30 Day Project – Nature Dwellers

The capstone! It is complete! To be honest, I’ll probably keep working at it after I graduate because a couple of my subjects dropped out last minute and I’d like to expand the project a bit more.

I chose to do a photo essay, which is new territory for me, but I think as a first attempt I’ve done alright. I was particularly worried about cohesiveness because being disjointed is usually what causes photo essays to fail. It’s hard when you have many subjects and many locations to get the images to blend together naturally but still be unique. It’s a balance I struggled with, but I tried to keep it simple using shapes and framing to keep the essay from derailing.

To really tell the story I decided to include extended captions. My essay was about people who still enjoy the outdoors, either in work situations or hobbies, even in the modern age when there are more and more gadgets to distract people from exploring nature. I interviewed each subject to get a sense of why they enjoyed the outdoors so much, how they came to understand this passion, and how it has changed their lives. A few of my subjects also commented on the changing global landscape and how they think less time spent outdoors will affect future generations.

Enjoy!

Susan Hazelwood has been birding since 1980. Susan explained the difference between bird watching and birding is that birders have more expertise on the birds whereas bird watchers just appreciate looks.  She wears the title Birder with the utmost respect. But birding wasn’t always a great interest of hers, “Birding was something my husband did. I tried to ignore it, but it wouldn’t go away, so here I am!” Susan could only avoid it for so long; eventually the lure of travel and being outdoors convinced her to take it up as a hobby of her own. The farthest she’s traveled is Alaska, but she likes to go on many birding vacations with other birders around the United States. Her favorite bird is a Trogon, found in the southwest, which she proudly displays it on her license plate.

Susan Hazelwood has been birding since 1980. Susan explained the difference between bird watching and birding is that birders have more expertise on the birds whereas bird watchers just appreciate looks. She wears the title Birder with the utmost respect. But birding wasn’t always a great interest of hers, “Birding was something my husband did. I tried to ignore it, but it wouldn’t go away, so here I am!” Susan could only avoid it for so long; eventually the lure of travel and being outdoors convinced her to take it up as a hobby of her own. The farthest she’s traveled is Alaska, but she likes to go on many birding vacations with other birders around the United States. Her favorite bird is a Trogon, found in the southwest, which she proudly displays it on her license plate.

Ducks fly after being startled at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area in McBaine, Mo. Eagle Bluffs is a destination for migaratory waterfowl birds, such as ducks and geese. There are many reasons why ducks and other birds form flocks. Being in a flock allows the birds extra protection, easier foraging, and better aerodynamic efficiency while they fly. Ducks also form family units and like staying together.

Ducks fly after being startled at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area in McBaine, Mo. Eagle Bluffs is a destination for
migaratory waterfowl birds, such as ducks and geese. There are many reasons why ducks and other birds form
flocks. Being in a flock allows the birds extra protection, easier foraging, and better aerodynamic efficiency while
they fly. Ducks also form family units and like staying together.

Susan Hazelwood with her trusty binoculars.

Susan Hazelwood with her trusty binoculars.

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Deb Schultehenrich is a quail, pheasant, and duck hunter. Always trailing behind her is her dog, Gus, a German Shorthair pointer. Her family passed the hunting enthusiasm on to her at a young age. “Hunting is something I have always done,” says Deb. But her passion for the outdoors goes beyond hunting birds. “I like the fact that every time you go outdoors you experience something different than the last time you were outdoors,” says Deb. “Maybe there’s a turkey gobbling, or the first Dutchman’s Breeches are blooming, or the prairies have turned bright gold, or the snow is piled high on the cedar trees, or maybe it’s just the smell of fresh hay being cut. It’s the place I am most comfortable.” Deb’s noticed a decrease in environmental enthusiasm in the community however. “I am concerned this lack of interest in participating in outdoor activities is having an affect on the public’s relationship with the environment,” says Deb. “This disconnect with the natural environment makes them less likely to advocate for environmental causes or public land acquisition and protection.” Deb attributes this decrease in interest with the changing global landscape. Fewer and fewer people are growing up on ranches or farms, and therefore have less association with the land than people have had in the past.

Deb Schultehenrich is a quail, pheasant, and duck hunter. Always trailing behind her is her dog, Gus, a German Shorthair pointer. Her family passed the hunting enthusiasm on to her at a young age. “Hunting is something I have always done,” says Deb. But her passion for the outdoors goes beyond hunting birds. “I like the fact that every time you go outdoors you experience something different than the last time you were outdoors,” says Deb. “Maybe there’s a turkey gobbling, or the first Dutchman’s Breeches are blooming, or the prairies have turned bright gold, or the snow is piled high on the cedar trees, or maybe it’s just the smell of fresh hay being cut. It’s the place I am most comfortable.” Deb’s noticed a decrease in environmental enthusiasm in the community however. “I am concerned this lack of interest in participating in outdoor activities is having an affect on the public’s relationship with the environment,” says Deb. “This disconnect with the natural environment makes them less likely to advocate for environmental causes or public land acquisition and protection.” Deb attributes this decrease in interest with the changing global landscape. Fewer and fewer people are growing up on ranches or farms, and therefore have less association with the land than people have had in the past.

