Robbie Wells

Steven Spielberg, yes THAT Steven Spielberg, told him to let his fingers dance across the strings. Now Spielberg may know how to make movies, but I feel the only good advice he could have given my cousin, Robbie Wells, was “start playing now.”

You see, Robbie has been letting his fingers dance across the strings since he was a young lad. He started dancing his fingers across the guitar as a preteen, probably from the influence of his older brothers whom he always admired.

He is the first kid I remember playing with, I was about three. I remember being very sad when his family moved out of West Liberty to Morehead, Ky. and being excited when they would come back to town for a visit. Eventually his family moved to Delray Beach, FLorida and then on to Lynchburg, Virginia where Robbie still lives today.

I took this picture of Robbie at the Sorghum Festival in West Liberty, KY. He was playing with his brothers and one of his sons, a real treat for those within earshot.

I always admired Robbie and his brothers, and now their sons who also are accomplished musicians. These relatives of mine have entertained countless peoples in central Virginia and eastern Kentucky for many years.

Genes are a funny thing. Robbie’s ancestors on the Wells side were all musicians and he inherited their ability to make music on anything with strings. For the most part all were self-taught, the gene just kicks in and they start playing. This is similar to my baldness. One day this gene kicked in and without any lessons, I was able to accomplish total baldness…genes are a funny thing.

Robbie is in the new Spielberg movie, “Lincoln”. He is in a scene playing the fiddle. Though he is on the screen for only a matter of seconds, I think this is a testament to his career as a musician. A lot of the movie was shot in central Virginia. Robbie has a reputation for the music he plays in this region and they were looking for musicians to be in the movie. I am very proud of him and I thought it was so cool when I saw him on the screen last week. The movie was sold out and for the first time in my life, I had to sit in the front row. I felt like I was in the movie.

I am envious of musicians, movie stars, and TV stars for they have a record of their life here on earth for future generations not only as a validation that they existed but also to provide joy and entertainment long after they are gone.

So far, it has been my policy, for this blog, not to mention people in my life by name. This is to protect the innocent or the embarrassed or the disassociated. I did get approval from Robbie for this blog and I have a Facebook record of his acceptance. I did not get Steven Spielberg’s approval…I paid $20 to see the movie.

However to those other family members, friends, and acquaintances, if you are cast in a Steven Spielberg movie, I will one-up that accomplishment and mention you in these esteemed ramblings.

If you like this photograph, you can see more here.

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Old Pontiac Hood Ornament

One day, a few winters ago, my dad wanted me to go to with him to an old junk yard that had long been forgotten.   It was outside of West Liberty, KY on a hillside where the undergrowth had made a significant advance around the rusted remains of these relics of past Sunday drives, unsanctioned drag races, and returns to the home place from places like Dayton, Fairborn, Xenia, Detroit, Toledo and anywhere else that men and women left the hills of eastern Kentucky for work.

Now my dad has had a love affair with the automobile ever since he was able to peer under the hood or get behind the wheel of an old A-model.   He loves tinkering with cars, driving cars, talking about cars, looking at cars, and watching home movies of cars and their kids.  I did not inherit this love of the automobile.

To me, a car is only for transporting me to where I want to go.  I hate buying them, paying for them, bathing them, fixing their runny leaks and cleaning up after them.  Oh sure, put me in a two-seat convertible on a sunny afternoon on a two lane country road, add a good jazz tune blaring and I would be in such a blessed and enraptured state that Greek gods would find me mythical.

As I wondered with my dad through this junk yard, I saw this old Pontiac with its iconic hood ornament.  I did always like this hood ornament and I photographed it as a tribute to a time when cars really meant something to their owners.  My grandfather always owned Pontiacs.

Pontiacs produced some great cars,  the GTO, Trans Am, Firebird, Bonneville, and Catalina to name a few.

My experience with Pontiacs came while I was in graduate school at the University of Houston in 1979.   I had a Pontiac Astre.   Notice that I did not include the Astre in the above list of classic Pontiacs.  Don’t ask me what Astre means.  I think it is Native American for “raised hood”.

Pontiac made the Astre for three years in the United States.  Mine was an orange 1975 model made either on a Monday morning at 7:00 AM by a hung- over worker who thought he was making it for his just-caught cheating wife or it was made at 4:58 PM on a Friday by a retiring worker on his last day who envisioned his troglodytic, profanity-spewing, tiradic, whip-wielding shift manager driving it off the lot.

One unique experience this jewel gave me was causing a traffic jam at the intersection of two Houston freeways on a Thanksgiving Eve afternoon driving my roommate to the airport.  As an added bonus, it was raining…not just raining but one of those torrential, apocalyptic, southern rains.

The car died and I coasted across seemingly infinite lanes of traffic to come to rest in the exit lane of I-10.

After cranking on the ignition that did not seem to be hooked to the engine and waiting for the rain to let up to a meager downpour, I got out of the car.  Peering back through the drenching rain, I could see cars backed up for miles. For a moment there was a strange sense of accomplishment, knowing that you did something on such a grand scale.

