I ran across a couple things that stuck me this week during what would have been Mother’s 98th Birthday Season. We’ll get to them in a second.
Back in 2014, Mother and I went trekking for pine cones that we could use as fire starters. She took to it like a kid on Easter morning.
Today, I took Road Warriorette Shari and her mother, Senior Honorary Road Warriorette LaFern, to an undisclosed location for a similar hunt. (“If anybody asks what we’re doing, tell them we’ve been sentenced to community service,” I told them.)
When we were through, I said we’d make a side trip over to New Lorimier Cemetery to wish Mother a Happy Birthday with a pair of our pine cones. I mean, flowers are so ordinary.
Gregory Lincoln’s Thoughts
Gregory A. Lincoln administrator of Facebook’s Cape Rewound, a popular group with 5,311 members (and counting) recently lost his mother. He shared this with the group:
Sitting in my bed enjoying the pretty full moon shine through my bedroom window. 🙂. It’s been a very rough weekend. It’s hard to imagine her gone. All my life she was very tough and fought death and seem to always win except that final battle. I don’t understand. I assume it’s a battle we will all lose sooner or later. I guess she knew in her heart it was her time. Her birthday is approaching so please excuse me if I share a memory, a photograph or heart touching song.
About the same time, I was sorting stuff that had buried my desk, deciding what I wanted to keep, and what would be good fireplace fodder now that the weather is turning chilly.
Memories Sneak Out of My Eyes
In the stack was a letter from Brother Mark. It was a rambling thing, all full of non sequiturs and whimsy. On the last page, in the last paragraph before reaching a photo of Mother in one of her signature red coats, he wrote, “As I find myself at the bottom of the page, I couldn’t decide which to end with, so you get both. Put it in context, if you will.
“My memory loves you; it asks about you all the time.”
“Sometimes memories sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks.”
We’re coming up another Mother Birthday Season without the guest of honor. One of the things I’ve become almost used to are the sounds of a house that is empty except for me.
It used to startle me when I’d hear a BAM! like someone trying to break into the house. That would be followed by a RUMBLE, RUMBLE, RUMBLE, SPLAT.
After awhile, I learned to identify that as the sound of walnuts hitting the roof, rolling down, then hitting the ground or driveway. In fact, it makes me think of the paraphrased lines of a B.J. Thomas song:
Walnuts keep falling on my head But that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turning red Crying’s not for me ‘Cause, I’m never gonna stop the walnuts by complaining
Because I’m free Nothing’s worrying me
Winning the liability lottery
Warriorette Shari came down from St. Louis for the weekend and griped about the walnuts all over the driveway. I told her it was part of my long-range financial plan to have her slip and fall, collect a huge insurance payout (which she would, of course, split with me), and figure she had won the liability lottery.
She rewarded me with The Look.
While I was sweeping them up, it made me think of past dealings with the green bombs.
Dad got the great idea that we should round up all the the nuts that fell in the yard, crack the shells and spend the winter picking out the goodies.
There’s one big problem
The big problem with that is that the walnuts are encased in a hard, green husk that has to be removed first. That ain’t easy. We tried all kinds of ways.
Putting them out in the street to let cars run over them just meant that you had to chase up the hill, down the hill and in the ditches on either side of the road after they had squirted off in every direction.
Then, he got a great idea: he bored several sized holes in a 2×6 board. We were supposed to select a hole slightly smaller than the husk, then drive it through the hole with a hammer, leaving the husk on one side and the nut on the other.
The nut, unfortunately, was the guy holding the hammer. You’ve heard of walnut stain, haven’t you? Well, there’s a reason for calling it that. I think I was about 42 years old before all of the stain wore off. I tried to convince people it was Dektol developer stain from the making prints in the darkroom because that sounded somewhat professional.
Are you nuts for nuts?
So, here’s the deal. If you have a hankering for walnuts, I have a yard full of them. Some of them have been herded together, but there are probably a bushel or two in the wild scattered all over the yard. Come and get ’em. (If you want me to answer the door with pants on, I suggest you give me a 10-minute warning.)
I just remembered that I had written about walnuts in 2014, and had plowed much the same ground. Nothing much has changed since then. You can click on any of the photos to make them larger, then use your arrow keys to navigate around.
We were a pecan family
Because walnuts were so hard to crack, and it was no fun to pick them out, we were more of a pecan family. Dad’s favorite winter pastime was sitting in the basement picking out pecans while watching TV.
Wife Lila and Grandson Malcolm came up for a visit. When Malcolm was here last year, we went to Johnson’s Shut-Ins and Elephant Rocks. He liked them well enough he told us he wanted to do the same when he came back in 2018.
“I LOVE this place,” he commented. It’s good to see him infected with the Midwest. There may be hope for him.
Anyway, just as we were getting ready to pull out of the driveway, I saw Neighbor Bill across the street and told him where we were going. He asked, “Have you ever been to Castor River Shut-Ins.
I allowed as how I hadn’t, but since it was about half the distance to our original destination, we decided to check it out. (You can click on the photos to make them larger, by the way.)
Their new favorite place
My visitors said they liked it better than Johnson’s Shut-Ins. It has all the rock climbing of Elephant Rocks, with the water fun. I agree that all the pink granite is pretty, but Johnson’s has more cool water flumes to shoot down.
Traded bold for old
My bold days have been traded for old days, so I was conservative about where I stepped and climbed. Wife Lila was a bit more aggressive because she wanted to keep an eye on Malcolm so she could write the “Dear Matt and Sarah, Guess what we did to your kid” letter.
A gasp and a splash
It wasn’t long before Malcolm was playing mountain goat and heading up a near vertical wall.