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Bradford Farm is a part of MU Extension that conducts research in agricultural and wildlife studies. They also offer educational opportunities to the community about how to manage their crops and land, and how to be as sustainable as possible. Tim Reinbott is the superintendent of Bradford Farm, and wants to help educate the public as much as possible about incorporating wildlife into their agriculture.  Tim came from an outdoorsy family with a father who taught him to appreciate the outdoors for what it is: our livelihood as citizens of the planet. Reinbott says he’d like to encourage farmers and landowners to be more accepting of wildlife and plant more diversified crops and grasses so that they offer better protection for certain kinds of wildlife that aren’t damaging to their land. “Wildlife is much more than pests to farmers,” says Reinbott. He thinks the best way to share this with the community is to hold workshops at the farm, particularly with 4-H clubs and their families.

Bradford Farm is a part of MU Extension that conducts research in agricultural and wildlife studies. They also offer educational opportunities to the community about how to manage their crops and land, and how to be as sustainable as possible. Tim Reinbott is the superintendent of Bradford Farm, and wants to help educate the public as much as possible about incorporating wildlife into their agriculture. Tim came from an outdoorsy family with a father who taught him to appreciate the outdoors for what it is: our livelihood as citizens of the planet. Reinbott says he’d like to encourage farmers and landowners to be more accepting of wildlife and plant more diversified crops and grasses so that they offer better protection for certain kinds of wildlife that aren’t damaging to their land. “Wildlife is much more than pests to farmers,” says Reinbott. He thinks the best way to share this with the community is to hold workshops at the farm, particularly with 4-H clubs and their families.

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Virgil decided from a young age that being outside and fishing was what he wanted to do with his life. It was almost everyone’s way of life in his rural, farming community.  But with age came more complications and distractions. “I went through the stages of schooling, and kind of forgot what fishing was about. Then came an opportunity for me to go fishing with mentors along the way,” says Virgil. His father died when he was six, so he had to find other adult figures to take him fishing. As an adult, Virgil would take friends fishing, and one of them suggested making a business out of it.  Virgil then became a fishing guide and outfitter, traveling through Canada and Alaska with small groups. His business eventually led to him traveling abroad, which he thanks fishing for every time he goes.  But what really matters to Virgil is camaraderie. “The fellowship people have when they’re hunting and fishing has lent itself to be the best thing that has happened to me.” His favorite job is to take families on trips, which to him makes it a special outing.  Virgil says there’s more opportunities now to get families out and fishing together, but people are involved in many things in the modern age, so trying to find time is hard for younger generations to get out into nature and explore it. “A lot of people find other things to do with their time than fishing, which in my opinion is not good, because any outing you do with your family and friends is pretty hard to beat.”

Virgil decided from a young age that being outside and fishing was what he wanted to do with his life. It was almost everyone’s way of life in his rural, farming community. But with age came more complications and distractions. “I went through the stages of schooling, and kind of forgot what fishing was about. Then came an opportunity for me to go fishing with mentors
along the way,” says Virgil. His father died when he was six, so he had to find other adult figures to take him fishing. As an adult, Virgil would take friends fishing, and one of them suggested making a business out of it. Virgil then became a fishing guide and outfitter, traveling through Canada and Alaska with small groups. His business eventually led to him traveling abroad, which he thanks fishing for every time he goes. But what really matters to Virgil is camaraderie. “The fellowship people have when they’re hunting and fishing has lent itself to be the best thing that has happened to me.” His favorite job is to take families on trips, which to him makes it a special outing. Virgil says there’s more opportunities now to get families out and fishing together, but people are involved in many things in the modern age, so trying to find time is hard for younger generations to get out into nature and explore it. “A lot of people find other things to do with their time than fishing, which in my opinion is not good, because any outing you do with your family and friends is pretty hard to beat.”

