From the Wittliff collection

A photograph by Bill Wittliff that shows a traditional Mexican vaquero is part of an upcoming exhibit at the Bell County Museum.

Beginning Saturday the Bell County Museum will present “Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy,” an exhibition created by the Wittliff Collections at the Alkek Library, Texas State University in San Marcos, presented in partnership with Humanities Texas, the state affiliate for the National Endowment for the Humanities. This exhibition is made possible in part by a “We the People” grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In the early 1970s, noted Texas historian Joe Frantz offered Bill Wittliff a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — a visit to a ranch in northern Mexico where the vaqueros still worked cattle in traditional ways. Wittliff photographed the vaqueros as they went about daily chores that had changed little since the first Mexican cow herders learned to work cattle from a horse’s back.

The exhibition features photographs with bilingual narrative text that reveal the muscle, sweat, and drama that went into roping a calf in thick brush or breaking a wild horse in the saddle.

“The vaquero tradition had a lasting impact on cowboy culture in Bell County, the state of Texas and across the entire Southwest,” Executive Director Coleman Hampton said in a news release.

The exhibition will be available to the public until Dec. 29. The museum is located at 201 N. Main St. in Belton. The museum is open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. For more information, or to arrange group visits, call the museum at 254-933-5243.