Local ranchers appear in Miranda Lambert video

Reporter: Ellie Mahan

February 9, 2022

Miranda Lambert poses with her double Ashley Merrill on the day of shooting the music video for “If I Was a Cowboy,” in November 2021.

Ashley and Jack Merrill, who live on a ranch in Blum, acted in Miranda Lambert’s official music video for her song “If I Was a Cowboy,” which premiered Wednesday, January 12. Ashley was Lambert’s body and stunt double, and Jack played one of the cowboys and rode his own horse in his scenes.

During their nearly 22 years of marriage, the Merrills have traveled all over the United States to participate in TV shows with their horses. In addition to living a cowboy lifestyle and making television appearances, the Merrills are farm and ranch realtors; Jack is a PRCA rodeo pickup man, and Ashley owned a boutique in downtown Whitney for about 10 years and is now a photographer.

The Merrills have three dogs, two cats and 14 horses. They also have over 1,200 stocker cattle that Jack raises with his partner and gets ready for market. Riding horses and taking care of animals is part of their daily life, so Ashley and Jack didn’t have to prepare for the music video because they were just doing what they do on a daily basis, except this time they were being filmed.

Ashley can be seen in the music video saddling the horse at the beginning and riding off into the field at the end. She played Lambert during all of the scenes that portrayed Lambert on a horse but didn’t show her face. Ashley said Lambert owns horses and is comfortable riding them, but there was not enough time in the schedule for Lambert to do all of her own riding scenes.

Ashley said, “It was a one-day shoot, so she was shooting the scenes in the bar while I was shooting the riding scenes. Even if she had wanted to do it all, she couldn’t have.” The video shooting was so fast-paced that when Lambert was ready to shoot a new scene with a different outfit, she had to hurry and swap outfits with Ashley because the clothing was one-of-a-kind.

Bob Alford, who calls Jack when there are available cowboy roles in movies being filmed nearby, recommended Ashley as Lambert’s double. Ashley sent in her measurements and photos of her on a horse and was later hired out of a pool of several people.

Ashley said, “Any time that they’re filming anything in this area that involves cowboys, horses, cattle, he [Bob] is kind of the go-to guy they call. Jack has done several things with him.”

Jack did stunt work on the TV series Friday Night Lights. He was also in commercials, three seasons of the remake of Dallas, and he was a rodeo pickup man on the Cowgirls TV show that aired on Ride TV. The Merrills helped with the horses on the set of the TV series The Amazing Race. They also traveled all over the United States with the Professional Bull Riders Velocity Tour.

Jack’s experience with being a rodeo pickup man for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association is a bonus to the people hiring him onto movie sets. As a pickup man, he rides next to a bucking horse, and helps the person on the bucking horse jump from their horse onto his. He also ropes bucking bulls to get them out of the arena when necessary.

As a PRCA pickup man, Jack helps someone jump from a bucking horse onto his horse. Photo by Ashley Merrill.

Jack said, “The other reason Bob would hire me is because I’m a pickup man. If an accident happens, and an actor is riding a horse that runs off with them, and they’re dragging or hung up, I have the ability to go catch that horse and get them safe.”

Both Ashely and Jack agreed that they’ve enjoyed the experiences of working with celebrities, but they don’t have more respect for someone based on their wealth or status.

“We’ve been around a lot of that kind of stuff, and to me, people are people. Whether you’re famous or not, you’re either a good person, and I want to hang around you, or you’re not and I don’t, no matter where you fall on the spectrum of fame. I, of course, knew who she [Miranda Lambert] was and knew some of her music,” Ashley said. “To me it was just meeting another nice person.”

Jack has always believed that celebrities are like everybody else; they just happened to get the opportunity for more exciting experiences. He isn’t usually a superfan of any musician or movie star. The closest he ever came to being star-struck was when he met Luke Perry on the set of 8 Seconds when he was about 12 years old. Jack’s dad was a rodeo pickup man as well, so his dad was on set to help with the bulls in the movie. Jack helped out on set in Oklahoma that day and was having a conversation with someone standing beside him without knowing who it was.

Jack said, “They are getting on bulls and stuff like that, and all of the sudden the spotlight is on me, and I’m thinking, ‘what is this? What is going on?’ I was standing beside and had been talking to Luke Perry for 15 minutes, and I had no idea who he was. I met Luke Perry while he was filming the movie 8 Seconds. As a kid, I thought that was pretty cool.”

The Merrills have enjoyed their TV experiences, although they said being on TV and in videos isn’t as glamorous as people probably imagine it. Typically it consists of them standing with their horses for most of the day and waiting for the few minutes of filming that they’re in. This time was a bit different for Ashley; since she was Lambert’s double, she was in and out of the hair and makeup station, changing looks for the different scenes that she was in.