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One walk over 35 years ago led to Mike Jenner’s passion for rock climbing. Mike was a student at Mizzou at the time, hiking around Capen Park when he saw a couple of guys rock climbing. Curious, he stepped over to them and asked them about it. They were generous enough to let him make his first climb that day. Now Mike travels all over North America for climbing. He thinks that Boone County is a great place to practice his hobby, but his all time favorite is in the Sierras in California. Mike spends many resources and tolerates the injuries from rock climbing because it’s a great mix of skills. “Rock climbing allows you to focus, to drive everything else out. It takes strength, but it’s also a mental sport,” Mike says. You may be strapped into a harness but there’s a lot of courage involved in rock climbing according to Mike. Unlike many other outdoor activities, Mike believes that rock climbing is on the rise. He attributes this to indoor climbing gyms, but he thinks it’s a lot harder of a transition from inside to the great outdoors than most people think. “It’s a good thing that people are climbing more, but I also hate to be climbing in a crowd,” says Mike. Even though Mike wants some quiet when climbing, he usually climbs with friends that he’s met around the country. It’s a good idea for safety reasons, but he also just enjoys the company.

One walk over 35 years ago led to Mike Jenner’s passion for rock climbing. Mike was a student at Mizzou at the time, hiking around Capen Park when he saw a couple of guys rock climbing. Curious, he stepped over to them and asked them about it. They were generous enough to let him make his first climb that day. Now Mike travels all over North America for climbing. He thinks that Boone County is a great place to practice his hobby, but his all time favorite is in the Sierras in California. Mike spends many resources and tolerates the injuries from rock climbing because it’s a great mix of skills. “Rock climbing allows you to focus, to drive everything else out. It takes strength, but it’s also a mental sport,” Mike says. You may be strapped into a harness but there’s a lot of courage involved in rock climbing according to Mike. Unlike many other outdoor activities, Mike believes that rock climbing is on the rise. He attributes this to indoor climbing gyms, but he thinks it’s a lot harder of a transition from inside to the great outdoors than most people think. “It’s a good thing that people are climbing more, but I also hate to be climbing in a crowd,” says Mike. Even though Mike wants some quiet when climbing, he usually climbs with friends that he’s met around the country. It’s a good idea for safety reasons, but he also just enjoys the company.

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Jim Karpowicz got his start in filming from his family. His dad and brother were both in the television business and Jim spent a lot of time learning the ropes and fumbling with cameras. “As a little kid I was always drawn to the creeks and the woods, and I realized as an adult I’d have to cobble together some sort of career that paid money that would have something to do with the outdoors.” He decided that with his basic knowledge of TV equipment he could start his own business as a nature videographer and filmmaker. “I was able to take the skills I learned at the TV station and concentrate on the outdoors,” says Jim. He continues with a laugh, “I guess it sort of worked, I was able to put a few kids through college, pay a mortgage.” He takes his job seriously though, spending a lot of time while out on the job thinking about frames and setting up equipment, but he says even in that process he has to look up at his surroundings sometimes and admire the career he’s built for himself. He’s been able to travel all over from Nevada to Nicaragua, and is amazed every time that he’s paid to do something he enjoys so much.

Jim Karpowicz got his start in filming from his family. His dad and brother were both in the television business and Jim spent a lot of time learning the ropes and fumbling with cameras. “As a little kid I was always drawn to the creeks and the woods, and I realized as an adult I’d have to cobble together some sort of career that paid money that would have something to do with the outdoors.” He decided that with his basic knowledge of TV equipment he could start his own business as a nature videographer and filmmaker. “I was able to take the skills I learned at the TV station and concentrate on the outdoors,” says Jim. He continues with a laugh, “I guess it sort of worked, I was able to put a few kids through college, pay a mortgage.” He takes his job seriously though, spending a lot of time while out on the job thinking about frames and setting up equipment, but he says even in that process he has to look up at his surroundings sometimes and admire the career he’s built for himself. He’s been able to travel all over from Nevada to Nicaragua, and is amazed every time that he’s paid to do something he enjoys so much.

And So My Watch Ends

Yeah, I am leaving off with a Game of Thrones reference. However if I were truly in the Night’s Watch this would mean that I’m either dead or a deserter. I promise you I’m neither. I was only contracted to be at Missouri Life for the summer, and Winter is Coming.

Ohhhkayyy. You’ve witnessed my obsession too plainly. So let me continue by generically saying I’ve learned a lot this summer. About photojournalism, writing, regular office hours, how to bring lunch to work, and even editing. And all of it just reassured me that this is the path I want to take. I like being whisked around to different assignments, using my judgment to select photos worthy of my editors’ perusal, and I really enjoy getting to see places I’d never even imagine going to on my own.

