The Red Bunkhouse

The Red Bunkhouse

The Red Bunkhouse

I have always thought of this image as the First Great Image I ever shot.  This is my first real Story in an Image and it is the only image of mine that hangs in my home.
I’ve always loved to take pictures. As a kid, I took a “disc camera” everywhere I went and had stacks of those wagon wheel like film cartridges everywhere. Through college, my cheesy little point and shoot went everywhere with me (no cell phones back then!), but really, what’s a girl going to do with a million drunken college pictures?  It ’t until I graduated from college, scraped together the money for a nice Canon 35 mm, and moved to Europe that I took any pictures that someone might possibly want to see. That said, it was probably 10 years of practicing on all sorts of subjects before I finally started taking any pictures that inspired the emotions of someone besides myself.
This “Bunkhouse” photo was taken in 2007 on our way home from a day in the mountains after dragging our two small kids up and down the bunny slope at Dodge Ridge. Tired and hungry and tied down in car seats, this was just the beginning of my family’s development of tolerance and patience for my desire to stop in rogue places at random times to capture some image that I thought I couldn’t live without. Sometimes the stops are worth our time, sometimes the stops are colorless over or under exposed failures, but this picture was just the beginning of what has become more than a hobby but a real passion. With my husband Dave and two very small, tired and hungry children waiting in the car, I jogged up and down the highway, snapping from this angle and that, waiting for the setting sun to drop below the clouds so that I could get what I wanted. I think that after 15 years of clicking endless rolls of crappy pictures, this was my very first great image, and 10 years after taking it, it is still one of my very favorites.
The Bunkhouse has hung matted and framed in my family room for 10 years now and I can still lay on the sofa and look it and contemplate it and love it. Sometimes it feels lonely to me and other times serene. Sometimes I find comfort in the tradition of the lifestyle that it represents and other times it feels almost isolating in its remoteness. The soft colors of the skyline are soothing, while the dark red wood planking seems wiser than I in its age and history, making me feel small and humble. I like to imagine the rough man hands that wielded the hammer that pounded the nails that attached the door and the trim, or the prairie wife that chose the color, or the endless cattle that have passed under the windmill that at one time drew their water from the ground. I think about the windows and how at some point they were probably a source of great pride as their shiny new surface reflected the rising sun, but how they now let in the wind and the water, dulled by years of weather. I picture ranch hands exiting its little door as they headed out for an honest day’s work fixing fence or doctoring cattle or pulling calves and the old dogs that surly waited patiently in the yard to be given a job to do. How many times has the sun risen and set on the little Bunkhouse? How many years of good grass and droughts and monsoons and plights and disease and calves and generations of land owners has it seen? How many coats of paint have been applied to the little building over the years and how many revolutions have the blades of this windmill turned as it drug water from the ground? And now? Does it sit alone on its knoll in the grass, abandoned and alone, stoically harboring a hundred years of stories or is there someone out there who loves it and appreciates it and reveres it? Are there pictures of this little red building in a shoebox is someone’s attic or basement? Was it a backdrop for family photos or does sit quietly in old black and whites taken by land surveyors or property owners? In the end, it all might be just a fairytale, but it is my fairytale and I love it. People always tell me that it looks like a painting….that it doesn’t look real….that it is a fantasy. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, but after all these years, I still love this image of the little Red Bunkhouse the most…..and the little fantasy that it has created for me. This is what I love about taking pictures…crafting images that inspire stories and emotions, affecting the way people feel and encouraging them to search for and recognize the moments, sometimes fleeting, that make them happy and grateful to be alive.