Friday, July 30, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

One-room school in Breathitt County, Kentucky - 1940  Marion Post Wolcott

Summer Reading
"I heard the tenor of their uneven voices singing these familiar words:

The needle's eye that does supply,
The thread that runs so true,
Many a beau, have I let go, 
Because I wanted you.

Many a dark and stormy night,
When I went home with you,
I stumped my toe and down I go,
Because I wanted you.

I walked to the door and watched them. They had formed a circle, hand in hand, and around and around they walked and sang these words while two pupils held their locked hands high for the circle to pass under. Suddenly the two standing--one inside the circle and one outside--let their arms drop down to take a pupil from the line. Then the circle continued to march and sing while the two took the pupil aside and asked him whether he would rather be a train or an automobile. If the pupil said he'd rather be an automobile, he stood on one side; if a train, he stood on the other of the two that held hands. And when they had finished taking everybody from the circle, the two groups faced each other, lined up behind their captains. Each put his arms around the pupil in front of him and locked his hands. The first line to break apart or to be pulled forward lost the game."

--excerpt from The Thread That Runs So True by Jesse Stuart, an account of the author's experience teaching in a one-room school in the mountains of Kentucky in the 1920s and 30s. Marion Post Wolcott photographed in Kentucky for the Farm Security Administration in 1940.

Photo credit: Library of Congress LC-USF34-55696-D

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Farmhouse - Lydia, Virginia 

Old farmhouses are still common in this area. They are plain, wood frame structures built to accommodate large families. The most distinctive architectural feature is a large porch, which often wraps around two sides of the house. In the days before air conditioning, a shady porch provided respite from the summer heat.

I took this picture on a hot Sunday afternoon recently, and it reminded me of the farmhouses that I knew as a child. I never lived in a house like this, but friends and relatives did and I have fond memories of country kitchens with wood cook-stoves, a big shade tree in the yard to play under, and evenings in the porch swing, listening to the grown-ups talk in the dark.

As I drove down the road past this house, I thought about these things. There was not a soul stirring around the place and I drove on by, the dust rising in the heat behind me.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Small barn - Lydia, Virginia 

This small barn is just around the corner from the Lydia Church. Horses are kept in this field and it appears the barn is in use. This farm is located just outside the border of the Shenandoah National Park.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lydia Church - Greene County, Virginia

The Lydia Post Office was established in 1896, and at one time this mountain community had a school, a tea room, tourist cabins, several stores and a dance hall.  In addition, the St James Mission established a school and hospital nearby. I believe this church building may have been connected to the Mission at one time. The sign over the door reads "OLD Time Religion."

Today, travelers along US Route 33 in western Greene County will see the few remaining traces of Lydia just before crossing into the Shenandoah National Park.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mimosa Tree - Greene County, Virginia 

Summer Reading

I recently finished reading Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer Prize winning novel Gilead. The narrative takes the form of an extended, meditative letter written by a minister nearing the end of his life to his young son. Gilead is not a "page-turner" but a book to linger over. I found myself reading passages over several times, reluctant to turn the page. It is a book to read more than once.
"I was struck by the way the light felt that afternoon. I have paid a good deal of attention to light, but no one could begin to do it justice. There was the feeling of a weight of light--pressing the damp out of the grass and pressing the smell of sour old sap out of the boards on the porch floor and burdening even the trees a little as late snow would do. It was the kind of light that rests on your shoulders the way a cat lies on your lap. So familiar. Old Soapy was lying in the sun, plastered to the sidewalk. You remember Soapy. I don't really know why you should. She is a very unremarkable animal. I'll take a picture of her."
Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Picador, New York, 2004

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Goose Pond Road - Greene County Virginia

A while back a friend who has lived in Greene County all his life mentioned that there might be some remnants of mountain farmsteads in the vicinity of Lydia, Virginia. Last week I drove up into the mountains on Goose Pond Road, a one lane gravel road that skirts along the edge of the Shenandoah National Park. I saw a few overgrown fence rows, but there were few other sign of human habitation, except of course, the road itself.

