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Dangerous crossing

June 15, 2015
Admired cumulus in June on the way to Lame Deer

Admired cumulus in June on the way to Lame Deer

Ducks—mallards, often—are like the pedestrians we saw in Istanbul. With a sort of arrogant carelessness, they (Turkish pedestrians) stepped right into the traffic and walked purposefully across the street without pausing, a sneer on the face, as if daring the buses, cars, trucks to hit them. The pedestrian was unscathed and we ordinary folk stayed back waiting for the light that didn’t seem to change. Well, ultimately it did, but it took a long time and most people simply ignored the light.

In the same manner, big ducks lead their ducklings across Lewis Avenue to a park while the cars waited for them. A block away, to my horror, the mangled remains of a duck stuck to the asphalt. I wondered: angry 75-year-old man in huge car? Querulous and daft 90-year-old woman in old car? Teenager in pickup in a hurry? Mean person? The duck was almost unrecognizable, but for the feathers, the arrogant sneer on its beak.

Once on my way into Billings from Lame Deer I thought I saw a kitten in the road in the midst of one of the lanes at the corner of Main and First Avenue North in Billings, right at the corner by the fairgrounds. The light was in my favor, but the kitten looked as if it were in walking mode, only with its head down on the street, front paws covering its eyes. Kind of like in an old animated cartoon. Poignant, I thought, passing over the innocent one. I was looking forward to being home, so promptly forgot about the kitten’s dilemma. The next day, in passing, I noticed the mangled remains of something nearby. Some fur, perhaps. A claw. Is there a moral to this story? No. I forbid it. My true stories have no morals. (That sounds wrong, doesn’t it?)

I enjoyed my daily commute to Lame Deer from Billings, exactly 106 miles, except when I drove on winter snow tires that were slightly greater in circumference. Then, 105, by my odometer. In June the hills of Eastern Montana had green velvet, the skies huge billowy cumulonimbus. One year in the 1990s I had camera with infrared film and a dark red filter, so I occasionally stopped. Perhaps I can go downstairs to my darkroom and dig out such a photograph. I made so many photographs that I thought were noteworthy that I got tired of making them. The best cameras are no better than my own eyes, I thought. The best admirer can be no better than a brain that sees it. I hate generalizations, but I broke my roll of film a week habit!

I have had a darkroom ever since Christmas in about 1959 when my late brother-in-law Chuck Angel gave me a developing outfit from his own childhood. Consisted of a printing box, three metal enameled trays, and a safelight with three colored covers: red, yellow, and green. Its bulb was a 15-watt incandescent Christmas tree bulb. My mother bought me a Kodak Tri-Chem Pack that I mixed into peanut butter jars, scratching into their lids,
“dev” “stop” “fix.” At some point I got the lids mixed up and ruined the chemicals. But not before I developed some amazing prints, using the old negatives my mother gave me, ones she saved from her brother Carl R. Bonde, Jr. He was killed in WWII and was the darling of her childhood home, being the only boy among three older sisters.

The point was, I don’t mind rabbits, I even like them, I even feel happy if they don’t hop away. Often they hop across the street and I fear they will be hit by a car because they cross fearlessly, like ducks, kittens, and Turkish pedestrians.

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