Lee Pitts: Smile
I think I should have lived my life before 1826. That’s the year the first photograph was taken and the only thing I hate worse than Brussell sprouts is having my picture taken.
Of course, it was all my mother’s fault. I don’t why I was the only one of her three offspring born with extremely crooked teeth. And because my old man was an alcoholic we couldn’t afford braces for my teeth because we barely had enough money for distilled spirits. So whenever anyone would try to take a photograph of me I’d either cover my face with a pillow cushion or steal the film and expose it to the light. That’s why a photo of me smiling is more rare than an albino alligator, an honest politician or a happy cow buyer.
You can imagine how terrible it’s been for me to hide my face in a techno-world where cameras hang from every lamp post, potted palms could be taking your mug shot and everyone carries a smart phone capable of exposing my lousy dentition to the world. It doesn’t help that I’m superstitious and believe in the old bromide that says in any photograph of three people the person in the middle will ALWAYS die first.
My fear of photos is only going to get worse. Farmers are urged to film their corn growing 24/7 to be more “transparent” and ranchers are urged to appear on Facebook and You Yube to show what swell people we all are. I don’t know about you but I live in constant fear of being seen picking my nose in public or of failing to remember to shut off the camera prior to a “bio-break.
Famous old world artists used to cover their masterpieces with canvas until they were finished painting or sculpting lest they be judged prematurely. These days we are afforded no such luxury. Viewers and consumers want to see every stroke and if the artist, or the farmer, or the rancher, isn’t careful their career could be cut short. I’ll give you a good example.
A friend of mine we’ll call Joe used to judge a lot of cattle shows all over the world. When it comes to judging cattle, Joe is world class. He’s criss-crossed the country so many times to judge shows he gets upgraded to first class seats by all the major airlines. You’ve seen the upper half of Joe’s body behind a Grand Champion in photos in every livestock periodical in the country. But six months ago Joe’s invitations to judge cattle shows suddenly stopped as if someone turned off a faucet. And worst of all, Joe didn’t know why! So Joe put his bright and computer-savvy young daughter who knows all the ins-and-outs of the social media scene to see if there was something Joe had done, or said, that made him suddenly as popular as sushi at a state cattlemen’s barbecue. It didn’t take her long to find the problem.
Most all rural people realize that the 4-H has a wonderful program in which 4-H members are used to help develop seeing-eye dogs. Mind you, it’s important that these dogs not become trick-dogs or pets. There are tough standards as to how the dogs should be raised so that they’ll be ready for advanced training. Joe’s daughter just so happened to raise one of these potential seeing eye dogs and competed with her dog at the county fair level and she did very well. After Joe’s daughter was finished showing her dog she asked Joe to hold her dog by its leash while she used the restroom.
A disgruntled young cattle showman who was mad at Joe for placing her steer at the bottom of its class earlier in the day just so happened to see Joe holding the dog and she had her camera locked and loaded. Seconds later a photo of the formerly famous cattle judge was seen on screens around the world holding the leash of a German Shepherd with it’s green vest on that identified it as a “Guide Dog For The Blind.”
And shortly thereafter, in homes across the country, junior livestock exhibitors were showing that photo to their parents and saying, “See, I told you he was blind.”
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The thing I miss most from my childhood is raising steers for the fair. I’ve never found any activity since that provided the same competitiveness, camaraderie, financial reward, fun or friendship. And when I say…