The traveling I did for Missouri Life reaffirmed what I’ve thought about journalism for quite some time: it’s for those of us who didn’t get to experience it firsthand. I don’t describe the juiciness of a burger or capture a smile for my own benefit (although it is fun), it’s all for the reader who relies on my image and my words alone to share the experience. And who knows? Maybe it’ll encourage one of you to go try the new Mexican place, or take a day trip to Glasgow. Essentially, journalists are here to serve. Whether it be the hard hitting news you need right away for safety or general knowledge of your community, or the fluffier stories that just give you some hope for humanity. Each has its purpose and that gives me, the journalist, purpose. Thanks for liking knowledge and new stimuli viewers! Without you I would be even more desolate and penniless.

Here are some photos from my most recent excursion to the southwest part of this grand state.

The last courthouse in my Unique County Courthouses story: Jasper County in Carthage, MO.

The last courthouse in my Unique County Courthouses story: Jasper County in Carthage, MO.

Nathan Boone Homestead, outside of Springfield, MO.

Nathan Boone Homestead, outside of Springfield, MO.

Mo' Beef in Springfield, MO specializes in Chicago style Italian beef sandwiches, but I had to try the chicken parmigiana sandwich. Om nom.

Mo’ Beef in Springfield, MO specializes in Chicago style Italian beef sandwiches, but I had to try the chicken parmigiana sandwich. Om nom.

You can’t tell me none of those places look intriguing. I’m a foodie and succumb easily to my vice, food porn, so just looking at that sandwich turns my stomach on full beast mode. It’s embarrassing; people can hear me.

What could also be construed as embarrassing is that I took my mumsy with me on this voyage. She’s close to retirement, and likes to ask off work, and I sure wasn’t going to drive 8 hours all by my lonesome. She’s also very reasonable, a logical Spock-like creature if you will, and she decided we needed to stay overnight and drive back the next day. Praise mumsy for that insight, considering how tired I was by the end of day one. It’s always good to have a road companion, they can help you with directions, argue you with you about where to eat, stop at ridiculous antique malls that require two people to go in and joke about everything they see, and they’re someone to share the fond memories with down the line.

So I encourage everyone to pick a magazine or newspaper, and read about what’s going on around you. It doesn’t have to be in your hometown, state, or even country. (I prefer space travel.) It’s just important to see the options available to you. Looking at a computer screen thinking about how bored you are isn’t hip anymore. There really is no excuse not to experience your community. And community is in varying degrees of distance, depending on your comfort zone, but test that zone every now and then. I’m happily surprised every time I do. And if you need a little guidance, just look to the articles, they usually point you in the right direction.

The Perks of Being an Intern

My heart fluttered when I saw these gems.

My heart fluttered when I saw these gems at the Heartland Antique Mall.

Most stories you hear about internships are wrought with errands, impatient bosses, and little to no pay. While I am unpaid, I must say there’s a lot of value in this here internship, and perks besides.

At Missouri Life our main priority is the magazine, obviously, but we are also out for hire on special publications, such as books, calendars, and visitor guides. I worked on the latter two for Lebanon, Missouri, which is about two hours south of Columbia.

My main job was just to go around and see the sights and take photos of people enjoying Lebanon. That was easy enough, aside from getting turned around and maybe breaking a few traffic laws. But I didn’t realize I would be practically vacationing as well.

There was fishing galore at Bennett Springs.

There was fishing galore at Bennett Springs.

What drew me to Lebanon this time of the year was the Brumley Gospel Festival. This was the very festival that booked every room in town and caused me to seek lodging in Osage Beach instead, which is about 30 minutes from Lebanon. When writers or photographers travel to work on a story, Missouri Life tries to set them up for free somewhere by offering the establishment discounted or free advertisement in the future. A trade, as they call it. So I was set up at The Inn at Harbour Ridge, a quality bed and breakfast (or as I kept calling it, a bread and breakfast).

To say I was getting the royal treatment would be a cliché but it would be fairly accurate. We arrived and one of the owners immediately showed us around, describing all of the freebies and amenities we were receiving. Then we rested in the room titled “Love’s Nest”, ate dinner there, and returned to Lebanon to cover the festival that had put me at this lovely B&B. When we returned the bed was freshly remade, the lights were dimmed, and our trash had been cleared away. We had only been gone two hours! I felt almost guilty since I wasn’t technically paying for the room, but they treated us as any other guests.

Did I mention there were cookies and chocolate already in the room? Fresh too.

You live the good life at The Inn at Harbour Ridge.

You live the good life at The Inn at Harbour Ridge.

Even if I hadn’t gotten to stay at such a fine establishment, I would have enjoyed the trip nonetheless. I enjoy traveling, especially if my gas is reimbursed, and I’m taking photos of new things. In my 21 years I had only been to Lebanon once before, when I was rather young. And it’s only two hours away from my hometown. It’s an antiquing/thrifting haven; how could I have missed that?

