I love to hate Anthropologie furniture. In particular, the way they stage it for their website. There’s this gross fantasy they’ve created of an art student who can afford to spend thousands of…
FLOWING WATER WELLS - INDIANA
Artesian (or flowing) wells are fed from a confined aquifer containing groundwater that is pressurized and flows upwards, without need for a pump. These wells are filtered naturally and in some cases have been flowing for thousands of years. They are a surviving remnant of the public commons and often mark very early human settlements.
I am fascinated by the local culture that has grown around these wells in Indiana. A few have had public parks built around them; others are on private property but are used by members of the surrounding community. There are many reasons people gather water there. Some make the trip simply because they like the taste of well water. For others, it is due to a health concern or a family tradition. I have also met people who use the wells because they do not have access to good water in their homes.
- Spring at Stone Lake, Middlebury, IN
- Avilla’s Artesian Well, Avilla, IN
- Flowing well, Morgan County, IN
- Potawatomi Springs, Independence, IN
- Couple gathering water at a well near Orestes, IN
- Justina gathering water at Glenn Miller Park, Richmond, IN
- Woman getting water at Flowing Well Park, Carmel, IN
- Gathering water at Glenn Miller Park, Richmond, IN
- Car filled with water, Flowing Well Park, Carmel, IN
- Chase Street Flowing Well, Gary, IN
Guide Note: “Well Stories” is a project about our relationship with the water we drink. Since 2011 I have been making photographs and videos of old artesian wells in Indiana and the people who visit them. As part of my project, I created a blog where people can share their stories about wells and water. To read or contribute, visit wellstories.com.
* * *
Kay Westhues is a photographer based in South Bend, IN. Through her work she aims to describe the vitality and complexity of places and people whose lives are often overlooked and unexamined. She is inspired by the ways rural tradition and history are interpreted and transformed in the present day. You can see more of her work atkaywesthues.com or follow her latest project on tumblr (kwesthues.tumblr.com).
ROBERT AND WALTER SCOTT - WALNUT, MISSISSIPPI
I’ve known Robert and Walter Scott my entire life (33 years). My grandparents lived down County Road 222 in Walnut, Mississippi, and Robert would walk up the road to visit every day. I would see the brothers sparingly in the years my grandparents were there—only when my parents and I would visit a couple times a year. Usually, Robert would bring the mail or help my grandmother unload groceries.
Now my parents own the house and Robert still visits every day just to check in. At night he goes to his brother Walter’s house to keep him company. I try to visit home at least once a month to see family and I always go with Robert to Walter’s house to sit and talk.
"The Story of Robert and Walter" is an on-going photojournalism project. I’ve been documenting the brothers for 15 years through images, interviews and audio recordings. My goal is to capture a dying culture in a rural Southern setting and to document the Scott brothers’ experience of growing up poor and black in a predominantly white Southern atmosphere.
Robert and Walter’s father was a successful cotton farmer and well-respected in a community emerging from the years of slavery. They are the most interesting people, with a knowledge and intelligence about life sharpened by their experience of poverty. Robert says, “Money sure does make a fool outta people.” And he is right. Walter told me one day when the moon was a thin crescent hanging low in the sky that “that moon’s holdin’ water,” and sure enough, rain came the next day.
Robert just turned 83 and Walter is 87. They still go to the grocery store and keep an elaborate garden. Although it’s seemingly certain that somewhere down the line their ancestors were slaves, we’ve never spoken about it. Instead, we talk about the weather over warm Milwaukee’s Best beer and count how many cats are living under Walter’s house.
Robert and Walter have taught me so much about life and happiness. They are the most joyful people I’ve ever known. It just so happens (yes, randomly), we have the same last name. And I do consider them family.
