My father and I would hang out a lot when I was a kid – he’d be driving wide open, window down, brown paper sack with a half gallon of whiskey in the backseat with a cooler packed with ice (I was the bartender). I had my Nikon FM around my neck, his in the backseat, crammed into a battered Tamrac bag.

He had seen this church and wanted me to see it.

As soon as we got back home I rushed to the darkroom (the garage had been converted into a home office and photo lab) and stood there in that pitch black space hurriedly winding the film into its canister before opening the back of the Nikon, then, in a couple of minutes I’d guided the black and white 400 ASA 35mm film onto the stainless steel reel, my fingers feeling along the edges to make sure there were no crimps and everything was smooth (otherwise the whole roll could be ruined, or at least a few shots – usually the best ones).

Then, into the canister of developer I would drop it. This was a daily compulsion. I never went anywhere without my Nikon, and there was rarely a day I wasn’t in my darkroom (and our swimming pool).

This shot of a church surrounded by pines on a lone dirt road in Southwest Georgia was taken before I was ten years-old, and won 4-H DPA awards.

I was a show-off, but it was all my father’s doings. He even gave me a silver pointer that looked like a fancy ball-point pen, which would extend about three feet so that I could use it to be even more annoying when doing my photography demonstrations (I also got First Place because I had huge photos I’d taken and developed myself, while every other kid was stammering over their pinhole camera or their latest pet picture.

I was always ashamed, but not Big Chuck.

I know what the hell he was doing. Now. He was one goddam good time and a hell of a mentor. And a daddy.


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