Deer Me, Nothing Changes

Deer hanging at Burr Oak Lodge 11-09-2014I knew it was deer hunting season in Ohio when I stayed at the Burr Oak Lodge last November. Still, it’s a bit unusual to see Bambi times two hanging from a beam on the way to your room.

Just like in 1968

Nelsonville at night 12-05-1968Maybe I shouldn’t have been too surprised. People in Ohio like their deer meat, I discovered, when I cruised Nelsonville late at night on December 5, 1968. This deer was hanging on a porch not too far from the main drag.

Hauling venison across state lines

Wife Lila told me to go by her Brother John’s house in Jackson to pick up some venison to carry back to Florida. She had it all figured out: He said it’ll be frozen and should make it to Ohio where you can put it in a fridge in your room. When you saddle up to head home, pack it in dry ice, she ordered.

All of that went according to plan until I started to leave Athens. There was no problem getting the dry ice at a Kroger store (minimum quantity was way more than I needed), but the cooler was too tightly packed with deer meat to get any dry ice in it. Either I was going to have to buy a bigger cooler or something was going to have to give.

“Boy, what are you doing?”

An old man in a car next to me watched my maneuverings until he couldn’t stand it any more, “Boy, just what are you doing?”

Showing uncharacteristic good sense, I didn’t say something like “Dropping my wife off along the road. This is the last of her.”

I explained that I was trying to stuff 10 pounds in a five-pound sack.

“I love venison,” he said, wistfully, “and I can’t think of the last time I had some.”

“Today is your lucky day, then,” I said as I handed him a wrapped package of Missouri deer meat. “I’d rather give it to you than throw it away to make room for the dry ice.”

Images for Easter

Bald Knob Cross near Alto Pass, Ill. taken in the late 1960sSeeing all of the religious pictures on Facebook this week go me to thinking of how many photos of crosses I have taken in the area over the years. Here are just a few, with links to the original stories. You may click on any photo to make it larger.  This is an aerial of the Bald Knob Cross taken not long after it was built.

Egypt Mills Trinity Lutheran Church

Trinity Lutheran Church in Egypt Mills 04-20-2011Egypt Mills Trinity Lutheran Church steeple.

Joseph Putz Grave

Joseph Putz grave St Johns Lutheran Church Pocahontas 04-19-2011Joseph Putz’s metal grave marker in the St. John’s Lutheran Church cemetery in Pocahontas.

High Hill Church

High Hill Church and Cemetery on CR 535 north of Neely's Landing 10-30-2011This simple church sits high on a ridge north of Neely’s Landing.

“Judas got a raw deal”

Kenneth Saunders of the Church of Judas walks through Cape 07-16-1965Kenneth Saunders walked more than 4,000 miles to deliver the message that “Judas got a raw deal.”

Trinity Lutheran Church at dusk

Trinity Lutheran Church steeple at sunset 11-16-2011I was walking back to my car after shooting another photo when I spotted Trinity Lutheran Church at dusk.

Cape LaCroix Creek marker

Cape La Croix Creek Cross 04-21-2011This concrete cross has a plaque: “In 1699, Fathers Montigny, Davion and St. Cosme, French missionaries, erected a cross where this stream entered the Mississippi and prayed that this might be the beginning of Christianity among the Indians. The stream has ever since been known as Cape La Croix Creek.” The cross, which had been at the intersection of Kingshighway and Kingsway from 1947 to 2009, when it was moved so a commercial building could be built on the site. Ironically, the marker has never been located close to where the Mississippi River and Cape LaCroix Creek intersect.

Dutchtown cemetery

Cemetery on top hill in Dutchtown 10-27-2011This cross is in a tiny cemetery located on a high ridge overlooking the ever-diminishing Dutchtown.

Nelsonville cross on a hill

Nelsonville 02-24-2013I spotted this cross in Nelsonville, Ohio, on my recent trip back to Ohio University.

Modern-art cross

Old Notre Dame High School 11-25-2011At first glance, I thought the front of the old Notre Dame High School had been covered with graffiti.

Tower of Memories

Cape County Memorial Park Cemetery Tower of Memories 11-05-2010Newspaper accounts said the 57-foot tall, 16′ x 16′ Tower of Memories at the Cape County Memorial Park Cemetery would have three stories: the bottom floor would contain an office and the second and third floors would house the Celesta-Vox, touted as “The Voice from the Heavens.”

St. Vincent’s at sunset

St. Vincent's Church at sunset 07-03-2012I was hoping to shoot the full moon and fireworks when St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church caught my eye.

St. Eisleben Lutheran Church

Eisleben Lutheran Church Scott City 10-16-2011The St. Eisleben Lutheran Church in Scott City has one of the most unusual steeples I’ve seen.

Altenburg Trinity Lutheran Church

Trinity Lutheran Church Altenburg MoAn “inland hurricane” took the steeple off the Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg, but you could never tell it today when you look at the 1867 structure..


Fraternal Organizations

Nelsonville 02-24-2013Small towns used to be populated by Moose, Elks, Eagles, Masons, Oddfellows and other members of fraternal and social organizations. Today we have Facebook.

When Friend Jan and I traveled across Ohio, I was struck by how many small towns had buildings associated with fraternal organizations. In some, like in tiny Nelsonville, two of the largest buildings in the downtown area were affiliated with organizations like the Fraternal Order of the Eagles. (You can click on the photos to make them larger.)

Knights of Pythias

Nelsonville 02-24-2013

This is Nelsonville’s Pythian Building, built in 1905.

Shawnee Knights of Pythias

Shawnee Ohio c 1969When I shot a collection of architectural photos of Shawnee, Ohio, I roamed the former Knights of Pythias building, which had also served as an opera house and theater. Rotting lodge robes were still hanging in a closet.

Visitors scrutinized

Shawnee Ohio c 1969Visitors to the lodge meeting room were checked out through this peephole before being admitted.

International Order of Odd Fellows

Shawnee Ohio c 1969The IOOF – International Order of Odd Fellows – met a few doors down.

What organizations did Cape have?

Knights of Columbus 04-12-2011I was prepared to say that Cape didn’t have many fraternal organizations, but a quick scan of the 1979 City Directory turned up quite a few:




Turtles, Frogs, Dogs and Desperation

A question that comes up from time to time is where do you find inspiration and story ideas?

The short answer “desperation.”

There was this big monster in the pressroom that had to be fed every day. I thought I had put The Monster behind me, but I’m filing more stories doing this blog than when I working for newspapers. When you’re doing feature-type stories, you can’t rely on plane crashes, fires and floods to bail you out. You have to dig up topics out of the thin air. Here’s an example of  how ideas pinball all over the place, and rarely in a straight line.

I was looking at some random negatives from Cape when this turtle caught my eye. This was a Steinhoff pet from back in the days when we were made of tougher stock. We didn’t know then that the tiny turtles, available in plastic bags at the SEMO Fair or in every pet store, were death on the half shell. Don’t believe me? Check out this FDA warning about Salmonella-bearing tiny turtles. (Click on any photo to make it larger. Don’t forget to wash your hands if you touch the turtle.)

But, like they say in the infomercials, there’s more. A turtle made me think of a frog.

Pomeroy Frog Jumping Contest

Athens (OH) Messenger photo partner Bob Rogers and I would make contact sheets of our film, cut out the frames we thought would make a photo essay, push them around on a layout sheet until they looked right, size them to fit and make the final prints. The “winners” would be taped to the layout sheet to guide the composing room in making up the page. The “losers” would either get tossed in a box or, if we thought they might fit into a future layout, they’d get tacked on the wall.

After I covered the Pomeroy Frog Jumping contest toward the end of June, 1968, I had one photo that made it on the Wall of Desperation. It languished there until October 1. The well was dry. Some days you just can’t find anything worth shooting. I reached up on the wall, ran the photo 8-1/8 inches wide and 12-3/8 inches deep with this cringe-inducing caption:

“Frost is just a frog’s hop away, so don’t let winter get the jump on you. Don’t let being bottled up until spring jar you, though; about the time it seems a long time coming, warm weather will spring out.”

Bob, my nominal boss, didn’t give me any grief. He’d been there himself.

October 2, the day it ran, seemed to be a good day to stay out of the office. The publisher gave us a lot of latitude, but I didn’t want to discover his outer limits.

Another dry day

There’s a reason why I bring up the frog, as much as I’d like to forget it.

I was having another one of those dry days. Nothing was clicking. I shot a sequence of a boy trying to make it home on his bike with a loaf of bread under his arm, but the situation was so weak I didn’t even bother to get out of the car to get the kid’s name.

Mrs. Nellie Vess

The shadows were getting longer and longer and the day was getting shorter and shorter. This time I didn’t even have the frog on the wall to plug the hole. I made a turn down a dusty gravel road near Trimble. That’s east of Nelsonville and south of Glouster. If you don’t know where those towns are, don’t look for Trimble.

I spotted Mrs. Nellie Vess, a couple of kids and a puppy on the porch of a modest frame house with asphalt shingle siding. The home had seen better days, but it was still neat and clean.

After introducing myself and chatting for a few minutes, Mrs. Vess invited me in for a cold glass of water. I normally don’t accept things when I’m on an assignment and I really wasn’t thirsty, but turning down the water would have hurt her feelings. I followed her through her well-kept house to the kitchen.

Taped up on the refrigerator was The Frog. “I just love that picture,” she said.

“Lonely no more”

“Lonely No More” was the headline I put on the page. My caption was sparse: Mrs. Nellie Vess was lonely. Not many people passed by her home in Trimble and those who did seldom stopped in to chat. That was before last week when Patty Sue – part beagle and part question mark – moved in.  “Now I’ve got lots of company,” she says. One of her frequent visitors is Rhonda Kay Judson, 5.

Stories should have a happy ending

Don’t you just love heart-warming stories with happy endings? It’s too bad that too many don’t turn out that way.

A few months after the story ran, my travels took me down that gravel road near Trimble. Mrs. Vess was sitting by herself on the porch. There was no Patty Sue. There were no neighbor kids. Mrs. Vess told me that she had to go into the hospital for a brief stay and she had to give Patty Sue away. She was lonely again.

I’d like to tell you that I stopped by to see Mrs. Vess to keep her company from time to time, but I’d be fibbing. I never saw her again. I was just starting to learn that getting emotionally involved with everyone I photographed would soon empty my empathy pot and lead to burnout or worse. I could empathize with my subjects long enough to capture their souls, but then I had to cut them loose.

I turned down her offer of a cold glass of water on the last visit. And, I didn’t look in the rearview mirror when I drove away down that dusty gravel road.