I wanted to buy up the whole store, all 40,000 square feet of it.

Oh Heartland Antique Mall; I wanted to buy up the whole store, all 40,000 square feet of it.

Another cliché but often true: if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Now I may have been walking around in the sun, crouching in corners, standing on chairs, and doing just about everything else to get the shot, but I can truly say that I didn’t feel like I was working that much. “Take photos,” they say, “but of course!” I respond. It’s what I do, and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it, perks or no.

Glasgow Greetings

I’ve mentioned before that small towns creep me out and/or sadden me. This is still largely true, but small towns such as Glasgow threaten that notion of mine.

The town story for the October issue of Missouri Life is about Glasgow, Missouri. It’s a town of just over one thousand people along the Missouri River that Missouri Life editor Jonas Weir and myself literally passed by in a matter of minutes. But we would have been the ones missing out if we had truly passed this gem by.

A somewhat sudden turn on the right and we were on the main street, aptly named First Street. It was morning and neither Jonas nor myself had eaten breakfast, so the first necessary stop was at Riverbend Cafe, conveniently owned by the town’s mayor. When one hears the word “mayor”, the image of a staunch businessman with a crisp suit comes to mind. He would have a solemn voice and serious demeanor, and use words such as “ordinance.” But the diner owner that came from behind the counter seemed just that, a diner owner. His t-shirt and jeans more than suggested a casual air, and he greeted us with a friendly and easy-going voice that said he was more our equal than a political official.

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After a conversation with the mayor, we made our way to all of the local sites. Perry’s for a quick ice cream, the Glasgow museum, the library, the Rolling Pin bakery, Glasgow Trading Post, and Henderson’s Drug Store. Each place seemed more historic than the last, but there were renovated buildings with newer businesses that suggested a recent revival in the town.

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A few different townsfolk said that Glasgow was in a state of disrepair not too long ago. The First Street shop windows were vacant and boarded up and the life seemed to be draining from the struggling town. But somehow the people rallied and Glasgow was the better for it.

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Each citizen we spoke to say their reason for staying in Glasgow was because of the people. No one is a stranger in Glasgow. Small town courtesy and friendliness seems to be true in this case; it’s not so uncommon to ask a neighbor for a cup of sugar. I find that refreshing. Business owners spoke of the people not as customers, but as supporters of their livelihood. The townspeople want to help out the local businesses, which is probably why there are hardly any chains in Glasgow. The nearest Wal Mart is in Boonville, and you’ll find no golden arches even on the outskirts of town.

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The camaraderie is striking; even compared to a very small city such as the one I grew up in, Columbia, Missouri. I don’t know my neighbors, and there isn’t a cashier at the grocery store that I could name. I can’t help but think the whole world would be a bit better off with some small town loving. It reminds you that the people who serve you, who live next to you, and who are the bosses above you are all humans, and they all have stories to tell and secrets to keep.

It was a humbling experience. Despite my “city girl” upbringing, great education, and travel experience, I in fact had not seen it all. I had not seen pure contentedness before I went to Glasgow. I certainly had not seen it over an entire town. Small towns need not breed morose emotions. They have great potential to connect us to others, and can inspire passion in your livelihood and home. There’s a general feeling around Glasgow, which makes the people refreshed and the air easier to breathe. It keeps the local businesses open and the franchises at bay. It’s called respect, and we could all use a bit more of it.

Traveling and Being a Miser

So as you’re probably aware of by now, I’m an intern at Missouri Life Magazine in Boonville, MO. Since it’s a statewide magazine that covers every corner of the state, a certain amount of travel is involved. Now it’s not the size of Alaska, but Missouri is no pipsqueak either. Luckily most of my drives have been in the two to three hour range, although I do have at least one coming up that will be more along the lines of four hours, but I don’t have to think about that just yet.

On my last excursion I compiled three different assignments into one trip, so as to save on gas monies that I desperately lack. I went to Lexington for a house story and took pictures of their courthouse, and then I went all the way to Kansas City, which is about 40 minutes from Lexington, to do a wine tasting and snap some quick photos of the Amigoni Urban Winery.

The Amigoni Urban Winery is located in downtown Kansas City. It occupies the old Daily Drover Telegram building which was built in 1909.

The Amigoni Urban Winery is located in downtown Kansas City. It occupies the old Daily Drover Telegram building which was built in 1909.

This home was constructed on top of the foundation of another home that was destroyed in the Civil War. The King family occupied the house from the time it was built in 1866 to 1949.

This home was constructed on top of the foundation of another home that was destroyed in the Civil War. The King family occupied the house from the time it was built in 1866 to 1949.

