Some Memories Of My Grandfather & A Special Sight On My Daily Commute

Out of all the jobs I’ve worked I think “Rancher’s Assistant” was my favorite. My Grandfather McClung made it seem easy. As a pre teen my responsibility was to count the cattle a couple of times a day and check the fencing for any slack in the barbed wire. Even though I haven’t been involved with cattle for many years I still have an urge to take a head count anytime I see cows.

I miss the long walks out to repair a hole in the fence line. It was the conversations and time with my Grandfather that made it special to share work. And then there was O’l Count. My grandfather’s cattle dog. When it was time to rotate the pastures (moving the cattle from one paddock to the next) we would open up a gate and tell O’l Count to bring the cattle. Without fail he would gather the herd and drive them through.

Occasionally a mother cow or the bull would resist but the dog was way to quick and agile for what seemed like a slow motion attack. He would dodge to the side and circle back around to nip at their heels. Most of the time this wasn’t a requirement. We always fed the cows something special when we moved them and when they saw the gate open they would come running like pets.

The cattle my Grandfather raised didn’t look like the one in the feature image. They looked like the one below. They were Hereford cattle.

I believe that it’s a Lakenvelder bull in the feature image. The Lakenvelder is a dairy cow and it seem that the milk would be perfect for dipping Oreo cookies. 😉

Needless to say that when I pass by this herd on my way to my day job I have a nostalgic reaction to seeing them even though they’re not the breed I’m used to. Believe or not this breed is an endangered species. According to Wikipedia there are less than 300 of these cows in the United States and less than 1000 worldwide. Which of course makes it an extra special sight in the Appalachian Mountains.

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Looking Forward to Bridge Day 2018

Rising up from the New River Gorge is in my opinion one of greatest feats of engineering in the modern world. The New River Gorge Bridge. To give the outside world an idea of scale there’s a four lane highway at the top. The height of the bridge allows for base jumping. And in just a few short weeks that’s what will happen here. A crowd will be gathered at the top and tourists will hike across. I have not been able to make it out for Bridge Day for several years now but I’m hoping to get a chance to photograph something special. I was there several years ago when a parachute malfunctioned and the jumper executed a successful cutaway and redeployment of her spare chute close enough to the bottom that she said she could see her own face in the water. ( and the high dive at the swimming pool gives the rest of us the willies). I think that the experience of jumping into the canyon has to be the closest thing to living flight that human could feel. I can imagine the wind pressure on my face as I descend into the river and then touching down gracefully on the flat rocks at bottom. I was able to find a short video of the human catapult launching the jumpers off of the bridge Here. (The video is not mine) The spectacle itself is a full fledged carnival. There are vendors set up offering everything from trinkets to Gourmet Foods. This happens to coincide with the peak color of Fall most years which makes it one of the most beautiful occurrences in my mountains. The competition for a premium spot to shoot from will be pretty fierce and I expect that those who are already connected have a claim staked out. But I’m crossing my fingers.

If you’re a person who likes the outdoors, festivals or extreme sports and if you think that you might want to attend then here’s a official Bridge Day Website. The Event is Saturday, October 20, 2018!

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To Share The Same Sky

The September sky was crystal blue and the time of the Equinox signaled an end to Summer’s warm carefree days. The sun hangs low on the horizon. She meets him by the boat launch as her father and brother packs the camp. The last weekend is nearly over. This is last hour of their summer romance. Here on the edge of the fading lake they embrace beneath the sun and moon. Like the celestial bodies above they can only share the same sky for a short season. The lake boy looks deep into her eyes which are the same color blue as the sky. She noticed how the summer sun has left it’s golden tone on his skin. They continue stare silently into each other. Memorizing every line of the other’s face. Every freckle on his face and every colorful fleck in her eyes. The summer was a time when two worlds met and joined as one. But like the sun and moon the forces of nature will only allow the sharing of the sky for so long. As the embrace for summer’s last kiss, he reaches into the pocket of his shorts and pulls out a small box. “Close your eyes” he whispers. She’s a little bit nervous about what comes next but she trusts him and does as he asks. He places a golden chain around her neck. Suspended from it was a locket. It was small but elegant. Inside was the picture of the two of them on the local fishing pier. Her brother had taken the snapshot when they wasn’t looking. “Don’t let me be forgotten” he whispered once more as he clasped the necklace about her neck. A single tear rolls down her cheek and she thanked him for the gift. By now her family waits patiently in the packed car. “I’ll be waiting here for you next summer” she replied with her voice cracking. “True love is faithful no matter how long and cold the nights to come will be.” She added. With no way to delay their parting any longer the young lake boy stepped aboard his day cruiser and drifting off of the shore. He watched with anguish as she got in the car and went home for the school year. Throughout the coming months they would call, text and even attend prom together. The following summer they met again in the same spot by the boat launch. And never parted ways again.

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The Battle Of Carnifex Ferry

The long awaited pictures from the reenactment of the Battle Of Carnifex Ferry are finally done! Tonight’s post is going to be more about the pictures themselves than the history. However, I do want to encourage you to Read more the battle here. I also want to encourage everyone to get involved with keeping history alive. If we forget the history then we are in danger of forgetting the hard lessons learned. Too much blood has been shed for us to forget so soon. This goes for my international friends as well. You have your own history that you should be proud of and that should not be allowed to be forgotten.

With that said, let’s get started on the pictures. The turnout was very small. Only fourteen reenactors came out to memorialize the history. When I was a kid you couldn’t find a place to stand and watch the living history.

Above is the Southern camp. The reenactment group has went to great lengths to keep everything period accurate. Canvas tents and breakfast being made on an open fire.

