Thursday, September 13, 2012

Whatever floats your boat

This is one of those vintage photographs that obviously has a story behind it, but unfortunately one that's been lost at some point during the last 120 years.

It was collected by the late Jimmy Durham --- or one of his acquisitions collaborators --- and then passed on several years ago to the historical society, as was much of his collection of Lucas County memorabilia.

The back contains some information. There's a note that says "Taken July 10, 1894" and a list of the young men's names (from left): John Ford, John Shirer, Morse (Morris) Lemley, Tone Canney and Wm. R. Briles. Someone has added in ballpoint with what looks like typical Jimmy Durham precision after Briles' name, "of Chariton, Iowa."

My speculation is that the location was the Chariton River, just east of the bridge at the old crossing now back in the woods south of the cemetery. But that's just speculation. Arguing against that thought is the well-mannered banks of the stream plus the fact water is high, but calm --- unusual in the Chariton during July.

If you look carefully downstream a little, another young man appears to be fishing from the right bank of the stream, which seems to curve to the right in the distance.

At first I speculated that this was taken during a Sunday outing --- then looked July 10 up on an 1894 calendar and discovered it was a Tuesday.

With the exception of Tone (Tony or Anthony?) Canney, everyone here seems to have a Russell-area connection with some linkage to Melrose, too.

Didn't spend much time researching, but did come across a Chariton Democrat item from Sept. 13, 1895 --- more than a year after this photo was taken, provided it is dated correctly --- that linked two of the subjects: "Theodore Lemley, Will Briles and Morris Lemley, all of Melrose, spent Tuesday with their friends in this city (Chariton) while on their way to Dallas, Texas. They expect to make the trip on their bicycles."

On their bicycles? In 1894? Wow. I wonder if they made it.

If anyone out there knows this photo's story, for heaven's sake let me know. Otherise, feel free to make up your own.


I'm enjoying the heck out of the new copy of Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac, which arrived yesterday. This is the deluxe edition with Michael Sewell photographs that I'd admired in bookstores several years ago but couldn't justify buying --- since I had a lesser edition (now misplaced).

The down side is the fact it's really big (and a little heavy), not the sort of book you'd stick in your pocket, haul to bench with a view and read while looking out over a marsh. So I may have to invest in another lesser edition, too.

Memorable words from Leopold's foreword: "There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.

"Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech."

Some signs of the 21st century: This edition was printed in China and I had a heck of a good time tracking it's progress from Los Angeles through Kansas City to Chariton via Amazon's online tracking service.

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