It was hot, and there was no breeze stirring. An unfamiliar bird was calling somewhere down the mountain and nothing moved, except the sunlight through the trees.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Daucus carota - Queen Anne's Lace

I am trying out a new design this week. As a rule, I do not like light text on a dark background, but I do like the way the photographs look on the dark background, so this design is a bit of a trade-off. Since there is usually not that much text, and the blog is about photographs, I tend to favor the appearance of the pictures over the appearance of the text.

Comments on the new look would be much appreciated, and I would particularly like to hear from you if your browser has trouble displaying this new design. (I have tested it with Firefox 3.6.6, IE 7 and  Google Chrome) I will decide at the end of this week if I want to go with the new look, or stay with the old design.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hebron Lutheran Church - Madison County, Virginia

Hebron Lutheran Church is the oldest continuously operating Lutheran church in the United States. The congregation was established by members of the Second Germanna Colony of 1717. These immigrants from the Palatinate and Baden-Wuerrttemberg area of Germany were among the early settlers of Madison County.

The first church building was a simple log house. In 1733, the congregation acquired a permanent pastor and began raising funds for a new building. Construction of the 50 feet long by 26 feet wide church was completed in 1740. An annex was added on around 1800, and the building underwent substantial restoration in 1962

The church is situated on a knoll surrounded by open farmland. The cemetery in front of the church dates from 1903.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Chicamuxen Creek - Charles County, Maryland 

We carry a small inflatable boat with us when we travel on the river, which makes it possible to explore creeks and wetlands that are too small and shallow for the big boat. This picture was taken from the inflatable close to the mouth of Chicamuxen Creek, which flows into the Potomac.  The skies were beginning to look threatening, and it was time to head in.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pirate's Den - Fairview Beach, Virginia 

The camera that I use on the river is a 4 megapixel Nikon Coolpix 4300 purchased in 2003. All of the river trip pictures posted this week were taken with it.

It was my first digital camera. It has been reliable, is a good size for carrying with me when we wade ashore and doesn't take up much room on the boat. It is slow to use, but in fully automatic mode it does a pretty good job with exposure in most cases. The optical viewfinder is small but essential in the bright sun.

Point and shoot. I enjoy using my digital SLR and my film cameras, but sometimes it is liberating just to take pictures with nothing to think about except when to press the shutter. As old and outdated as this camera is, it does not get in the way of taking pictures, and when I am on the river, that is all I want.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tombstone rip rap  - Potomac River

Sunday morning (see yesterday's post) we waded ashore to explore along the river, which at this point is lined with rip rap to protect the narrow spit of land that separates the Potomac River from the Chotank wetlands. From a distance, this rip rap looks like the typical broken chunks of concrete and rocky debris that are commonly used for this purpose. The tide was out, making it easy to walk along the bank, and we soon discovered tombstones, scattered among the debris.

Some of the grave markers were broken or badly worn, others were remarkably clean and crisp. The dates on the markers ranged from the early 1800s to the middle of the 1900s. There were also pedestals, foot stones and other cemetery artifacts. Several dozen markers were visible along the portion of the rip rap that we walked; no doubt many more were submerged beneath the rip rap.  The presence of the tombstones was a mystery.

Research on the web revealed that the stones came from Washington, D.C.  when the Columbian Harmony Cemetery was relocated to make room for development in 1960. The tombstones were left behind, and at least some of them were hauled away and ended up along the shore of the Potomac, some 75 miles away.

For more on this remarkable story, see this article.

Also, the Smithsonian Institution's archives has pictures of the Columbian Harmony Cemetery from 1960.

Today, a Metro station and shopping center occupy the land where the cemetery once stood.

