My grandfather, Francis Charles McMains III, but who his family call Pete, grew up in New Mexico. HIs family moved around a lot. My great-grandfather was a groundbreaker, literally. He would move onto sections of land that had never been farmed, remove the trees, turn the soil for the first time, dig irrigation canals and wells and generally work himself and his children to the bone. Life got a little easier for them (after they lost their own farm to the bank during the Depression) when my great-grandfather, his wife and two sons set up the Model Dairy outside of Albuquerque. Money and food were both more steady by then but my grandfather was still expected to milk his share of the herd in the morning, before going to high-school.
He has bad lungs. Many times during his 88 years we have though he was on death’s door, but he has always struggled back with a casual determination that I guess comes from knowing that he has been though worse. His lungs were scarred when he was a young man and he worked cutting flax with his Dad and brother during the summers. The dry dust of New Mexico and the flax chaff permanently damaged his breathing, but that was back in the 1930′s and that is what people did to get by in Dexter, New Mexico.
His memory is failing but that is to be expected at his age. He has never forgotten who I am or anything, but you can tell he looses track of time and situations and context. But, that is alright, because that is what his children and his grand-children are for, to remember when he can’t. And he has asked me to remember some wild stories. The folks that went out to Oklahoma and New Mexico right after the Civil War were settler-types; they were the sinewy and callused peopled that inhabited his childhood. They were hard characters of a sort that the modern, American experience no longer creates or has need for. They fought and cursed and struggled their way through railroad swindles, foreclosure and failed harvests, but it was all they knew and, to some extent or another, it is what they were made for. I am not saying that they were better or that I am longing for some stalwart ancestors; they were people of their time and would probably fair about as well today as I would in Nowata, Oklahoma in 1886. For me, my grandfather Pete is the bridge between those lost pathfinders and my much different, modern world.
I had intended to just post of pictures of plants that I shot during golden hour (which always seems to be more like 25 minutes to me) but Pete decided to wander into the mix and, let’s face it, people are more interesting looking than plants. So, I’ll save those golden hour shots for another post about light temperature and time of day and Rayleigh Scattering and all that good stuff. All of them except for this one of Snap Dragons that I took in the morning so it wouldn’t count anyway.
NOTE: The picture above is a prime example of why the Canon EF 135mm f/2 L USM is an amazing portrait lens. And why telephoto primes in general take great portraits. You know, if you were looking for my opinion on the matter.