My father bought a good camera for taking slides in the early 1950s. He had an eye for nature photography and for everyday things.
Unlike today’s clickety-clicking habits with our digital cameras, he made every shot count because it was both expensive and time-consuming to send exposed films eight hundred miles to Minneapolis to be developed. He learned his camera’s operation in detail, managing all the settings and f-stops so that every shot produced a good photograph.
About 1954, we were finally going to have the plumbing installed in our big farm house. There was no well water that was usable for the house, so the plumbing would be serviced by water from cisterns next to the house, filled as needed with water hauled in a three hundred gallon barrel placed in the back of our grain truck. The whole process, even after the anticipating plumbing was completed, was pretty laborious.
This photo was taken the day they were digging the sewer trench on a long slant from the house, clear across the yard, past the fence into the pasture area, and then on down the slope for about sixty yards.
When a farm needed plumbing, the farmer learned plumbing, so it could be installed. If electrical work was needed, he learned what he didn’t know, and took care of installing or expanding the electrical service to the house. If a new kitchen was needed, he built it. If a new roof was needed, he went and bought materials and re-roofed his house.
When it was time for pretty new wallpaper in the dining room, the furniture all got moved out and he did some wallpapering for a few days, measuring twice and cutting once. He used paste that he had mixed himself. Those were the days of vertical patterns, with tiny running vine-designs with even tinier flowers on the vines, and intricately placed straight lines to complete some kind of repetitious scene.
When the pastures needed fencing and perhaps there was money and time for an upgrade to steel posts, he went and bought new steel posts, new barbed wire, cleaned up the old wire-stretcher and got the job done.
When the barn needed painting, he painted it, including the trim on the very highest portions of the roof.
This photo of the sewer trench being dug was taken some time after the day Dad was on the high peak of the barn roof, painting the white trim of the peak that extended out from the hay mow and the cupola. Somehow he lost his hold, and the can of paint did the predictable, tumbling all the way down. Notice the fine trail that was left as evidence of the event.
Access to those very highest points was achieved by placing a very long ladder up against the steep slant, braced against 2 X 4s that were nailed horizontally to the lower, slightly sloped part of the roof. Once the high ladder was firmly in place, he would climb up and nail shorter 2 X 4s horizontally on the very high portions to provide bracing for his feet, and places to hold on to as he would complete the job.
We were obviously relieved that he didn’t fall along with the paint that day, but also found over following years that the fine white streak down the side of the barn roof was the best conversation piece. When he took this picture, his back was to the long curving driveway that entered our yard after a 3/4 mile drive from our mail box, so this view of the barn is the exact view all of our company and visitors would see as they arrived. For years to come.
For the first year or so after The Paint Bucket Event, almost every car coming into the yard was a first time visitor since the spill had happened, so it made for fun conversation, and our neighboring farmers had a lot of chuckles at his expense.
Back in the day, nobody got too excited about things that went wrong. Since that was the case, he just went and bought another bucket of paint.
No injuries. And some laughs. For years to come.
And a PS here: How about that Kodachrome film and the durability of the developed slides? These slides have been cared for in static storage for sixty years +/-. It was only last month that I finally took them to a lab and had them put on a CD so I could access them digitally. I’m amazed at the color retention, and the unchanged clarity of the entire photo.
By the way, if you look way past the right side of the barn to the far distance, that’s either just into North Dakota back there on the horizon or close enough that you could count North Dakota deer if you had binoculars.