The Ghost

This old farmhouse was a place of life and love. Now it’s just a ghost.

This old farm house, now abandoned, falling apart from the mistreatment of the previous occupants, is a ghost. I recall there was so much life in this house. It was the home of a family — a father, mother, and three girls. Now it is only an empty shell.

As far as I know, the Deans built it in the first half of the 20th Century. I seem to remember a mark somewhere on the concrete with a name and a date. But that memory has long departed. The father and mother bought the house and surrounding farm sometime in the 1950’s.

There they raised three girls, one of whom became my wife. I had no idea when I first met them. Neither did they… I was just a boy from California.

One morning, not long after we moved to the place just west from them, the two younger girls walked up past our place. Dad and I were headed out to work on fence on the tractor. At 15-years old, I was not (yet) much interested in girls, so I paid little mind.

But Dad would not let it go. He nudged me with his elbow, “What do you think, son?” he asked with a nod towards the two girls, a smile on his face and a gleam in his eye.

“They sure grow them big back here,” was my terse response. Dad laughed and laughed as we rolled down the road on that old Case tractor.

I do not recall exactly how my relationship with that family first developed. I know I eventually met them and the oldest became the object of my affection. I started helping Wife’s dad in the hayfield the best I could, given I was not a big boy. But I could help load the bottom tier of hay and I could drive a tractor. I could help pitch bales off the wagons and trailer. And I did.

I spent a lot of time in that house. Moreso as I became part of the family.

After Wife and I married, we spent a lot of time in that house. She loved her family, as did I. When I was at university in Rolla, during hay season I would head out to the farm after my university obligations were finished and start in the hayfield. I learned to rake hay into windrows so Dad could run the bailer. Once he started bailing, I would get the other tractor and a wagon or trailer and start picking up the bails. We left the outer row for after Dad finished bailing because those bails were always extra heavy and took two men to lift them to the trailer.

The youngest of the three sisters sometimes drove the tractor. It was better if Wife did not.

This path is cut through the garden plot of the old farmhouse. In it my family grew vegetables for the table. There was even a small strawberry patch that yielded a few berries every year. Now it is only a mess of weeds.
I sure enjoyed the meals and fellowship of that time. Mom was such a great cook and Dad and I shared a lot of laughs while we ate supper and rested for a few minutes before heading back to the field to finish the job.

I recall watching the women cleaning up after supper one evening, all with the backs turned to us. “I can sure see the family resemblence,” I mentioned to Dad. He said nothing, but howled with laughter, slapping his knee as he sometimes did.

Somehow I survived. Perhaps they did not hear me.

After our first child was born, we spent a week or two with Mom and Dad so Mom could help with Daughter. Wife was recovering from her C-section and we had no idea of what we were doing.

I was convinced that I would never sleep again. We were up every couple of hours dealing with a colicky baby.

One night Wife checked Daughter and then headed for the lavatory. Of course, Daughter began screaming as soon as Wife departed. I sat on the edge of the bed, doing my best to comfort Daughter, knowing she wanted to be fed.

Mom stepped to the door and exclaimed “Oh, David!” noticing me sitting there in the tighty-whities. Exhausted and never having been very modest, I turned to her and said “I’m covered and I don’t care. I’m just not sure what Daughter needs…” The thought occurred to me that it was not like Mom had never seen a man before. She came over and retrieved Daughter to check her, comfort her, and walk the floor a bit. I think I fell back asleep.

After our initial foray into parenthood, we returned to our apartment. When Wife had to return to work, Mom spent part of her days at our apartment and we took Daughter out to the farm on other days. Daughter spent a lot of time with her grandma and grandpa and I still think that was a good thing.

Soon came graduate school and Older Son. My mom and dad moved from the farmhouse up the road to Kansas City where Dad worked. So we moved into the farmhouse while I worked on a Master’s degree.

We spent a lot of time with Mom and Dad. Dad and I worked the hayfields in the summer and cut heating wood in the fall and winter. We hunted and fished whenever possible.

My in-laws were the most supportive people I have ever known. They were, and are, just as much family as my blood.

Soon university ended and it came time to work, so we moved to where the work was. But we were always drawn back to that old farmhouse where the family lived. Holidays were almost always spent there. I made sure that Wife and kids got plenty of time there with the family every summer. I would take a couple of days, drive them all there, visit as long as I could, then return home to work.