I’ve always been a thrifty, if not miserly so I’m all about consolidation and use as few of resources as possible to get a job done. So when my mumsy said I was crazy to do three assignments in one day I just said, “psssh, mama please.” Granted the next day I was slated to photograph an outdoor wedding all day. It proved to be a tiring, if not emotionally reassuring weekend. I was doing what I loved (and getting paid for part of it!) which was a great reassurance that I was going into the right line of work.

The Lafayette County courthouse in Lexington, MO is the oldest courthouse in Missouri still being used as a courthouse. A cannonball from the Battle of Lexington in the Civil War remains in one of the front columns.

The Lafayette County courthouse in Lexington, MO is the oldest courthouse in Missouri still being used as a courthouse. A cannonball from the Battle of Lexington in the Civil War remains in one of the front columns.

Traveling itself is tiresome, but it is also exciting. I love seeing new places, no matter how small or outdated the locale may be. Just seeing the world from a different perspective is enough to draw me away from home. Since I’ve lived in the same place for most of my years, it’s refreshing to go to a small town, or a big city, and ask them why they do what they do. People’s motivations are one of my biggest interests. It’s great to know who’s doing what, but it’s even better to know why. You learn much more about them and the world we all live in. It helps you form your own opinions on life, and may even sway you in the future when deciding where (or if) you hunker down.

For instance, I would live in Oregon in a heartbeat. I’ve been there a couple times, visiting family that lives in the center of the state. Everyone that I came across was just happy. A funny notion, isn’t it? There were all the large trees everywhere, the average person seemed to have a canoe or kayak on the top of their car, and despite the rainy weather in Portland, everyone had a smile on their face. I heard no complaints and saw no one experiencing road rage. I’m sure these things do happen, but at a much lower frequency.

When I commented on this to a family friend, she said, “Of course we’re happy to be here, we’re surrounded by the majesty that is nature! It’s no wonder we have an appreciation for the planet with evidence of its greatness everywhere we go.” I thought that summed it up perfectly. I feel my happiest in Missouri whenever I’m out on a trail hiking, overlooking vistas or when I’m dipping an oar into a flowing river, wildlife enveloping me from all sides. It really does make you consider Earth more carefully whenever you’re, well, surrounded by earth.

So I encourage everyone to travel. Even if it’s just around your home state. I’ve lived in Columbia, Missouri for 15 years, and I haven’t seen even a fourth of this state. I’m surprised every time I take off in a new direction. You don’t have to go to Paris or The Great Wall to see how truly amazing the world is, it’s just outside your door, waiting to be explored.

In All Its Majesty

The Gasconade County Seat is perched above the  Missouri River in Hermann, MO.

The Gasconade County Seat is perched above the Missouri River in Hermann, MO.

When looking for courthouses I wanted to find some that had intriguing stories, and others that just commanded double takes because of their appearance. The Gasconade County courthouse is definitely of the latter class. High above the Missouri River, it looms regally, demanding everyone’s attention as they enter and leave the German town of Hermann, Missouri. While crossing the bridge over the river into Hermann, it’s hard to look at anything else, it’s almost as if you’re asking permission to enter. My permission was granted.

There are no freaky or super interesting stories I could tie to this beauty, but it hardly needs it. It’s one of the only courthouses in Missouri with a view of the Missouri River, and we all know that the river is the lifeblood of this state. It pumps by at a seemingly slow rate while people’s fates are decided, undeterred by the laws that surround it. I would find it oddly comforting, to be sentenced at such a site. At least I could gaze out the window while my life was being judged and written away. I’d like to think that’s what the builders had in mind when crafting the courthouse in 1896. Truth is there probably wasn’t much thought other than, “that would be a nice view,” and maybe simple thinking like that is all this world needs to be successful.

The view of the Gasconade County courthouse from the bridge over the Missouri River is undeniable. The structure sits over the town like a gate.

The view of the Gasconade County courthouse from the bridge over the Missouri River is undeniable. The structure sits over the town like a gate.

The First of Many

As my title indicates, this will be the first of what I assume to be many blog posts about courthouses. Riveting at first glance, I know. While my sarcasm subsides, I’ll tell you that county courthouses actually do hold interest to me, and they should interest you too. Missouri Life has put me to the task of photographing and researching unique county courthouses in Missouri. That’s 115 in total including the independent city of St. Louis. A lot to sift through, but I think I’m the right person for the job.

Architecture has always interested me. I dreamt of being two things as a child, a librarian and a real estate agent, (not an architect though, interestingly.) I may have also wanted to be a singer at some point, but the interest in buildings and their details has never left me. I still consider that profession to this day, to mix and match with my photography and journalism if it pleases me. Old buildings have a particular intrigue about them- history.

