act like he is "in charge" and lays down the rules to all the ranch hands and employees, saying how he insists on honesty and respect from them all, how important one's word is, etc. But he gets disgraced and embarrassed so many times by his wife and is forced to renege on so agreements and understandings he has with the ranch hands, that every one of them winds up losing all respect for him due to his own hypocrisy.

One ranch hand explains the true hierarchy of authority that has emerged like this: When a ranch hand needs something, he goes to Robby, the foreman. Then Robby will go ask Mr. Cooke about it. Then Mr. Cooke will ask Mrs. Cooke..."

At another point in the program, after she fails to receive the perfect expression of gratitude that she had expected from the ranch hands (who've come back tired and hungry after a very long day), she senses some emotional vulnerability in her husband's need to save face in front of the men, and uses it to force him to make them comply. She threatens, "Do it, or I'll humiliate you in front of all of them!"

It gets so bad during another berating, that Mr. Cooke basically begs her to turn off her microphone!

Eventually even the other women in the ranch house start walking all over Mr. Cooke, including his daughters and even the maid!

The ranch foreman, Robby Cabezuela, a real cowboy and generally great guy who is the only one on the entire ranch who has any competence whatsoever in ranching and herding cattle, tries to explain the the fundamental problem behind all the ranch's troubles: "Cowboys know there is a difference between a bull and an ox," he says. Bulls are ornery, while oxen more docile. "The bull -- it still has its testicles."

At first I felt really sorry for Bill Cooke, because one doesn't like to see another human being be made to suffer such indignities. But after it kept getting worse, and worse, and worse for him, you just kind of have to keep watching -- to see just how low things can actually go. It's something like the urge to lookieloo at a car wreck.

In the final episode, I'm half-expecting that she'll have lassoed all his appendages to her little finger, so her master-puppeteering technique can be complete.

Mrs. Cooke likens the experience to extreme genealogy. I think extreme genealogy is how a castrated male somehow still manages to pass on his genes...



Even if you accept that women played a greater role on the frontier than is generally thought (as a recent article at argues), Mrs. Cooke seems to be taking it to the extreme. It's disappointing, because she was the one who said she wanted to experience 1867 as her ancestor did. Did her great-great-great grandmother really let her daughters run around in their underwear, and invite the Comanche over for a tea party?


I am never, or hardly ever, moved to write like this but this was just too much.The Cooke family along with that man Finklestein are so screwed up it was difficult to watch.

Bill Cooke or should I say Bill Crook was just a disgrace,especially after he tried to steal that horse from one of his men.He threatened to kick his ass,yeah right!Maybe his wife could of kicked his ass but balless Bill could not kick anyones ass.This disfunctional couple will show up again on the Dr. Phil show.

Talk about the manipulated man this guy could be the poster boy.

Wow,I am truly stunned by this couple,unbelievable!


I would love to see more shows like this one. It had lots of drama, humor and action. Would be nice to get some of the same actors also.

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