There was so much life and love in that old house.

Later, Mom and Dad decided to put a manufactured house on a basement just up the road from the old farmhouse. They wanted a little more modern place and they loved the spot next to the pond. So they rented out the old farmhouse. The new place became the gathering point for family and friends and served just as well.

I have always loved the view of this hayfield across from the old farmhouse. I cannot recall how many times I saw white-tail deer at the far treeline. I also cannot recall the number of bumblebee nests we found in the field while making hay.
But I still loved that old farmhouse. I loved the view of the field across the county road.

As Mom and Dad grew older, it came time to move to town where there was not so much work. Eventually, they needed more care and that involved another move.

Now Mom is gone. She lived her life on her terms and we all love her and miss her. I expect Dad will follow soon enough, missing his beloved as much as he does. When he goes, a great hole will be left in the world as the two of them lived their faith; they did not talk about it.

As I stood at gate to the yard of that old farmhouse, I saw the derelict it is and the vital home it was superposed in my mind. I made the image as a testament to the family that lived and grew there. But the old house is no longer that vital place; it is only a ghost that contains all those memories.

Dry Fork Creek

This shot is from a reach where Dad and I used to fish regularly.

While in Missouri last month, SiL took us out to the old family place. Dean’s Ford is now abandoned and the right-of-way for the ford and the county road returned to the landowners. Access to the ford is blocked with a berm and it and the old county road are gated to prevent trespassing.

However, the family still has access by the kindness of the current landowner. So, SiL took us out to the old family place to look around and reminisce.

I made a few images while there and will probably post a few of them along with a few words. This capture is a view downstream from the old ford. I took the kids down here to play on the sandbar many times when we lived up the road or, later, when we were visiting. They loved chasing tadpoles and splashing in water to cool off from the summer heat.

Dad and I spent a lot of time fishing just downstream from this location. There was a long pool deep enough to have catfish as well as bass and perch. We often fished with rod and reel, but sometimes would set out limblines to leave out overnight in hopes of catching a large catfish.

I sure miss those times hunting and fishing with Dad. We had a lot fun together and told lots of stories and tall tales.

Roadtrip 2021

I needed a cup of coffee before we headed south to Durant. While stopped to get said coffee, I made a capture of our little caravan.

Greetings from Lubbock, Texas. I am at the KOA here in Lubbock for a couple more days. I stopped here to visit some friends and to pause before the trip back home.

It was a great trip in many ways and sad in a couple more. I might elaborate later on some parts of the trip. I certainly have a few more images to share.

But for this morning, this is it. I’ll share an image I made as the kids and I left Ozark, Missouri on our way to Durant, Oklahoma and then on to Lubbock. The kids came to visit my DiL’s folks and I was headed this way anyway, so we shared the road together.

We stopped over at Durant to visit Young Son and DiL-to-be. I enjoyed the night at Lake Texoma, where I camped before.

Older Son has his Technician license, so we were able to chat 2-meter simplex all the way. It was a reason why I think an amateur radio operator’s license is a good investment of time and energy. The Technician license is not difficult to acquire and provides privileges at 50MHz and above.

Now I need a late breakfast. The Girl needs an outing.

I Still Miss Ki

I don’t remember who made this capture. The composition is not the best, but it is one of my favorite shots of us together.

This is one of my favorite images of Ki and me. I do not remember who made the image and the composition is not very good. But we were together and bonded. Of course, she was on the lookout for squirrels.

Both of us look so young.

Now and again, Ki comes to mind. We had such a good run together. Now she waits on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.

The Look of Love

After walkies one day, we rested before I got on with the rest of my day. She graciously gave me this portrait.

While I was looking at this image of The Girl, an old (old) song came to mind — The Look of Love. The song was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and recorded by Dusty Springfield. My goodness that takes me back in time (to like 1967).

After walkies one morning, we both plopped onto the bed to rest for a few moments. Well, The Girl would take an extended nap while I rested a few moments and then rose to take on the remainder of my day.

