Before I return to my essay about the work on Counting on the Woods, I want to acknowledge this four day weekend in Thanksgiving territory by hoping everyone here has been having some thankful times. (I'd think some of my readers in other parts of the world may have a hard time understanding what this American holiday is really all about!) In any case, the date does give me a good excuse to express my appreciation for those of you who have believed in me, encouraged my art, enjoyed my images -- and helped me get better at what I do. Your support continues to mean a whole lot.
Now, back to the essay, Snapshots of the work on Counting on the Woods. The intro and part 1 are in post #60, part 2 is in post #61, and the words to the poem/book are in post #62 (last week.) The essay was completed in 1999.
part 3: ONE KID OR TWO OR NONE
How many kids should appear in a counting book? This deceptively simple question would not be resolved until three days before deadline, but for the duration I had a wonderful excuse to spend time with Kyle.
Kyle had always been my neighbor, but I really didn't meet him until I did a presentation at his school the previous fall. I was showing slides I had taken in our shared eastern Kentucky county. I didn't expect that there'd be any particular connections until a quiet spoken boy shyly said that the man in one of the pictures was his grandfather. I took an immediate liking to this red-haired ten year old, and, after the class, I persisted until I found out who he was. Kyle McDaniel.
Kyle's extended family members surround the land were we live. His eldest brother and family live on the edge of our farm, in the house where Kyle was born. The cemetery there holds two of his four brothers; both died as babies. His first cousin once removed, Larry, lives across the road from us, where I lived when I came to Kentucky 31 years ago. And his grandparents own the adjoining farm. Kyle actually lived then about a mile away, on a road often mistaken for our driveway.
I thought of Kyle right away that spring  when I began imagining including a child in the the photos for the book. It turned out working with Kyle was an even better idea than I had anticipated, besides the fact he was small for his age. He was able to understand the project and actually looked forward to the few times we went out in the woods together. Each of the three or four times we were together I made at least one good photo.
This was fortunate because getting Kyle, his schedule, the weather and my schedule to mesh was a major accomplishment. Not only was he very independent for his age, but he could be helping in the family tobacco growing operation, when sometimes they all worked outside until dark, too late for photos. Then one weekend in June he drove to Michigan with his aunt for a cousin's high school graduation. Another time he traveled to West Virginia. I worried he'd stay gone for weeks, and I had a late July deadline! Also, I finally figured out he could easily be home alone or out somewhere on his four-wheeler, the reason he wasn't available during several marvelously lit spring evenings.
Kyle ended up being the only child shown in the book. I can't imagine it being any one else. I can't imagine it any other way. In fact, the last photo I took of him deserves its own story. [See part 4 ... next week.]
NOTE: For those of you in northeastern Kentucky, here is a reminder that I will be at Morehead State University's Arts and Crafts Fair, 9 - 4, Saturday, December 3, sharing a booth with my friend, artist Jennifer Reis. Mention this blog, and I'll give you a 10% discount -- with appreciation for your alertness!!