These tombstones were all photographed exactly as they were found. They were not moved or cleaned in any way. Click on the pictures to enlarge

Monday, July 12, 2010

Potomac River - King George County, Virginia

This picture was taken near the Chotank Creek Natural Area Preserve last Saturday on my first trip this year on the river. I grew up in Virginia near the Potomac and look forward each summer to exploring the river with an old friend. He and I made our first trip on the river together when we were teenagers in the early 1960s.

It rained Saturday morning and we got a late start, but later in the day the skies cleared and we went about 25 miles downstream and anchored just inside the inlet to Chotank Creek to spend the night.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Yokena Presbyterian Church - Yokena, Mississippi 

 The church was established on May 11, 1884 and the building was completed in 1886. Constructed of cypress with beaded pine interior, the building was designed by the noted architect William Stanton in the Stick/Eastlake style. The original plans for the building called for a steeple, but the congregation could not afford the $45 additional cost. A small annex was added to the back of the building in 1957.

The name Yokena comes from  "lucca yokena," which is Choctaw for "black dirt." The church building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The photograph of the church below is from my wife's family collection. The photo is not dated, but was probably taken in the 1920s or 30s.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Mississippi Hardware - Vicksburg, Virginia 

These are the last pictures from my recent visit to Vicksburg.  These were all taken on an early morning walk around town.

Our Sunday posts of wooden church buildings will be back this Sunday with the Yokena Presbyterian Church. Yokena is a few miles south of Vicksburg.

When I posted a color photo of this building, I used a much tighter view because the colors of the signs and the flag and the crape myrtle on the left hand side were too busy and distracting. In this black and white shot, the words "Uneeda Biscuit" are legible across the top of the building.

This garage in downtown Vicksburg was just opening up for the day.

I don't know what was in this building, but I thought the brick work over the door was fascinating.

I took this picture to use up the last exposure on the roll so that I could take advantage of this shady and cool spot to reload. Unfortunately, I didn't have another roll of film with me, and had to walk (uphill all the way) back to the car to get more.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad Station - Vicksburg, Mississippi

Vicksburg was built on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi river and is sometimes referred to as the "hill city." An unexpected benefit for the photographer is that by stepping back a few paces up one of the steep streets, one can often gain enough elevation to shoot with the camera more or less level, minimizing perspective problems that result when shooting a tall building with the camera tilted up.

Plans are underway to make this building into a transportation museum which will preserve the history of both rail and river transportation in Vicksburg.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Snowdrift Perfect Shortening - Vicksburg, Mississippi  

During my visit to Vicksburg, I shot a couple of rolls of black and white film. This photo, and the remaining black and white photos of Vicksburg that I will be posting this week were taken with the Pentax MX on Fuji Acros 100. The 35mm Pentax M f1:2 lens is rarely off this camera these days, and all the black and white pictures from Vicksburg were shot with this lens.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Railroad graffiti - Vicksburg, Mississippi

Web Notes

Week before last during my visit to Vicksburg I was down by the waterfront when a train pulled out of the nearby yard. I was struck by how the graphic style of the graffiti on the cars seemed to draw on the pop/psychedelic aesthetic of the 1970s. Perhaps these "artists" are older than we think.

The Rip Track has a concise history of the evolution of railroad graffiti from the chalk marks left by hobos to communicate with one another, to the elaborate "pieces" that aspire to make an artistic statement.

Sister Betty represents the view that railroad graffiti may be art displayed in the world's largest traveling art gallery, and makes an interesting distinction between the graffiti of vandals and the work of graffiti "artists."

✎ On Biglittlerr there is an article reproduced from Railpace magazine condemning those who practice railroad graffiti as vandals who deface rail cars and obscure legitimate car markings.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010

National Biscuit Company - Vicksburg, Mississippi

Most of this sign has about faded away, but at one time it advertised Uneeda Biscuits. Pre-packaged Uneeda Biscuits were introduced in 1898 with the promise that the packaging was more sanitary and preserved freshness better than the cracker barrel.