While we were there, I petted her, of course. Like Ki, Sera loves to have her side stroked. She will scoot about until stretched out long. Sometimes she will stretch her rear legs way out behind her, flexing those hip muscles (which are very strong). She makes me laugh.

This day, though, she rolled over onto my hand. I scratched her neck a little and she gave me this look. Fortunately I had my iPhone in hand and was able to make the capture.

These are the times when I am reminded that dogs are not dumb animals; they have emotions of their own, whether they are similar to ours or not I cannot know. But this look is clearly love. She enjoys our time together and our interactions.

So do I.

I am grateful for The Girl and what she adds to my life. Like Ki and I, Sera and I are rarely apart. I might leave her for an hour while I go to the grocery store. But that is only until her training is complete and then she will go with me everywhere, just like Ki did.

Gotcha!

I love the look on Ki’s face in this capture. Older Son had just gotten after that ass and she was both surprised and ready to continue the play.

This capture is another from that series I made in January 2018 at the Station 51 park. DiL, Older Son, Ki, and I were at the park for an outing. Ki loved that park and loved the play and friends we met there.

The weather was cool, but not cold. But it was cold enough to make her very playful. She loved Older Son and the way he interacted with her. They were playing, which gave me the opportunity to run the camera.

In this case it was a Sony A7R with a wonderful legacy Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/2.8-4.0 zoom lens. As I have written many times, this lens far outperformed its price point and is still a good lens.

There is something more cinematic or flavorful about the best of the vintage lenses. There was a warmth to the images made with them, in many respects superior to the more sterile images from the highly refined lenses made today. The newest generation of lenses might be sharper and have fewer optical issues. But in that continued search for the perfect optic, it seems that something was lost and that quantity is in the image quality. I find it difficult to describe, but I can see it in many images.

This capture of my son and my dog is one of those images.

When Ki died earlier this year, I was heartbroken. We had been together for so long. I really was not ready to say “goodbye” — but then it was not up to me. I still miss her and I think I always will.

It is not the same, but it is similar to the way I miss Wife. She is gone now more than seven-years ago. While the pain of her departure has waned, I still miss Wife. I wonder what our life would be together now, in the current circumstances.

But that is not something I can know. I can wonder all I want; but I cannot know. I do know that I miss her, and I miss Ki, The Girl.

But I certainly have a lot of great memories and a few good photographs.

Getting After It!

Older Son and The Girl played hard that January 2018 morning. She loved him, he loved her, and I love them both. She loved to play with her people.

One morning nearly three years ago, DiL, Older Son, The Girl, and I headed over to the Station 51 park for a morning outing, to get some exercise, and to enjoy the winter Sun. I carried my Sony A7R with the old Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/2.8-4.0 zoom lens. That old lens is legendary in its price-performance ratio. Vivitar had some excellent designs that competed with the factory glass and this was one of those lenses. (I believe this is one of the Komine builds.)

I was fortunate that The Girl and Older Son played so I could make a few captures. Little did I know that in a couple of years The Girl would fade and die over the period of a few months. I am so glad that I made images of her with me and our family and her doing doggie-things over the time we were together. She was my constant companion and a huge part of my life.

I will always miss her. The New Girl (now known just as The Girl — why not?) is quickly becoming a big part of my life as well. She is not a replacement, being a completely different and unique being. But we are building a life together and our relationship is similar, but different, in the way that relationships between different individuals are, well, different.

In any event, I am so grateful that I had Ki in my life all those years. I am grateful for how she integrated into my family and watched over each of us in her own way. I am particularly grateful (and I know I go on about this) for Ki’s overwatch of Wife while she was so ill.

Ki may be gone, but she will never be forgotten nor will her love ever be lost. We will be together at the Rainbow Bridge, when my time comes.

Watching

The last time DiL came to visit, we went to the Station 51 Park to play with The Girl. I captured this image of DiL looking on at Older Son and The Girl as they played in the park.

Although it was a couple of years ago, this image still speaks to me. DiL was here to visit with Older Son and I so enjoyed having her around. In so many ways, I am a blessed old man. DiL is such a love and I always love having her around.

While she was here, she spent a lot of her time relaxing and reading. On this particular morning, we all went over to the Station 51 Park to get The Girl out for some exercise. The benefit of that is that we get some exercise as well.