* * *
HOWARD FINSTER’S PARADISE GARDEN - SUMMERVILLE, GEORGIA
My journal entries from my visit are a complete mess because in I know in my mind at the time it seemed to me to be a place that perfectly put its pulse on all of what I love about America and much of what is wrong with it;
felt a little like a Djuna Barnes mix tape in that the seemingly different pieces come together slowly until it all makes sense (well for me - I don’t know if that really makes sense);
a religiosity steeped in a man’s unwavering conviction in his own beliefs informed in some ways by his attitude toward our culture, politics, personalities perhaps. I’m not sure that’s right. I still don’t know what to think about it all, other than it was strange and beautiful and how it’s important to take the convictions of others seriously, even if they aren’t in line with my own (or infringe on them).
Editor’s note: Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden is located at 200 North Lewis Street in Summerville, Georgia. Open Tues-Sat, 11am-5pm; Sun 1-5pm.
* * *
Jon Creamer is a teacher and photographer, currently on sabbatical from the Groton School in Groton, MA, based in Providence, RI between his travels. More of his work can be seen at his website and on tumblr at years-of-indiscretion.tumblr.com.
SAN FERMIN IN NUEVA ORLEANS & BASTILLE DAY - NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
The “pope” stands high above the crowd on his scaffolding while explaining this is not just an imitation of El Encierro from Pamplona, Spain, but a “protest against normalcy.” At 8am sharp, the bulls are unleashed upon the city of New Orleans. The bulls are powerful women from area roller derby teams. Their attire ranges from papier-mâché bull heads to giant bull nose rings in septum piercings and fishnets to horns that extend five feet in either direction.
A horn blows and they are out. Their giant plastic bats pulsate, thwapping the streets of the Central Business District. Then thousands of runners—most of whom have had at least one sangria despite the early hour—rush by, trying to pass the bulls without getting their bottoms spanked.
As the blocks roll by, the excitement builds. People are sprinting, bulls are stopping to set up makeshift road blocks. A referee tells the women to keep rolling. Some runners pass triumphantly, only feeling the swoosh of air as the bat narrowly misses, and others yelp as the bat makes contact. One young girl cries in horror out after getting swatted repeatedly, “I’m already out! I’m done!” A man in a long flowing cape nearly tumbles, taken aback from the harder-than-anticipated hit. Another man gets tapped and instinctively puts back his hand, grabs and runs away with the bat. A group of bulls notice this and maneuver flawlessly to trap him, grab the bat and return it to its rightful owner without missing a beat.
The flurry of activity ends as quickly as it came. The rest of the day sees people spread throughout the city in traditional red and white garb.
Fittingly, as the city of New Orleans went back and forth from the French and Spanish at its beginning, ooh la las replace ole’s on the Spanish Plaza in the afternoon to celebrate Bastille Day. There are mimes and Napoleons, and a dog costume contest with awards for “most French looking” and “most Jules Verne themed.” One of the French judges, famous for having her New Orleans apartment filled with tributes to champagne, brings her own dog decked out in red, blue, and white.
On Sunday, one of the favorite events is the waiter’s race. Men and women who bartend and wait in the city must carry a tray topped with a famous Sazerac cocktail, two croissants and more, while walking—never running—as fast as they can down four blocks in the French Quarter. A band leads the way while little French cars are parked along the route.
The festivities come to a close Monday as the Joan of Arc statue gets her wreath. And as this is New Orleans, despite the heat and humidity, one only has to wait a moment for the next festival to begin.
* * *
Tammy Mercure is a State Guide to Tennessee and co-editor of THE AMERICAN GUIDE. A photographer living in Bristol, Tennessee, she enjoys photographing just about any event that includes loud noises and fast moving things. She was recently named one of the “100 under 100: The New Superstars of Southern Art” by Oxford American magazine. Follow her on Tumblr or on her website, TammyMercure.com.
