Acquainted with the Night

Layout of night photos w Frost poemBack in the days when I was working at The Missourian, I’d cover some night event, maybe a meeting or sporting event, then I’d go to my home basement darkroom to process the film and print the photos. Since I’d rather stay up late than get up early, I’d drive the pictures over to the office that night.

If I wasn’t sleepy, I’d sit in the office doing my homework or listening to one of the three police, fire and highway patrol radios mounted on a column in the newsroom. Every hour, I’d jump when the West Union clock on the wall reset itself to the absolutely correct time with a jarring CLUNK!.

If I got bored doing that, I’d hop in the car and cruise the back streets and alleys, listening to police calls through a Tompkins Tunaverter, a little gray box that converted the car’s AM radio into a VHF FM monitor. Cape’s a town that goes to sleep early, so it was like it belonged to me.

I love biking after dark

To this day, I love riding my bike after dark. In the early evening, you can nod and speak to folks walking their dogs or pushing baby strollers. You can smell what’s cooking for dinner. If there is a flickering light coming from a dark room, you know they are watching TV, because a computer screen emits a steady glow.

From behind, I’m lit up like a Christmas tree; in front, there’s a generator-powered headlight cutting through the blackness. If I look down, I can see in the backsplatter of the light my sweat-glowing legs pistoning up and down, driving the chain with a snicccck, sniccck, sniccck sound.

Like Robert Frost, I, too, have been acquainted with the night.

This is one of my images that will be displayed at the Cape Girardeau County History Center in Jackson after Homecomers and until about the end of the year. The theme of the show will be Coming of Age in a Small Midwestern Town between 1963 and 1970ish. Click on the photo to make it larger.

Sunrises are Overrated

Sunset looking west from Staples plaza 07-20-2016I’ve seen two sunrises this week. I pulled two all-nighters editing pictures and sending them off to be printed. The sunrises were spectacularly reddish, or, that might have just been what they looked like through my bloodshot eyes.

What brought about this horrible flashback to my high school and college days? The Cape County History Center in Jackson is going to exhibit pictures from my coming of age years. I underestimated how long it was going to take to get the pictures done because they had already been scanned.

What I had forgotten

What I had forgotten was that I really didn’t know what I was doing when I first started digitizing the film. After doing the digital darkroom work and getting rid of all the flaws, I should have saved them as a Photoshop file. Instead, I output them for the web. That’s great if you are only going to look at it on a computer screen, but the image falls apart if you want to enlarge it.

That meant that I had to go back to the original scan and touch up 100 to 1000 scratches, dust spots and flaws per picture. Doing that once is a pain. Doing it a second time is agonizingly, boringly frustrating.

Anyway, Carla Jordan and I are going to be hanging the show Friday afternoon and night. With any kind of luck, it’ll be ready for folks to see Saturday afternoon. More info to come.

That’s not a sunrise

This isn’t a sunrise, by the way. I had to go to Staples to pick up some ink for my printer Wednesday evening. When I walked out of the store, I was blown away by the way Man and Mother Nature were having a color competition.

Racin’ Nightfall into ‘nooga

I-24 Chattanooga TN 05-21-2016This was one of those trips where I was intent on making miles and not photos. My sojourn in Florida was a little longer than anticipated, and I was supposed to pick up Curator Jessica in Louisville on May 22 so we could collaborate with Carla Jordan on some photo exhibits for the Jackson Cape County History Center and the Altenburg Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum.

The sun was starting to hide as I was on the downhill side of I-24 heading into Chattanooga. I had logged a little over 500 miles for the day, and needed to push on another hour or so to put me withing striking distance of Louisville the next day.

I liked the way the sunlight was glinting off the median divider and trees, but there was an 18-wheeler woofing on my tail, so I didn’t have time to do more than wave and push the button without messing with exposures or framing.

You can click the photo to make it larger.

The Hanging Tree Is Gone

Jackson MO Hanging Tree 03-26-2010Americans have long recorded songs about justice being delivered at the end of a rope. The Kingston Trio sang the sad tale of Tom Dooley, the victim of the eternal triangle involving him, a Mr. Grayson and a beautiful woman. In the song, he laments, “This time tomorrow, reckon where I’ll be, down in some lonesome valley, hanging from a white oak tree.”

Toby Keith, in Beer for my Horses, takes a grittier tone, when he sings.

Grandpappy told my pappy, back in my day, son
A man had to answer for the wicked that he done
Take all the rope in Texas
Find a tall oak tree, round up all of them bad boys
Hang them high in the street for all the people to see that

[Chorus:]

Justice is the one thing you should always find
You got to saddle up your boys
You got to draw a hard line
When the gun smoke settles we’ll sing a victory tune
We’ll all meet back at the local saloon
We’ll raise up our glasses against evil forces
Singing whiskey for my men, beer for my horses

Jackson’s Hanging Tree

Jackson's Hanging Tree 04-15-2014I first heard about Jackson’s Hanging Tree in 2010, when MDOT proposed a roundabout on the north side of the Cape County Courthouse. Not only would it have eaten up a significant piece of the courthouse square, but it would also have endangered the tree where Cape County’s last hanging took place in 1899. The photo at the top of the page was taken in 2010. You can read the history of the tree here.

Every spring, Mother would want to drive by the courthouse to see if the old Mulberry tree had made it through another winter.

When I shot this in 2014, I thought maybe this was the last spring for it, but a closer look showed it was budding out for another go.

See something missing?

Jackson Hanging Tree site 04-18-2016_7171When I looked at The Missourian this morning, it had a story, “‘Hanging Tree’ in county courthouse square taken down.” Curiously, the photo was taken not by a staff photographer, but by the tree service that chopped the tree down.

In 2010, when the roundabout was being debated, Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones said, “If these three commissioners agree to give up that much of our beautiful courthouse lawn, there would be a three-person hanging on that hanging tree, and I believe that would be us.”

The newspaper story said the tree was cut down Sunday after county officials “ordered it removed after determining that it no longer was healthy enough to remain standing.”

It must have been a decision that was kept really quiet, because I got an apologetic email this morning from a good county source who wrote, “My apologies that I didn’t give you a heads up on the hanging tree coming down. It was a surprise even to me.”

Wonder if another one will pop up?

Jackson Hanging Tree site 04-18-2016_7180I saw a bunch of seeds on the ground where the tree once stood. I wonder if any of them are mature or hardy enough to grow us another hanging tree? You just never know when you might need one to “fight evil forces.”

Preserving a few pieces

2016-04-18 Jackson Hanging Tree 01The fellow who cut the tree down was quoted as saying the wood would likely not be used for anything because it was severely rotted. The story continued, “the tree was part of local history, and he expects people to be sad to see it go.”

I couldn’t resist snagging a few pieces of bark for myself and the Cape Girardeau County History Center. I’m sure the center would liked to have had a bigger chunk for exhibit.