Famous magazine photo leaves lasting impression on local ‘rodeo cowboy’


Staff Writer
Twenty years ago this summer, internationally reknowned photographer Mary Ellen Marks snapped a picture of two young cowboys while she traveled the country touring small town rodeos for Texas Monthly.

A photograph she took of two young cowboys, full of bravado, has made its way into photography textbooks, museums and more. The Liberty Hill Independent recently tracked down one of those cowboys, local resident Cheyloh Mather, and caught up with him, still near the arena.

His family has been in Liberty Hill so long, they aren’t even quite sure when they arrived. His grandfather tells the story of the first member “getting off the train with about 35 cents in his pocket.” They became landowners and land workers, cattlemen and calf riders, and in a modern age, they all still keep the dreams of the Old West alive.

The photograph is entitled “Craig Scarmado and Cheyloh Mather at the Boerne Rodeo, Texas, USA, 1991.”

Marks was nearing the end of her journey when she ended up at the Kendall County Fairgrounds in Boerne, and snapped the iconic image moments after Mather had won the calf riding competition. The sweet sneer he wears in the face, perfectly encapsulates a moment of childhood glory. A member of Scarmado’s family noticed the book at a Barnes & Noble event, and that led Mather to a book signing where he was sitting alongside a few other Texas icons, Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson and former Gov. Ann Richards. The story of the famous pictures comes up quite often, and it’s a day Mather remembers well, and can sum up quite easily.

“It was hot,” he said.

Craig Scarmado and Cheyloh Mather at the Boerne Rodeo. The picture was taken in 1991 and published in Texas Monthly magazine (Courtesy Photo)For generations, the Mather family has been in Liberty Hill, and has always been involved in rodeos. He is the perfect choice for the picture, though his being in it was purely coincidental. He just happened to be walking by when Marks asked for his permission to take the photograph, he said.

Twenty years later, he still walks with the cowboy swagger that was evident in the photo. He mostly works in the arena, helping his children learn the ropes. His four children all compete, riding horses and calf riding. To date, he has won titles and prizes for bull riding, team roping and calf roping. Every Friday night, he can be found at the Foust Arena, helping run the bull riding, calf riding and steer riding competitions.