04 August, 2011

{this memory} 11

Every photo has a story behind it, but if not, it's certain to inspire one. This image inspired poetry.

On a forge in southern Missouri  
the bottle rests  
crowned with cobwebs and coal dust  
and waiting for a second chance  
to quiet a thirst  
or cool the fires of the smithy.

I took this photo in June of 1976. I had just finished my first year of teaching at Utica College and had embarked on an extended camping trip that took me from Virginia down the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Smokies, on to Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Georgia before returning to Virginia and then back to New York.

In Naylor, Missouri (Pop. 610) I stopped to visit my paternal grandmother about five miles north of the Arkansas state line. This was just six months after my father's death, and I was anxious to see how she was doing. I spent two or three nights and noted that nothing had really changed since I had last visited around 1957.

In front of the house ran the tracks on which I put pennies for trains to flatten even further. They did. The two outhouses were still out back and still necessary. In fact, an outhouse is called a necessary by some. Running water was available only at the kitchen sink and from a shower in the basement that was under the kitchen sink. Both hot and cold water, I should add. Luxury.

Attached to the side of the house was a blacksmith shop where my grandmother's last husband (then deceased) stoked the fires and hammered the metal. Today I wish I had taken more photos of that shop, but I took quite a few. This image was always one of my favorites, and I wrote the poem not long after getting the film developed. I have since made minor revisions.

I returned again in June of 2005. The house and shop are today a museum to which no one goes, but little had changed since I last visited a half century earlier. The two outhouses were still there although beginning to lean a little and not quite as necessary as they once were. What was dramatically different was that the train tracks were gone. I'm assuming that since they were no longer in use, someone thought it best to recycle the steel and reunite the two sides of town.

One more thing - the pennies I made sure to have with me in Naylor remain as originally minted. No tracks, no train.

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