TORREYA TAXIFOLA - NORTH FLORIDA
Left from Rock Bluff on a dirt road to TORREYA STATE PARK, 15.5 m. on the Apalachicola River. This 520-acre park was named for the evergreen Torreya taxifola, rarest species of the genus Torreya, found here and for 10 miles south along the eastern bank of the river. Because of the unpleasant odor when bruised, the tree is known as ‘stinking cedar.’ Two other varieties grow in Japan and California, but both differ in size, leaves and color of fruit from the Florida tree, which rises in pyramidal form to a height of 40 feet.
—Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State (WPA, 1939) [Find it at a library near you.]
Torreya State Park is about an hour west of Tallahassee, the state’s capital in northwest Florida, where I currently live. The park opened in 1935, a project of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal, public work relief program. Its namesake, the Torreya taxifolia, or “gopher wood,” is a small coniferous tree that is currently listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN). The numbers are staggering: “Before the start of the decline in the early 1950s, the population was estimated to have been more than 600,000 […] The current population is estimated to be between 500 and 600 trees.” Efforts to preserve and maintain the tree range from academic studies from conservation biologists [PDF] to a citizen biodiversity protection group who are “rewilding” the tree in and around Asheville, NC and other select locations.
The Florida Torreya is one of the many native Florida plants that are indigenous to the Big Bend—one of the the nation’s most biodiverse ecosystems. Many of the indigenous flora and fauna are endangered due to overdevelopment.
Guide Note: This dispatch was inspired by a personal project: an experiential auditory piece meant to invoke the physical and aural sensation of observing the T. taxifolia in its native landscape, the limestone hills of the Apalachicola River Basin, while it slowly disintegrates as a species. The author is collaborating with Josh Mason (Jacksonville) and Michael Diaz (Tallahassee). Photographs by Michael Diaz, images courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory project.
Micah Vandegrift is a Floridian who has not once been to Miami. He fell into academic librarianship after finishing a degree in American and Florida Studies wherein he wrote a thesis on Gainesville’s post-punk music scene. His dream vacation is to take an airboat ride through the Everglades, stop off in Gibsonton, catch a show at Weeki Wachee Springs, camp in the Dry Tortugas National Park, hang out with the bison on Paynes Prairie, catch a flick at the Silver Moon Drive In, walk the trees at the Myakka River Canopy, and finish the trip with an Dipped Cone at Del’s Freez in his hometown of Melbourne, FL. Micah can be discovered all around the web, mostly rousing rabble about librarianship in the digital age. Find him on Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr.
THE APRON MUSEUM - IUKA, MISSISSIPPI
Aprons have always been a backdrop in the culture of the kitchen. Mostly worn by women, aprons have evolved to provide people all over the world with a layer of protection against mess and dirt. Aprons are used in food service, carpentry work, the medical field, hair salons, construction and even mechanical work. There is not much history known about the origin of the apron. Paintings dating back to the 1300s depict women in aprons, but we really don’t know precisely when and where the apron was invented.
Since 2006, Carolyn Terry of Iuka, Mississippi has owned and curated the world’s only apron museum. With over 3,000 aprons, she is proud to explain where some of her most prized collections have come from. Estate sales, donations, and her private collection cover the walls and racks of the right side of the store. On the left side, aprons and vintage collectables are for sale starting as low as $3.00. Each apron has it origin and date received on it for collecting purposes.
Carolyn is most proud of her Claudia McGraw aprons. Claudia, from Black Mountain, North Carolins, had a popular tea room where she hung some of her hand made aprons on the wall. Within hours of hanging them they all sold. She became one of the most popular apron makers in history providing aprons for Greta Garbo, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amy Vanderbilt and many others. (Searching online for a Claudia McGraw biography is not easy.)
What makes the mystery of the apron so interesting is how the information is found only through talking to an apron enthusiast. If you Wikipedia apron you don’t get a historical account, timeline or specifics.
Stories passed down through generations and memories are what we have as origins for this piece of clothing known as an apron.
* * *
Tennessee State Guide Lindsay Scott is an East Nashville based photographer, writer, drinker and ponderer. You can find her on any random night, porch sitting with a side of story telling and a camera in hand. Follow her on Tumblr at lindsayscottphotography.tumblr.com or on her website, lindsayscottphoto.com.