I don’t know what it is about dead people and times past, but they fascinate many a person. Ghost Hunters anyone? Every vacation I go on there’s a haunted old mansion tour or a ghost tour, sometimes both (hem hem, New Orleans). I guess the way I would describe this fascination we have is as a fascination with ourselves. In all honesty, every time I go someplace full of obvious history, I wonder what the world around me now will look like in say, 200 to 1000 years. What would a tour say about my generation? Would people of the future even care enough to go on tours?

Try as we might to distance ourselves from the past, whether it be our own or in general, there’s always this ancestral tug, beckoning us to look closer at where we came from, what we used to be like and how we came to be the way we are today. All of the advances in the world can’t distract from the wonder of our origins. If there’s anything I learned from Prometheus it’s that we are deeply curious about our beginnings and our purpose.

Wow, I got all of that out of some old buildings? Well, this is what you should get out of this post: We leave behind buildings, scrolls, and images to say something about ourselves to future generations, to stand the test of time. These courthouses, like many aging structures, hold stories, meanings, and mystery.

The Phelps County courthouse in Rolla, MO for example was a Confederate and Union stronghold in the Civil War. It has been used as a hospital, jail, and a quartermaster store. I can only imagine the ghosts haunting that place.

The original Phelps County courthouse, located in Rolla, MO, was built along the Pacific Railroad for ease of transportation. It proved to be a strategic location during the Civil War and dominated the Rolla horizon for many years.

The original Phelps County courthouse, located in Rolla, MO, was built along the Pacific Railroad for ease of transportation. It proved to be a strategic location during the Civil War and dominated the Rolla horizon for many years.

In Boone County, the current courthouse is actually the third, but the remains of the second still stand, aligned with the columns on the University of Missouri’s campus. The columns of the second courthouse were preserved by a conscious decision of the locals to restore them. I can still remember how I felt the first time I saw the columns when I moved to Columbia in 1999. The two sets of columns looking at each other from several blocks away felt eerily comforting, if those two words together make sense. Remnants of a time past, one is the remains of a fire and the other representative of a torn down county seat, both were saved by locals who admired them.

I can see the incredulousness of it, love for stone structures, but when I see them winking at each other from a distance as if to say, “We made it!”, I can understand why they were protected, to let us in the future know that their mark had been left, and it had been left for us. How we interpret their meaning is up to us, and that’s the exciting part of it, no single interpretation is correct. We just have to know the option is there, and we have the opportunity to leave behind meaning as well… or maybe just mystery.

The columns of the second courthouse built in Columbia, MO still stand at the edge of the square, an odd location, but chosen for the purpose of aligning with the Academic Hall columns on Mizzou's campus. Academic Hall burned down in 1892, but its columns also remain.

The columns of the second courthouse built in Columbia, MO still stand at the edge of the square, an odd location, but chosen for the purpose of aligning with the Academic Hall columns on Mizzou’s campus. Academic Hall burned down in 1892, but its columns also remain.

Crowns, Dresses, and Dreams

In my stint at Missouri Life Magazine, the Show-Me state has certainly shown me a lot. I mentioned in my last post that a horse is parked outside our offices overlooking the Missouri River, so of course my assignments are just as intriguing.

Last week I ventured to Mexico, Missouri, known for its Missouri Military Academy, to witness something quite the opposite of military brawn-a beauty pageant.

The women of the Miss Missouri Pageant 2013 rushed upstairs after their first show night to reunite with their families.

The women of the Miss Missouri Pageant 2013 rushed upstairs after their first show night to reunite with their families.

And not just any old pageant, this was the official Miss Missouri 2013 pageant. The victor of this pageant would go on to Miss America, which means national T.V. and the responsibility of representing Missouri as a state in front of millions of viewers. Gulp. No doubt these women were seriously focused, but they had an easy-going charm about them that I wouldn’t have expected from women locked in a competition. If they were stressing hardcore, as I would have been, they were well trained in hiding it.

The Miss Missouri 2013 contestants rehearsed their opening number the day of their first show.

The Miss Missouri 2013 contestants rehearsed their opening number the day of their first show.

It’s obvious that the contestants would smile onstage, but once backstage I surmised all traces of exuberance would vanish. (Very assuming of me, I know.) But alas, their jaws may have relaxed a little and their polished teeth may have shown less, but they remained upbeat and for all intensive purposes satisfied. There were no angry or embarrassed tears, diva moments, backstabbing, or pouting of any kind. They all truly loved what they were doing, and despite their desire to win, found friendship amongst their competitors.

Miss contestants met with their families shortly after the first show night ended. Pictures were taken, gifts were exchanged, and congratulations offered.