For the PBR Velocity tour, the Merrills traveled all over the United States, stopping in places like Arizona, Portland, Maine, New York, West Virginia and South Dakota. They also spent four summers in Alaska on a mission trip. During a three month period, they taught over 1,000 children about horses and God at Echo Ranch Bible Camp. They had to train the wild horses at the camp so that they would be safe for children to ride on.

Jack said, “People take wild mustangs and break and train them. We have two of those too. They’re like a difficult child. Training horses is like training kids and raising kids. All horses have different personalities, different traits. You have to figure out how to train them the way that they can learn. Some of them are very flighty and fight and want to run away and are scared of things, and some come to it naturally and are naturally gentle to humans.”

Ashley and Jack love traveling with their two sons, Levi and Luke, but at the end of the day, they are just as happy with their everyday ranch life in Blum. Each day looks different on the ranch, but on most days, the first thing they do in the morning is feed their 14 horses. Then they eat breakfast and make sure Levi and Luke get started on their online homeschooling for the day.

Jack and his partner purchase cattle at about 450 or 500 pounds and then raise them until they weigh upwards of 800 pounds. Then they sell them to feed yards. On cattle shipping dates, the family is up at 5:30 in the morning, with all hands on deck.

Jack said, “They [the cattle] are at seven different pastures from here almost all the way to the Cleburne State Park. They’re scattered in a lot of different areas. I’m moving all day long to check, to feed, to rope and doctor calves. In our partnership with the cattle, I buy and sell cattle, and I rope and doctor cattle, so I am the cowboy for the program.”

Jack and Ashley Merrill

The Merrills said that they enjoy every aspect of the cowboy lifestyle.

Ashley said, “It’s Being around the animals and not having to punch a clock. We very much think people should know where their food comes from. That’s a big part of it is trying to keep things local and provide needs and stay in the western lifestyle. Both of our families have a really deep ranching heritage.”

Jack went to school in Rio Vista. His dad is in the Texas Rodeo Cowboys Hall of Fame for his pickup man rodeo skills, and Jack grew up helping his dad train the horses. About being a pickup man, Jack said, “It has been a part of life my whole life. I don’t take it as scary whatsoever. It’s a challenge, and I love it.” His dad went to school in Cleburne and now lives in Blum, just a few miles from Jack’s ranch.

Ashley is originally from Lancaster and graduated high school in Blooming Grove. Her dad was a Dallas police officer for 40 years. She didn’t grow up on a ranch, but her grandfather grew up on a ranch in west Texas, and aspects of the lifestyle stayed in her family. She said, “That part of my family and what my grandpa did was always super important to me, so I was very happy to marry somebody who was into that.” Her parents now live in Clifton.

Ashley met Jack at the Cleburne Rodeo when she was 18, and the couple dated for all of Ashley’s senior year. Ashley graduated from high school in Blooming Grove in May, and they got married the following September in 2000. Then they went to college together, first at Hill College and then at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. They later moved back to the Whitney area, where Jack started with Caldwell Banker and Ashley opened her boutique. After their second son was born, Ashley gave up the boutique business to stay at home on the ranch.

Ashley said she could see both of her sons, Levi, age 14, and Luke, age 12, grow up to lead lifestyles that are similar to the one they’re living now. Levi enjoys hunting, fishing and being outdoors. He has expressed becoming a game warden in the future.

Luke’s love for ranch work started at a young age. Ashley said, “Luke’s first sentence that he put together, he was a little baby standing in his crib, and he said ‘Feed cows dada. Feed cows dada.’ He just wanted to go with Jack everywhere.”

Jack said both boys spend the time they are not doing school work helping their dad on the ranch. He said, “Sometimes Luke will get up at daylight, and do his school on his own, just so he can go. Even if I told him he didn’t have to go or didn’t need to go, he will do his school and get it over with so that he can go with me. Both of the boys enjoy what we do. They like to ride horses and rope cattle with me. Even when we go to the rodeos, they help push the calves and steers out of the arena with me.”

The Merrills find value in exposing their children to unique experiences by taking them along when they travel the country. Luke and Levi traveled down the Alaska Highway at four and six years old.

Ashley and Jack hope their kids see that no matter where people are from or what their status is, they share a sameness. The Merrills from Blum, Texas can find something in common with people from New York State. “You think New York State is just a giant city, and it’s not at all. There are people who even though they grew up differently, the basis of who they are and what they believe in is exactly the same as us…” Ashley said. “Basic humanity is everywhere. People aren’t so different from you.”

To see photography by Ashley Merrill and to follow along with what comes next for the family, follow @apmerrillphotography on Instagram.

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