Thursday, June 16, 2005

On Assignment: Sikeston, Missouri-Day Two

"Ringer or a Leaner?" by Wes Aldridge

Now, not everyone will be able to grasp the beauty of what is going on in this shot. If you didn't grow up in a rural area and have family get-togethers that involved Coors Light, badass country cookin' and a game of horseshoes, you really don't have a point of reference for this.

The game of horseshoes involves people "pitching" literal metal horseshoes at metal stakes in the ground from about 20-feet away. The idea is to get the horseshoe to land with the stake in the center of the "U" and make a ringing sound when metal strikes metal... resulting in a "ringer." Another way to score is to throw your horseshoe and it leans against the stake... resulting in a "leaner." That is the general idea of the game. Oh, almost forgot... you also need to toss back a couple of cold ones.

Ah, the memories of childhood. I would watch the adults play horseshoes and have fun at Lake Kathy while Grandma Jean and her army of country cooks made the meal for the evening for at least 30 of us. My brother and cousins and I would play with Star Wars figures in the dirt or skip rocks off the broken old dock when we weren't fishin'. We even played with Micro Machines' cars, or as Aunt Corrine screamed while blood squirted out of my brother's forehead once... "Those little things!" (Sorry the handle broke on that toolbox and it smacked ya in the head bro.)

I loved growing up a poor country kid. I didn't go to Debutante Balls or play cricket or watch while my parents pranced around like yutzees at a cocktail party. My parents worked long, hard hours at jobs where deskwork wasn't a key ingredient... they still do. Then after work, they would always take us to our baseball or football practice, even if we were a couple of minutes late. They were selfless, and gave everything they had to us, even when they were too tired to move. Maybe that's where I get my drive.

We did things like watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation on Christmas Day while mom cooked an amazing country breakfast. Dad's voice always shook a little, because he meant what he was saying, as he got emotional saying the "blessing" before we would eat Thanksgiving dinner. And Whit and I would always get up early with bed-head and morning breath to eat Cap'N Crunch cereal and watch Saturday morning cartoons.

It was important for me to shoot this shot of that redneck old codger playing horseshoes. These memories are some of the reasons why. It has a lot to do with a person being a product of where you came from, and changing, but never forgetting where everything started.

Ah, now that was refreshing.