The lady in the picture has to be one of the hardest working people on the face of this earth. She chopped firewood for hours on end. Her clothes are wool. The temperature was in the 80s ( Fahrenheit) and the humidity is very high. I never really saw her take a break.

I imagine that the commanding officer wouldn’t be to happy to have an unmanned weapon in his camp. But, I really liked the Aesthetics of the musket and pistol belt on the wooden table. I began to think about the calm before the storm.

If it weren’t for modern truck in the background I would have thought that I had fallen into a time slip and been transported back to 1861. With the bayonet fixed the musket is a very intimidating weapon indeed.

Another view of the Southern camp and their hard working camp caretaker.

It’s time to inspect and drill the troops. I don’t think that the commanding officer is to easily impressed.

This young man is obviously the camp sniper. All of people involved with the reenactment were very accommodating and ready to give me a great pose.

More close order drill in the Southern camp.

It was about that time I noticed the Yankee spies on the road. Those sneaky devils!

While on my way to check out the Northern camp I encountered a ghost on patrol. I hope my paperwork is order otherwise my accent is going to land me in hot water.

I had actually asked him if I could get view looking down the weapon. He quickly explained that even though the group takes all precautions that it was strictly taboo to point a weapon at an observer. The musket is real and on days when there’s a battle the actors do fire powder charges at each other. (No projectiles ). He did agree to pose as if he was ready to level the weapon.

I was also fortunate enough to encourage a person that I believe is the Yankee General.

On approach to the Northern camp I discovered that they have their own sniper. He’s a dead-eye for sure!

I imagine that in real life the soldiers had this look often. I’m not sure what the actor had on his mind but the image made me think of a young man contemplating his role in previous battles. God be with the “men of conscious”.

The young man here also seems to have that “one thousand meter stare”. I was so pleased with the way the image turned out. He looks like he just stepped out of a tin type.

This is the wall. In the days before tanks these barricades were a mainstay of trench warfare. The logs did a pretty good job of catching bullets.

The cannon seen here is actually part of the park.

I found out a day too late that they wouldn’t be demonstrating the large brass cannon that they brought until the next day. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend due obligations with my day job. As I said before in years past it was standing room only and the reenactment had hundreds of actors and a full scale battle. This year only fourteen soldiers turned out. If you’re a person in the United States and care at all about the history that brought us this far please consider becoming involved with keeping history alive.

Traveling West

The soft evening light draws me westward. The golden lines lead me home. Twilight is such a magical time. In the transitional light shadows dance to tune of the whippoorwill and coyote. Heaven’s door opens as angels march out. They go to and fro to the corners of the world in a changing of the guard. Their orders are to watch over the faithful. And if need be, escort them home to rest if one’s work is done. As the setting sun goes over the horizon the golden hue shifts to a crimson glow. It is a reminder of the price paid and the seal set. Travel on and follow the road. Home is just beyond the next horizon.

Tonight’s image was taken in Nicholas County West Virginia. It is Route 129 across the Summerville dam. As I was looking at this picture the yellow lines made think about the golden rule, the narrow path and the way to my heavenly home.

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The Magic In The Mountains

As the morning sun breaks over the distant ridge I can hear the voices coming from the rushing water in the valley below. The mists slowly rise up the mountain reminding me of something that might be seen in Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth. One by one the large rubber rafts come bouncing over the rapids . They’ve traveled from all over the world to experience the thrill of the Gauley River. The Corps Of Engineers and draining the lake for the oncoming winter. I believe that there’s magic in our mountains. All of the fun and joy of summer on Summerville Lake is stored up in the lake itself and released in the fall as whitewater. The fun then moves up paddles and is absorbed into the hands. Eventually this magical essence of fun travels through the heart and comes out as excitement and laughter. The magic is amplified by the canyon walls until it spills over high cliffs and I smile as it touches me. Switching to my long lens I capture a few frames of the rafts passing by and enjoy the last of my coffee. The big blue truck is waiting to take me to the next leg of my journey so I pack my gear and slip behind the wheel. Just before pulling out I roll the window down and allow the magic to fill the cab. Call it “one for the road”.

September Eleventh

They always ask, “Do you remember where you were on September eleventh, Two Thousand and One?” Yes, yes I do. I was working for the prefab housing plant and we had been able to transfer to a new plant that was closer to home. The housing market was really starting to drop off and work was slow. We kept a radio on because the internet was barely off the ground and in rural West Virginia the only access was at a public library. We were taking our good sweet time to complete the day’s assignments. It’s nice to be able to knock off early occasionally but when it’s every day it really cuts into a paycheck. The radio signal was very weak and the static was horrible but we could enjoy the classic rock as we double and triple checked our measurements. Through the static and over the sound of the hammers and power saws we heard the words Plane…Hit…Tower. The line boss hit the emergency stop and the whole plant fell silent. We changed the station on the radio and redirected the antenna to pick up the AM news station. The details were starting to come in and one of my coworkers was drawing with his finger in the sawdust. Being curious I stepped over to look at what he drew. The numbers 911. That was about the time that the first tower collapsed.

The boss shut the lines down for the rest of the day but kept us on the clock with the excuse that he was calling for more blueprints and didn’t want us to leave and then have to call us back in. I spent the rest of the day out in the lumber stacks looking up at the crystal blue sky. It was the first time since the early 70s that I couldn’t see a contrail.

I listened to the memorial service today. The thing that held my attention this year was the children and grandchildren of the 9-11 victims and the hope that they carry for the future. What was born out of all that pain and suffering was a generation that’s dedicated to the betterment of mankind as a whole. Young people who want to cure cancer and solve problems all kinds.

God takes the bad things that happen and uses them for our benefit. As we remember the past and the loss let’s not be trapped by the memory. Instead, let’s honour those who’s lives are memorialized in art and verse by building a future that they would be proud of.