Monday, June 6, 2011


O00000-klahoma!, 2011

This is the thing—perhaps the defining thing—about a lot of us who take pictures of the world as we find it rather than practicing our art in the contrived world of a studio.

I’m referring to the way we stop anywhere to take a picture. We double back on busy highways. We crawl over fences, wade through ditches and defiantly march past No Trespassing signs just to get the pictures we want.

O00000-klahoma!, above, is a good example of this. I’d just driven across the Arkansas River from Fort Smith, Arkansas, into eastern Oklahoma. The rolling hills of Fort Smith had given way to the low flooded plains along the riverside.

Just across the bridge into Oklahoma is this welcome sign. Actually, I suppose you’d call it more of an announcement sign. It doesn’t actually welcome you. Maybe Oklahomans don’t want to extend but so much hospitality lest you decide to stick around and muck things up. Descendants of the Cherokee and Choctaw tribes forced to join the Trail of Tears could probably tell you a few things about the hospitality of the white man in Oklahoma.

If there’d been anyone in the car with me I’d have probably driven right past this sign without paying it much mind. In fact, I did drive right past this sign without giving it much mind. Maybe it was age, forgetfulness or just a function of my mind trying to process things viewed at 70 miles an hour. I’ll admit I was concentrating more on what was ahead of me than on what was behind me.

But my mind remembered that there’d been some incongruity in the scene. It was the contradiction of the flimsy little “We Buy Old Cars and Trucks” sign beside the big solid Oklahoma sign that had caught my attention. That whatever that blue plastic thing in the foreground that looks like a giant condom was there just added to the strangeness of my introduction to the Sooner State.

I was a few miles down the road before I decided that I wanted to go back and photograph this scene. I didn’t have to explain to anyone why I was adding needless miles to my trip. It was perfectly normal, just another day on the road with me.


  1. Haaaa! I did notice that little sign as well. Hadn't made quite the same connection with that blue thing until you called my attention to it. I've never been to Oklahoma. Seems like so little of the country I've not seen. I'll have to get there someday.

    Joe always tells me it's always windy there, and the skies go on forever.

  2. didn't happen to pick that blue thing up, did you? Buddy had a blue Floppy Flyer dog toy and we can't find it anywhere, so I thought.........