Miss contestants met with their families shortly after the first show night ended. Pictures were taken, gifts were exchanged, and congratulations offered.

Aside from the contestants’ demeanor, I was also pleasantly surprised by the access I was granted. Out of the three photographers assigned to the story I was the only woman. I believe that made the women feel more comfortable with my presence backstage (although no one was allowed in their dressing room) and a lot of them enjoyed having me take pictures of them, which wasn’t too surprising.

Miss Missouri Little Sisters filed onto stage for the ending sequence. Miss contestants watched them go by, hand in hand.

Miss Missouri Little Sisters filed onto stage for the ending sequence. Miss contestants watched them go by, hand in hand.

I thought for sure a mom or pageant organizer was going to tell me to bugger off to the small, press restricted area at the front of one side of the stage, but no one did. They actually helped me maneuver around in the dark behind the curtains by asking contestants to lift their skirts and move aside for me to pass. Overall, it was a very pleasant experience. No journalist likes being told they aren’t entirely in control of how much coverage they can get over their story. That’s just a frustrating part of the biz, especially within photojournalism because photos are pretty damning. Even with all of the photo manipulation tools out there nowadays, pictures are still rather convincing to the average eye.

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I relied on my old motto while working on this story: don’t ask for permission; ask for forgiveness. The writer of the story had learned from the main coordinator that I couldn’t take photos anywhere but the press section during showtime. I decided to ignore that command and wandered around, respectfully. I didn’t annoy anyone or get in people’s ways, or tamper with any part of the production. If there’s one way to get blacklisted real quick, it’s to be a clumsy reporter that mucks up the flow of things. So if you plan to heed my advice and ask forgiveness, make sure you’re not on anyone’s shit list beforehand.

Miss Heartland walked down the runway after her introduction the first night of the Miss Missouri 2013 Pageant.

Miss Heartland walked down the runway after her introduction the first night of the Miss Missouri 2013 Pageant.

Sweet Boonville Summer

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Hello blog, I have taken a vacation from you for about a month now, and for that I apologize, I hope you can find it in your little electronic heart to forgive me.

I have been quite busy since our last encounter, hence the absence, but I have returned with stories to tell. I finished up my junior year of college (scary spice!) a month ago, and have begun my internship at Missouri Life Magazine in good ol’ Boonville, Missouri.

I must say, I’m normally not a fan of small towns; they often have a desperate or neglected air about them that is not very becoming. They give me the eerie feeling of going back in time, as if they’re a stagnated bubble, unable or unwilling to move forward and leave their time capsule. There is a fine line between stagnation and whimsy. Boonville lies on the whimsy side, thankfully. Boonville doesn’t seem to have the abandoned buildings other small towns boast. The old buildings here are from an era much less recent, but they are beautifully upheld and refurbished, and a shop or a resident occupies most. Boonville has character, plain and simple.

I work down the street from beauties like this.

I work down the street from beauties like this.

It’s hard not to have character when located right next to the grand Missouri River. Where is a better place to have a Missouri magazine located than on the Missouri River itself? Nowhere, I tell you. It was along the river where many a settlement was established when the Europeans moved in. It was their transport, their sport, and their livelihood. We owe a lot of our current cities and towns to the Missouri River. And it’s not too bad too look at either.

One of the many rooms in the Frederick Hotel that I'm allowed to work in. Bliss!

One of the many rooms i the Frederick Hotel that I’m allowed to work in. Bliss!

Speaking of character, the offices Missouri Life Magazine occupy are chock full of it. They’re located in the historic Hotel Frederick, which is right next to the Missouri River. It has high ceilings, wood floors, oodles of details and tall windows; it’s essentially my dream office. Aside from the intern room, I’m allowed to venture around the hotel and work in common areas that are open to guests as well. They are usually vacant and charming, and offer that much desired silence sometimes. When I came to interview for the internship I thought, “I could definitely get some work done here.” That is always a good sign.

While adventuring around Boonville the other day, I came across another unique feature of the Frederick property, a horse. I was in the back of the building, overlooking the Missouri River, and believed myself to be alone. Needless to say I was startled when I came across a horse standing beside the dumpsters. I looked to see if it was tied up, and it was, (a bit loosely). So I thought it safe to take a picture from a little distance. It didn’t seem to mind and we both went on with our day. A horse behind a hotel is not so uncommon in Boonville. A horse and buggy can be seen any time of day on one of the small downtown streets, just trotting along without a concern for the cars around it. Here in this historic-meets-modern town, looking out of an historic hotel, Mac Book Pro all lit up, it seems just right.

Bet you don't have this lil' guy at your office.

Bet you don’t have this lil’ guy at your office.

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