I took along the Sony A7R I added to my collection a couple of years ago so I could use my vintage 35mm glass on a full-frame body. The A7R is still a good camera, although the technology continues to advance. I might sell a number of my other bodies, but so long as I keep some legacy glass, the A7R will be in my inventory.

I believe I had the Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/2.8-4 manual focus lens on the body. Vivitar marketed some very nice glass and their Series 1 line competed well with that from the manufacturers. I have a number of these lenses in my collection and they never fail to produce, if I do my job.

Older Son and The Girl played and played that morning. She loved all of us, but she really loved Older Son. She would spend much time with him while he was here visiting us.

So, although I would normally be the one playing with her, on this day she played with him. This gave me an opportunity to shoot a few frames of them playing. This was a blessing, as it turns out.

I am so happy I made this image. I love the energy of her watching along as they play, drinking her coffee. I am so happy to have a few captures of The Girl playing with Older Son. They love each other. I believe she still loves him although she is no longer physically with us.

She waits for us at the other end of the Rainbow Bridge.

News Coming Soon

This Girl came home with me on 20 April 2020. Her given name is Serendipity, but she is and will be called Sera. She is a rescue dog that I found at a shelter near Fresno, California.

Serendipity, who will be called Sera, came home with Older Son and me on 20 April 2020. After Ki died, I gave myself a few weeks before I started a serious search for another companion. Much of my griefwork was done by the time Ki died, but I needed a little time to celebrate her life with me before adopting a new companion.

I could tell last week that I was ready for some canine energy in my life and had an outstanding application with a rescue near Fresno, California. Everything was approved and arranged, so Older Son and I did a day-trip to the rescue, met Sera, finished the paperwork, and returned home.

So, the big news is that Sera is now in my life. I am under a three-month foster/adoption contract, but I am almost certain the adoption will be finalized. She has only lived with me about a day, but I already can tell that this is the one.

I will have a story to tell and more photographs coming in the next days. So, please stand by…

Healing

I don’t remember who made this capture. The composition is not the best, but it is one of my favorite shots of us together.

The Girl has been gone for a week. Her death was a big hit and I was unprepared. I honestly expected her to return to me alive and ready to get on with life after she healed. I knew there were risks associated with the surgery, but I thought they were manageable.

I was completely and deadly wrong. I think that was as big of a blow as her departure. I was simply caught off-guard. The suddenness of her departure shocked me. I am still shaking my head as I think about it.

But, the hole in my heart is healing. I still miss her and there will be tears yet to come. I have lots and lots of good memories and am confident I did the best I could for her and by her all these years.

Older Son and I have been telling Ki stories all week. We are remembering all the funny things that she did, some of the idiot stunts she pulled, and how interactive with all of us she was. We are celebrating her life and our life together.

My how The Girl loved French fries and tater tots! Whenever I stopped for a quick sandwich, she would watch over me as I ate. I always shared my fries or tots, taking one or two for myself and offering her a couple. When we were traveling alone, she sat shotgun and would patiently wait for her treat.

She loved ice cream, too. I shared many cones, blizzards, and shakes with her over the years. If there was a little left at the bottom of the cup, she would stick her jaw into the cup and lick out the bottom. This was a never-ending source of levity for me and those around me.

I remarked to Older Son this afternoon, as we sat in the parking lot near Dairy Queen on the way home from a long walk, that I always held back a bite or two of my sandwich for her. She would wait patiently for me to finish, then *munch* the remainder.

She learned quickly to be gentle. If she was grabby, then I would palm whatever it was and make her try again. She had a very soft mouth, such that I could put a fry in my mouth and she would gently take it from me.

She was such a great companion. I miss her warmth next to me at night. I miss waking with her next to me and giving her a little pat or a stroke when I woke. She will be missed, but I have no regrets about our life together, save that it was not long enough. I did my best for her and she had a great life, much better than she would have had if she had not come to live with me.

I do not have a lot of images of Ki and me together. The image above is not a good composition, but it is good enough. She had lived with us for a little more than a year. We were learning to work together. I love the image.

Soon it will be time to begin the process of finding another, not to replace her for that cannot be done. But there is another dog out there who needs me and who will be my companion in his/her forever home. We will do everything together and learn each other’s ways. It will be a good thing.