Sunday, January 25, 2009
There are times I am grateful for photography.
The building once served as “the store” at Lester, Arkansas. A vibrant rural community of yesterday now consists of two residences and the store. Lester is a couple of miles east of Arkansas Highway 24, south of Chidester.
Lester caught my eye when I was doing a map reconnaissance of the area. The map showed the town to be next to a railroad track. Once there, I discovered that the track had been pulled up years ago. I did see the right of way, but it was nearly overgrown with a healthy stand of underbrush. Not an overnight occurrence.
When I saw the store, I thanked the Higher Power, one more time, for steering me in the right direction. I’m still uncertain as to what I have done to deserve such divine largess, but I do not question these favors. That is above my pay-grade.
I was accosted by a pit bull terrier bitch when I stepped out of the truck. Fortunately, the pit bull did not subscribe to the stereotypical perception of that breed. Before I could bat an eye she jumped up, put her feet on me, and demanded that I return the affection with head rubs and ear scratches. I responded as she would have it. I have a ninety-pound Rottweiler bitch with the same personality traits — if you raise ‘em right, they are OK.
My knock on the door of the domicile next to the store was answered by a young man, who was singularly unimpressed by the presence on his doorstep of an inquisitive, six-foot six-inch, gray-bearded photographer and one-time paratrooper. Nonetheless, I pried the facts out of him.
The building was once a store, he related — a store that some of his forbearers operated, and that it was ok for me to shoot it. End of story with Mr. Congeniality.
His animals, on the other hand, were good ambassadors for the community. When I got back to the truck to grab equipment, his calico cat was exploring the cab. The cat showed little fear, but finally decided it was far too early in our relationship for purring and ear scratching. He (or she) scurried back, deciding to observe from a more respectable distance.
As I shot the store, it became immediately apparent that the decorator is imbued with an eye for design. He (or she) displays an eclectic collection of artifacts, which no doubt were part and parcel of the bygone community. I’m betting the “Lester” sign once denoted the location of a railroad building. The sign is dangling from an old single-tree. Look at the chains and arrangements. There is some precise symmetry showing. Someone, and I will attempt to determine who, has gone to a lot of trouble to show the rest of the world that Lester was once more than it is now.
I, for one, appreciate that effort. It is not small. In fact, the effort is huge. What we are seeing now is probably not one hundred percent the original. After noticing the old radiator hose draped over the antlers (in the smaller picture), methinks that between the conclusion of the original project and now, other items have been added — and not necessarily with the same precise eye guiding placement of the new stuff. That’s Life 101a.
N O T E S:
Most of the time, there is more to the Photo of the Week story than can be told in an essay. And most of the time there are more pictures to be seen. Presuming that some folk will enjoy being privy to this trove of information, I have created a blog, “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” where I am showing and telling “the rest of the story." There are also some blatantly commercial mentions of some of the things we do to earn our beans and taters. Click on the Weekly Grist logo and go to the blog. — J. D.