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Three Years Later...

Clothesline Polke, Idle Inn, Meadville, Missouri

It is 1996, and I’m southwest-bound to photograph in Texas, and I’ve got a bead on the Idle Inn as my first night’s stop. Will it be open? Bulldozed?

To my relief the open sign is still on the door, and after wandering the property a bit, I encounter Roger mowing grass. He seemed to remember me, and he’s happy to accept the print of the café I’ve brought him. He’s also happy to let me photograph all I want, and I ask if I can rent a cabin. Take your pick, he says; they’re all open. I paid him in cash on the spot (did he even have a credit card machine?), and as I recall the charge was $15, a pittance even in 1995.

I chose one of the three or four tiny cabins and had to lean hard on the door to get it open. It was instantly clear from the dust on everything that nobody had been inside for maybe ten years? The cabin was about 10x12 feet, a dresser, a double bed, a lamp, a sink in the corner. I tried the sink—the water came blood-dark with rust.

I was delighted. My $15 hadn’t bought me much of a room, but it had bought me access to an extraordinary photographic opportunity, and I had the evening and the next morning to shoot. And as it turned out, this creaky cabin provided very important shelter.

As evening drew on, the sky in the west darkened ominously, and my weather radio reported severe thunderstorms approaching. Hoping to make as many photographs as I could before the weather broke, I hauled the cameras and tripod around the tourist court as thunder grew near and steady to the west. Time and light were running out as I pushed through the underbrush behind my cabin, and suddenly I stood up to see the specter of a decaying clothesline pole above me, fixed and unmoving as the trees thrashed in the coming storm. On this accidental crucifix was written the agony of the entire Christ story, extraordinary pain on this cyclopean face. Tripod up, exposure calculated, several shots before the storm hit with fury.

Reader Comments (1)

Drake, this is an arresting image. I don't see a crucifiction, though. It's a figure walking with great dignity, carrying two swarms of bees. The guy following him is too far away to see clearly, but he's probably carrying bees as well.

November 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCully

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