This is, of course, completely due to all our Guides and contributors. They make it a pleasure to open our dashboard every morning and we hope you’re following every one of their own blogs, sites and projects.
This also seems like an opportunity to thank Tumblr’s staff. We are a strange beast - a blend of travel, photography, history and documentary very different than the other publications on the Guardian’s list. We’re able to do what we do in large part because of some awesome folks at Tumblr and the community-driven platform they produce.
RURAL LIFE - ZINE LANDING
The first round of Rural Life deliveries have alit in their respective nests. Do you have your copy?
Order one (or five) today on MagCloud: http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/738776
It’s the very first American Guide zine, curated by Brett Klein, designed by Tammy Mercure, and featuring the work of EE Berger, James Bernal, Mitch Borden, Aaron Canipe, Dan Caruso, Michael Cevoli, Matt Curtis, Breonne DeDecker, Elicia Epstein, Christian Hendricks, Ben Hinceman, Roger May, Noelle McCleaf, Peter Spear, Rob Walters, and Tara Wray.
Images above (and great thanks to!):
Matt Curtis - quietlygoingtopieces.tumblr.com
Christian Hendricks - cargocollective.com/christianhendricks
Roger May - rogermayphotography.com
Battered Shoes - batteredshoes.com
WESTERN PALM BEACH COUNTY - FLORIDA
The western part of this county, it’s not like the east side. The farmland, Everglades, and Lake Okeechobee won’t allow for sprawl; and people, well, they don’t move here. This is still Florida, but there aren’t any beaches. Here, you can watch the sun slide behind the horizon because there’s not much to get in its way. And the nights, they’re quiet like you’d expect. Sure, there’re a few cars on the main road, but most everyone is home by that time.
There’s something ominous about the vast sugar cane fields and small farming towns that make up this part of Palm Beach County: when you’re out here, you feel isolated, but never alone. Conversely, out here there’s hope to be found amongst the land, but maybe more accurately it’s relief—relief that there’s something much bigger than you.
* * *
Brian McSwain was born and raised in New Orleans, but currently resides in South Florida. While a psychology graduate student, he spends the time he should be using to study on photography. Find him on Tumblr at brianmcswainphotographs.tumblr.com, follow him on Instagram and see his work on Flickr.
Right from Florida City on State 205 is ED’S PLACE (10 c.), 1 m., a house of oolitic rock equipped with huge rock furnishings; it has massive chairs weighing from 700 to 1500 pounds, a 3,000 pound rock couch, tables, beds, and rocking chairs. A map of Florida has been hewn from a one-ton slab, in which a punch bowl filled with clear water represents Lake Okeechobee.
- Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State (WPA, 1939)
The Coral Castle is hard to miss. It sits alongside the South Dixie Highway (US Highway 1) in Homestead, Florida, south of Miami. Its thick gray stone walls look almost otherworldly next to the stucco apartment blocks and strip malls that make up the neighborhood.
The Coral Castle is famous, in its way. It has been a backdrop for B movies, and Billy Idol filmed a music video there. A 1981 episode of Rod Serling’s In Search of… sought to explain its construction.
Over the years, people have mythologized Edward Leedskalnin, the eccentric Latvian immigrant who built the place single-handed. The Coral Castle came to seem like a monument to true love, quite possibly constructed with the aid of magic.
The Coral Castle is kind of beautiful. It is a uniquely American place, and its history is fascinating. But it was built without supernatural assistance, and it is a monument to loneliness and obsession rather than romance.
* * *
Amadee Ricketts is an At-Large Guide to the West. She’s worked as a cemetery groundskeeper, a shoeshine valet, and a bill collector. More recently, she’s been a children’s librarian in five states. She takes a lot of pictures and lives near Durango, CO. You can see her photos at textless.tumblr.com.