I was snapped back to reality by a long slow parade of angry Texans  realizing that I was the cause of their misery.   My life was flashing by with each extended middle finger.  Luckily they did not lower their windows since they were in a monsoon. However, I could see their faces in twisted agony like thousands of Munch’s Scream going by.

After getting the car started with a screw driver by short-circuiting the starter, which fortunately I knew how to do because I had to do this quite often with this car, I was able to get my roommate to the airport and see his lovely bride to be.  I then called my dad and told him to find me another car to buy when I come home for Christmas break.

Unfortunately, that one was not much better.

If you like this picture, you can see more here.

Wrigley Falls

Wrigley Falls sets in a picturesque little alcove off the side of the road, outside of the small hamlet by the same name.  Wrigley is located in  northern Morgan County.   And yes it is named after William Wrigley,  the son of the business mogul who gave us Spearmint gum and Wrigley Field in Chicago .   Mr. Wrigley was also a president of the Morehead & Northfork Railway that went through this small town  in the early 1900’s.

I have a strange “six degrees of separation” with the Wrigley family.  You see, my mother was born in Wrigley and lived there until she was a young girl and I also have seen two baseball games in Wrigley Field.

Some of my earliest memories of Wrigley involved my grandfather taking me fishing at Lost Point Lake.  I was only four or five years old at the time.   I also remember getting soundly beaten in a junior high basketball game in a small, crowded, steamy gymnasium that also served as a school cafeteria.  We were the “big, bad town team”.   It was my first encounter with a hostile crowd, not in the mean sense, just not cheering for us  so loudly.

I won’t say anything else about  that game because I have not come to grips with that defeat some forty years later.  It’s probably  one of the causes of some of my self-doubt issues or maybe my maturity level hasn’t progressed beyond the eighth grade.  The latter is the more likely case according to my wife.

I processed this picture in black and white because of the contrast of the falls that was shot at such a slow shutter speed.  It looks like a spotlight on a small stage.

If you are driving on KY Route 7, turn west on Route 711 and drive a couple of miles.  The falls will be on your left.  You can’t miss it…just like the Wrigley Wildcats couldn’t miss that fateful night many years ago in that small gymnasium.  Did I mention the gym was small?

If you like this picture, you can see more here.

Hay on a Hill

There are some things that are ingrained in my mind that remind me of eastern Kentucky in the fall.   We have beautiful autumn foliage that rivals anyplace in the country and beautiful blue skies most of the season.  I love the taste of sorghum cooking in the field.  I also love the smell of burning leaves on a late afternoon.

One of the things that says fall in eastern Kentucky is fresh-cut hay in the field.  I took this picture on a ridge in Carter County, Ky.  I was driving home from work one day and taking a shortcut along the back roads, I came upon this roll of hay beside the road.  I liked the formation of the clouds in the blue sky as a background.

One of my childhood memories of fall in Morgan County is going with my dad to gather hickory nuts.  I loved cracking them by the fireplace and eating what I could salvage.  Looking back on this, hickory nuts would be a great snack for weight control today.  You could eat them continuously while watching the teevee.  It takes so much energy to get the nut out and you can’t consume very much during a snack binge that seems to consume me way to often.

Autumn in eastern Kentucky is a wonderful time and for some reason, it seems to conjure memories of my childhood more than all the other seasons.  I wonder why that is?  I would love to hear what memories others have of autumn, not only in eastern Kentucky but other parts of the world.

If you like this photo, you can see more here.

Fading Sun over Morgan County


Now don’t think the title of this photo has any hidden meaning, not another depressing innuendo about the tornado.   I thought it was a pretty picture.

I took this shot from a ridge on a farm in Grassy Creek in Morgan County, KY.   I had my daughter with me.   It was at the end of summer last year.   It was a good evening.

The late summer makes for some good sunsets due to the humidity that settles in the hills of eastern Kentucky.   To me, there seems to be more color.  I liked this sunset because you could follow the sun as the big ball fell slowly to the horizon and I waited until it got close to the tree covered hills.   It was a bonus for me that it started to hide behind the clouds.

It is scenes like this, serene and quiet, that I like about photography.  I like that you can capture a moment of your life and remember how you felt at that same moment.   I guess one could paint the scene, but I think the mood may change a few times over the time required to paint the picture.   Anyway, I like these scenes of eastern Kentucky.

In some small way, I always wanted to  promote the beauty of our part of a beautiful state.  So many scenes like this come our way every day.  Whether we are driving along the Mountain Parkway or on a rural road, hunting in the woods, fishing in a small farm pond, cutting a field of hay in the summer, or just an evening with your daughter to watch a sunset, eastern Kentucky has some wonderful opportunities to view God’s creation.

Just for the record, I don’t hunt.  I don’t think it is wrong, but me with a gun in my hand in an uncontrolled environment would not be good for said environment or for whoever did not value their life enough to be chaperoning me.  Also for the record, I have never cut hay in a field…usually way too hot.

If you like this photo, you can see more here.