photographs

I had to assume that my mother took the photographs of me standing near the alligator pit. The same goes for the ones of me standing next to Dad on the edge of Blowing Rock, and the ones in the cotton mill amid a thousand running looms. There’s a curled black-and-white picture of me somewhere on the roadside near Cherokee, North Carolina, with my hand inside a black bear’s cage. All of my childhood pictures had taken place in precarious situations: on my father’s lap aboard a tractor cutting through cornstalks; at the rear end of a working cement truck’s trough; held in my father’s arms between two hot rods at the road to race down Forty-Five’s main drag. There were pictures taken of me sitting in a stroller on the roof of the house, bricks braking the wheels while Dad cleaned our gutters. I know that sometimes people think that they remember a situation when really they just recall hearing family stories ten thousand times, or they’ve seen the photographs and/or eight-millimeter home movies a million. For me, the occasions for these snapshots remained as vivid and recognizable as when I first teethed, took a step, or got potty-trained, except for who had held the Brownie camera. I wasn’t three years old before I’d done about everything scary outside of flying upside down in a crop duster or shaking hands with Republicans. When the county fair came to town, my mother had evidently shot a series of photographs of me sitting on the laps of fat ladies, bearded ladies, geeks, Siamese twins, and knife-swallowers—all people who could have kidnapped and made me part of their otherworld. I rode on the back of a two-headed calf. My father always stood nearby, usually only half his body in the frame, either smiling like a fool or as somber as any rebel soldier intent on being slain.

–          Why Dogs Chase Cars Stories by George Singleton

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