he had an artist in his soul
that was his legacy

 

At dawn, the crisp Montana air woke him like a chilly finger brushing against his stubble-covered cheek. He was looking forward to having a beard again. Once you get past the itchy stage the warmth is a bonus. He was dying for a cup of hot coffee but all that was left in the thermos from yesterday was cold coffee and some grounds. Twisting his face in disgust, he settled for a Camel no-filter as half of his morning ritual, which was far past the point of simple habit. Those weren't the only addictions...he’d have to get a drink in a while. Surely the shaking wouldn't start for a few hours.  

He made a mental list of things he had to do that day. Gas up the truck, buy some 200-speed film, fill the thermos, find some firewood, and get the portrait taken. The latter would have to be done first, lest he put it off for yet another day.  He knew a self portrait wasn't the most appropriate gift for a girl her age, but it's all he had to give.  

It would have to do. 

It was 4 days until her birthday, he hadn't seen her for at least 6 months. God, she must be getting huge, he thought. She's big boned like her Aunt Inez, but more feminine. Blue eyes like her mother, but with his strong chin and wide shoulders. He knew she was into roller-skating because that's the last thing they had done together before he hit the road. She'd told him that she loved him while she watched him shave that morning, which was, coincidentally, the last time he'd had a great shave. Her sisters were probably still up to their old tricks...teasing her one second and snuggling her the next. Women, he thought in amusement. 4 of them, counting their mother.  

Shrugging off the memory, he packed up the back of the truck, shoving the blankets into one corner of the truck bed and rearranging the rest of his belongings. Living in your Chevy really cuts down on house cleaning, he thought wryly. Not many people can live like this, but he was made for it. Alone with nature, no one hassling him about getting to work on time or being confined by any schedule except his own. The only voices were those of the creatures around him and an occasional ghost-like whisper from inside himself. He ignored those whenever possible.

"Stay, Gary, please? 
It doesn't have to be here, just stay where the girls can know you. 

They are only young once, you know. 

They need you".

Nobody really needed him, he knew that. She was strong enough for the both of him. That, conveniently, got him off the hook. They'd be better off with out a drunk father. He knew that for certain.  

Time to move. He figured by the time he meandered into town, the Cafe would be open. Cici would slop something barely edible in front of him, and he'd swill coffee for at least a 1/2 hour. Some of the locals were leery of him. He looked harmless enough, and heaven knows there are plenty of “mountain men” in those parts, but he was so quiet. He didn't talk much to anyone, and when he did, listeners found themselves straining to hear him. His voice had a very rich timbre, but as a child he stuttered, and over the years he had been conditioned to keep his mouth shut whenever possible. Since childhood, he never felt totally confident in what he had to say, even when he knew he was right.  

He wasn't a well educated man, but he wasn't dumb, either. His ingenuity came in the form of creating beautiful stories with pictures, and even that he was humble about. According to everyone he knew, he could make a living off of this genius. He'd considered it, but it never felt right. He was concerned about privacy, he felt as if he would be invaded somehow if he sold his work. He told himself it WASN'T because he was afraid of failing, which is what certain individuals had told him was the reason he didn't do it. Besides, he took pictures for himself and his family...no one else.  

His stomach lurched at the thought of runny eggs at the Cafe, so he decided against breakfast.  

The light was beautiful, perfect for the shot he had in mind, which wasn't going to be anything sunny or cheerful.  That wasn't his style. Dark and mysterious, if anything. Mostly just sincere, reflecting reality. Nothing contrived, just nature, and little pieces of his spirit. He fired up the pickup and barreled out of his little camping area to the road heading east. He figured the truck would only take him so far, he'd have to walk some of the way to his desired location. About 3/4 of the way up the “trail”, which was overgrown and bumpy as hell, he snatched the camera bag and ‘pod and started his ascent up the steep incline. The early morning air was cool, but after a few hundred yards of this he would be sweating. He took off his hood and let his long brown hair flop forward and back during the final trek. Trying to account for the time it would take him to get the tripod set up, he figured he should probably settle for the spot just ahead, one that would give an awesome view of the mountains behind him. Perfect.  

His hands were cold, yet they moved fluidly to set up the tripod and the camera for the correct exposure. With the stunning mountains to his back, he set the timer, and when he turned around, the view nearly took his breath away. This is what it's all about, he thought in awe: 

Capturing scenes like these for those I love,  

giving to them only what I can,   

and what I'm best at giving. 

 

This is my legacy to leave behind, he thought.

It will have to do.



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NOTE TO READERS: This is a work of fiction...mostly. The story is a tribute to my late father, who was a talented photographer. He and my mother divorced when I was 7. He was a wonderfully talented man who also suffered from alcoholism. He liked to race stock cars and play the guitar, in addition to making pictures. He died of cancer on October 5, 1989 when I was in my 2nd year of college.

For family members who might stumble across this page, please take the content with a grain of salt. Although much of what's written is based in fact, I've taken quite a few liberties with details as you will certainly see when reading. I want to avoid hurt feelings, so that's why I felt an explanation was necessary.


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All Content Copyright 1998 Sara Hutchison. All Rights Reserved.