I heard Lila gasp, followed by a splash. Showing that she really is a photographer at heart, she complained that there was a branch in the way that kept her from getting a good shot when he slipped and bounced on his backside into the river.
He sat in the cool water for a few minutes regrouping before frolicking some more. About the only thing injured was his pride.
The place is pretty, offers plenty of room to spread out, and wasn’t overrun by people, even though it was a hot day.
Google says that the Castor River Shut-Ins are 45.7 miles (1 hour, 9 minutes) from Cape via MO-72. Johnson’s Shut-Ins are 88.6 miles (1 hour, 53 minutes), also on MO-72.
Earlier visits to Johnson’s Shut-Ins and Elephant Rocks
It was a balmy day on March 15, 2015. It was warm enough that my shirt was damp from exertion. Then, unexpectedly, my blood ran cold. I was frozen in place, transported through time and space to 50 years earlier. I was on the verge of a panic attack, something that has never happened when covering the most horrific scenes as a news photographer.
Let’s back up a bit.
Wife Lila is a quilter, so we made a side trip to Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective in 2008. I felt a sense of deja vu when we crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge leading over the Alabama River into Selma. I retraced that route with Road Warriorette Shari as a traveling companion in 2015.
About midway between Montgomery and Selma, we spotted a building with a bunch of tents pitched around it. It was the Lowndes Interpretive Center, which was hosting marchers re-enacting the Selma to Montgomery trek half a century earlier. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)
Until 1965, only 2% of the black voters in Selma’s Dallas county were able to vote. In Lowndes county, the percentage was zero.
On March 7, shortly after a civil rights protestor had died after being shot, 600 non-violent protestors planned to march 54 miles from Brown A.M.E. Chapel in Selma to Montgomery to honor the martyr and to draw attention to voters’ rights.
Attacked by “lawmen”
Shortly after they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were stopped by a line of state troopers, local lawmen and local volunteers. After being given less than two minutes to return to the church, the marchers were attacked with nightsticks and teargas. At least 50 protestors required hospital treatment.
John Lewis: “I thought I saw Death”
One of the protesters beaten on Bloody Sunday was Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, then a 25-year-old organizer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. “I was hit in the head by a state trooper with a nightstick. I had a concussion at the bridge,” Lewis said. “My legs went out from under me. I felt like I was going to die. I thought I saw Death.”
The interpretive center had a profoundly moving video that gave the background of racial discrimination in the area and accounts of the three marches – or attempted marches – from Selma.
I was moved to tears by a woman who must have been very young on Bloody Sunday. She was speaking to a number of students and decrying the poor voting turnout in the country. She handed each student a pebble while saying, “I walked on these very rocks on that day. Now, I’m handing them on for you to carry.”
We found the march
Not far from the center, we ran into the marchers stopped at a convenience store. I managed to get in behind them and drove up the shoulder of the road until I ran into this trooper. He gave me a questioning look, but became friendly when I stepped out with my camera gear. “I thought you might have had some kind of emergency and needed to get by,” he said.
When I looked back at him protecting the marchers, I wondered if his father or grandfather had been in the group at the bottom of the bridge on Bloody Sunday.
A mixed group
The group was made up of a mixture of ages and races, ranging from a babe in arms to folks who were probably in their 70s. Sometimes singing would break out, other times the walkers were just plugging away.
“What mean these stones?
After we left the group (see more photos in the gallery), we stopped at the Bloody Sunday monument at the foot of the bridge going into Selma. I was surprised at the number of people who were there.
Inscribed on the rock are words from Joshua 4:21-22. “When your children shall ask you in time to come saying, ‘What mean these stones?’ then you shall tell them how you made it over.”
The words of the woman with the pebbles came flooding back to me.
A fairly steep climb
The bridge has a pretty steep grade to it. You can’t actually see it from the bottom on either side.
Picturesque, but run-down
When you approach the top, you get a pretty view of a picturesque, but somewhat battered town.
Business as usual
As I got to the top of the span, I was the normal detached photographer, thinking only of composition and exposure.
Then, something happened
I walked about halfway down the bridge, then turned back to head to the car. I hadn’t gone far, when suddenly I felt myself transported back half a century. I could hear the crowd behind me singing, talking, laughing. Spirits were high. They were marching for their freedom.
That’s when I took this frame and realized that here is where you would first see the line of lawmen waiting. I’ve covered my share of riots and protests, but there was generally some kind of restraint on both sides. Those men waiting down below weren’t there to enforce the law: they were there to mete out punishment.
I could feel the pressure of the crowds behind me. They hadn’t yet seen what I was seeing, and they were pushing me from behind. I couldn’t retreat, and I certainly didn’t want to go forward. I don’t know how long I was paralyzed there. If the spirits of the place could invoke that much terror, I can only imagine what it must have been like to live it.
We’re going to have to change the title
As soon as I regained my composure, I called Curator Jessica in Athens. In a choked voice, I told her we were going to have to change the title of an exhibit we were doing on the protest era at Ohio University. The working title was “The Sky Has Fallen.”
“A university closing is nowhere near what the freedom marchers in Alabama faced. We need to avoid hyperbole,” I argued.
Ms. Jessica explained the origin of the term: after a night of rioting two weeks after Kent State, the decision was made to close the university. The student newspaper, The OU Post, was on a hard deadline to get the story in print. Just before it hit the presses, someone said, “We don’t have a weather report for tomorrow.”
Editor Andy Alexander, a darned good journalist then and now, said, “Just write, ‘The sky has fallen.'”
I accepted that.
Gallery from Selma
Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery.