We so seldom have the leisure or opportunity to stop on a dime and do something else. We are prisoners to schedules, deadlines, destinations and expectations. We may dawdle from time to time but then the urgency grows and we are compelled to travel once more our appointed route. One of the most liberating things about the photographic excursions that I take is the fact that none of that applies. I can go where I want, do what I want, and if I want to change that, on the spur of the moment, there is nothing to stop me. If a whim takes me, I can tell that whim, “You go right ahead, pardner.” And that is how I ended up exploring Springfield, Ohio.
I respect religious faiths even though I belong to none. I was, however, raised as a Catholic and discovered as a child that respecting the religious faiths of others was not something that came easily to many. I had one person in school pass me an anti-Catholic Jack Chick comic and someone on m block who lived a few doors down from me told me I was going to go to hell because I was a Catholic (and that, naturally, being a Catholic was somehow not being a Christian). Sometimes people have trouble even conceiving of people with different ideas about faith. The first atheist I met, a Swiss foreign exchange student in my high school, once brought up in a history class that he was an atheist. “You don’t believe in God?” one female student asked in a shrill voice (it helps to remember this was in Texas). “No,” said the Swiss student. “But,” she cried, “What about the devil???” She couldn’t quite wrap her head around the notion that he didn’t believe in any of the whole ball of beeswax.
After I graduated from college, a million years ago, I moved to Ohio to go to graduate school. Shortly thereafter, my parents sold my boyhood home and moved to a nicer house 21 miles away. So I literally can’t go home again—well, I tried, but after that first time, the new owners got a restraining order. But I at least can go other places again. On November 12, 2016, I had gone on an excursion and had unexpectedly encountered a number of examples of migrant farm worker housing, This fascinated me, so five days later I decided to revisit the area, by another route, and see if I could get some more photographs. This entry is the first of two parts and features the part of the trip before I arrived once more at the muck lands.
We all have heard the term “muckraker” and to most of us it conjures up journalistic images—perhaps writers like Upton Sinclair or Ida Tarbell who engaged in early investigative journalism. Many people credit Theodore Roosevelt for popularizing the term and the term itself to a reference from John Bunyon’s 17th-century novel The Pilgrim’s Progress. Of course, Bunyon did not use it to refer to journalists. It was an agricultural term—as was the closely related “mud rakers”—and it referred to people who literally raked the mud, i.e., who tilled wet soil growing produce. It only came to have a (pejorative) association with journalism in the early 1800s in Great Britain. And even then it was still being used, in the United States as well as in Great Britain, in its agricultural sense. And that brings us to Ohio…
When I was in the 6th and 7th grades, I took karate lessons and one day, for no particular reason that I can think of, my karate instructor told me the following joke: Once there was a rabbit who grew up with a buzzard and a turtle as friends. One day, they got together and decided they would start a farm. Each would have certain responsibilities, they decided. The buzzard would be responsible for plowing the fields, the turtle would dig a well for water and the rabbit would get the seeds and the fertilizer. The rabbit left and the other two animals began to work on the farm—and it wasn’t long before they struck oil. By the time the rabbit got back, many weeks later, laboriously pushing a huge cart overloaded with cow manure for the farm, the turtle and the buzzard had constructed a huge mansion. Confused, the rabbit knocked on the door and a penguin dressed as a butler answered the door. “Umm, is Buzzard here?” asked the rabbit. The penguin butler replied, in a haughty voice, “Mr. Buz-ZARD is out in the yard.” “Well, uh, is Turtle here?” inquired the rabbit. The butler said, in the same tone, “Mr. Tur-TELL is out at the well.” Angered, the rabbit threw his hat down and said to the penguin, “Well, you go tell Mr. Buz-ZARD and Mr. Tur-TELL that Mr. Rab-BIT is here with the SHIT!” Continue reading
I’ve given passing thoughts, from time to time, as to what I’d like done with my body once I die. While parts of me—the egotistical and historian parts of me, mostly—would like a burial and headstone, ideally with a pithy comment from me on it, the plain fact is that no one would ever see it or care. So basically, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d like my body disposed of by whatever means is the cheapest and most convenient, whatever that is. Society in general disagrees, with the results that people like me have fascinating cemeteries to examine from time to time.
I’m almost schizophrenic about going on my little photography expeditions. On the one hand, when I haven’t gone on one in some time (as is presently the case), I start jonesing to go. On the other hand, the closer I get to a planned or prospective trip, the more I begin to regret it—primarily because I am very much a night person and getting up early on a Saturday is akin to being tortured—and the more I tend to look for excuses (“Well, it looks like the weather will be bad, so maybe I will wait until next week”). How I ended up with a hobby that is directly antagonistic towards my body clock is beyond me. On this mid-October day, however, I was indeed jonesing to go take some photos and I couldn’t back out of it because I was going with my friend, Tsuki. Houston, we have liftoff!
I don’t know if I have the vocabulary to describe it, but one moment I look forward to each year is the day, typically sometime in October, when I walk outside and it is suddenly autumn. That day is defined by a combination of things, such as its look, with the leaves clearly changing color, to its feel, as the temperature is suddenly brisk, to its smell—somehow, for the first time that year, the day smells like autumn somehow. Every year I experience that day and it hits me like a ton of bricks each time and I feel that sudden sense of exhilaration. Some people call this the first football weather day and fair enough, but to me it presages not merely football but the totality of fall. What a day.
Instead of writing these words, I might have been driving around taking photographs today, but the weather would not cooperate. It is very rainy and thundery. Instead, I’ll catch up a little bit on this blog, which, it turns out, I started four years ago this month. In April 2013, blessed with a new camera, newfound knowledge of WordPress, and a new vehicle with 4-wheel drive, a navigation system, and satellite radio, I got the idea of turning a fond indulgence of mine—driving around backcountry Ohio—into something of a hobby, documenting the things that I saw and posting them on-line. Here.
I never worked at a factory. I did, for a few months, between my graduation from college and when I went off across the country to graduate school, work at an oil refinery, which at least is another industrial setting. That was the summer of 1988, which not coincidentally was the last time I was shaven; the refinery prohibited beards for safety reasons. I did a variety of things there; some clerical work, some gopher work, some light manual labor, so I was not bored. I find it difficult to imagine myself in something like an assembly-line job, doing the same thing all day long; I think my personality is not suited for that and it would be very hard on me. Other types of factory work are much more varied.