After more than 1,000 miles of reconnaissance driving in Missouri’s Bootheel, I started shooting actual photos Friday. My first stop was at Dunklin county’s Malden airport for a reunion of people who had served there when it was an active training airbase during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. I’ll run that story later.
Since I was already down there, I decided to go to the Malden – Portageville football game that evening.
I opened my car door at dusk in Steele, in Pemiscot county, last week. It took two days to get all the mosquitoes out. Since there was a Walmart next to the football stadium, I stopped by the sports department to ask about Dunklin county skeeters. “I’d recommend the 40% Deet over the 25% can,” the salesman said.
The way he said that made me wonder if that was the game the fellow next to me buying a shotgun had in mind. I didn’t ask.
Even the cheerleaders were spraying down. The repellent did a good job against bloodsuckers, but it didn’t help chase away the cloud of gnats circling my head or the odd beetle who would bounce off my bald pate.
A salt and pepper crowd
I used to subscribe to the theory of an author who wrote that Cape Girardeau was the last bastion of civilization before descending into the Old South of the Bootheel. It was a pleasant surprise to see the friendly salt and pepper mix in the stands. I’m sure I’ll run into Jim Crow down there eventually, but he was missing Friday night, so far as I could tell.
I took the precaution of calling the school in the afternoon to ask if I needed any special credentials to get on the field. I gathered from some conversations in town that there was an issue with a pedophile some time past, and they might be a little gun shy. I told assistant superintendent Bob Wilson that I’d be happy to send him samples of football games I had covered recently to establish my bona fides:
- Trimble Tomcats vs. Symmes Valley in Glouster, Ohio
- Cape Central High Tigers vs Sikeston Bulldogs
- Selfies and Smoke Signals at Ohio University
I was welcome
Five minutes later, Bob called back to say I was welcome at the game. Just introduce yourself to any of the staff wearing khaki pants and green shirts, he said.
Indeed, that’s what I did. The first person I ran into said an email about me had gone out to everyone, and to enjoy myself. During the course of the game, I talked to at least half a dozen staff, including the personable school superintendent, who is very proud of his teachers and students.
A very nice man with a badge
Good thing I had made that afternoon call. On my way out of the game, a burly guy in civilian clothes came up to me and said, “I need to talk with you.”
Just as I was saying, “Sure,” he flashed a badge and asked who I was and what I was doing since he had seen me taking pictures of kids. (Actually that’s about all I did except for a few token action shots.)
I handed him a business card and started to explain the Bootheel project to him, but as soon as I said, “I cleared it with Bob Wilson,” he said, “That makes it OK, then.”
To be fair, the guy was polite and non-threatening. I can’t blame him for being protective of his students. I’ve certainly had lot worse encounters with guys with badges.
I love watching the mating rituals
Watching the flirting and interplay that goes on in the stands is more fun that watching the action ON the field. It’s a real treat for me to go to football games and have the luxury of not having to bring back the big play of the night.
Malden photo gallery
I’m posting these mostly as a way for me to keep in mind what I’ve been shooting in the Bootheel, so feel free to skip over them quickly. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery.