Nicol Ragland
3 min readJan 27, 2021



After meandering the planet and many years on the west coast, I’ve found my
way back to red dirt country close to cowboys, home grown tomatoes and neighbors helping neighbors.

I grew up in front of a big creek where my brother and I would
wait for the downpour of rain in order to crawdad hunt, gather half dollar
turtles and make infirmaries out of shoe boxes for the
ones who didn’t survive the flood.

My grandparents on both sides were rural Oklahoma folk.
We’d visit for a day or a weekend to return with a bucket of strawberries
and dirty fingernails. Somewhere in my DNA, that conditioning
always felt like home. While Los Angeles was a big chapter in my life,
my boots never sank deep enough and my frequency never quite in tune.


Over the last several years, I’ve directed films addressing the health impact due to chemical farming, the growing movement in Regenerative Agriculture and the industrialization of far West Texas. All of which has taken place in rural communities.

In so doing, the time frame just so happen to coincide with the acceleration of a divide in our nation that we’ve never seen before. A division often reflected in our civic discourse as rural vs.urban.

As I document these boarded up regions enveloped in dust devils and entrails of the industrial medusa, I can’t help to wonder
just how we stop these powerful forces building on the economic decline of rural America.

They are places that hold a moral coherence
that should be mandatory in schools. They try not to use Amazon
so they can support local businesses.
They stay clear of self checkout lanes so they can support
local workers and they’re fanatics when it
comes to supporting the local arts.

In addition, these rural communities hold the land stewards
that provide the food, fiber, and energy that cities
cannot create for themselves.

The truth is that urban America needs rural stewards
who harness the productivity of rural America
while maintaining its sustainability. There, in lies, UNITY.

A common word used these days in an
effort to mend our divided nation.

JAKO FARM | Kansas

What if it’s not about solving but about maintaining a connection?
What if we took a different bridge?
What if we listened to those on the other side of the tracks?
How can we spread the civic mind-set rural folks carry but in abundance?

Robert Frost teaches us to be ‘versed in country things’.
Country things like wide open country, an exhale we couldn’t
find in a concrete jungle, the cacophony of the wild
and a reminder that silence is endangered.

Madi McCrae | Oklahoma Rodeo Circuit
Vicki Smith | Oklahoma Barrel Racer

I’ve become real grateful to circle back home to
these red dirt roots of Oklahoma.

It just may be central to bridge building.

Nicol Ragland

Photographer . Director | Narrative-enhancing photography and film with an emphasis on cause-driven storytelling. |