My Arkansas Hills

Charlie

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Resident of the Old Folk’s Home in Hot Springs, Arkansas, owned & operated by my two spinster aunts. That was a long, long time ago. The home was a marvelous place with transomed doorways, sculpted carpet and ceilings so high they might have touched the clouds some days. How Ruth and Iva managed to acquire a nursing home I will never know, but own it they did. For me it was a place of happiness – strange, old and full of people with stories to tell.

Ruth and Iva lived in a home in the country outside Hot Springs. There was nothing out that way except them and the hills. We visited often. On the far outskirts of town, right where a  narrow country lane split off the main road and veered up into the hills, stood a little candy shop, quaint and all alone. Of course, mom and dad, being good parents, understood the value of traditions. And that little candy shop was one we always observed. Then, onward the eight short miles between sweet tradition and final destination. Eight infinite miles that seemed never to end in the mind of a little boy.

Deeply wooded granite hills crept down toward the tiny, worn lane, hiding what lay ahead. But suddenly the hills would fall away and a clearing would appear on the left. There stood an old two story mansion, plain and pragmatic but fronted by a grand porch, deep and wide and high above the ground.

The porch looked out upon a much larger clearing across the road. I didn’t explore it much – it was full of brambles and chiggers. But in the fall we would hazard those dangers to gather bucketfuls of dewberries that later would become the most heavenly of pies. Bite. Squish. Intense flavor exploding sweet and tart all at once from our hard earned bounty. Heaven!

But the hills were my cherished domain. They might have been towering mountains, once, but if they ever were, time certainly had reduced them to child’s play, blunting their crags and mythologizing the majesties that might have been.

And play on them I did! Those were safe times and I roamed the hills unfettered and without fear under the oaks. I never saw another soul up there. Sometimes my aunts and my mom and dad would join me, but most times I ruled the hills alone with Tippy.

Tippy was a shaggy, black and white mutt who belonged to Ruth and Iva. She was my best friend and we were champion trailblazers. We knew every stone and tree.

Of course, even explorers have chores. So after breakfast I would exit the back door of the kitchen and visit the stone cellar dug into the hill immediately behind the house. Hens roosted in there and laid eggs in boxes – big brown eggs that I would gather in a basket for my aunts. Breakfast for tomorrow! Then back to feed the chickens.

All my chores done, Tippy and I would head across the lawn to the back corner of the clearing, leap the rill and follow the gully up into our kingdom. And when we were done, thoughts of dewberry pie would carry us home…

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My Heart Leaps up

Charlie, poetry

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I have been looking back at Dad’s photographs. I remember wondering, as a child, how long a lifetime really is and it seemed to me then as though it must be something on the order of infinity. Now I’ve lived much of life and the years have passed so quickly. It is not so infinite after all…

“My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.”

William Wordsworth

Curiosity Is a Marvelous Thing

Charlie, northern exposures
buckner orphanage, dallas, circa 1968, by charles schuler

buckner orphanage, dallas, circa 1968, by charles schuler

Here it is nearly Christmas and I’m showing you pictures of worms, summertime and ancient history! Well, there isn’t much light our and about here these days, but school is out and I’ll be in Fairbanks for a few days. I’ll do my best to get out and make the most of what little daylight we have. Remember, Dec 21 is the shortest day of the year, unless you are in the southern hemisphere, of course!

With Grace and Dignity For All

Charlie
arkansas old folk's home circa 1955 - by charlie schuler

arkansas old folk’s home circa 1955 – by charlie schuler

There was grace and dignity for every soul in Dad’s world. Look at how this lady in her pretty dress is a bright spot in the plainness around her. Dad would have told you that the real beauty in this picture is the old woman’s spirit.

The moment he turned his camera on you, you became an important part of his world. His photographs weren’t just images, they were remembrances of the people who had touched his life.

More than once he photographed some farmer or rancher in his travels, and later journeyed back hundreds of miles to see them again and give them a print. Sometimes he found them, other times they had moved onward, never to be found again.

A Light In the Bend

Charlie
The Rio Grande River, looking from Mexico into Texas

looking across Rio Bravo, from Mexico into Texas

Rio Bravo. It is known as Rio Grande in the USA. I prefer the Spanish. As a boy, I stood on the far bank chucking rocks into Mexico and wondering how the English managed to give this diminutive river such a name. It didn’t look very grand to me. Of course, as a boy I had no idea that it is a magnificent drainage system with headwaters in Colorado. And now, all grown up, I understand how powerful a river can be, separating nations and cultures and economies.

Boquillas Del Carmen, Mexico, circa 1980

La Villa de Boquillas del Carmen, Mexico, circa 1980

Boquillas del Carmen, Mexico. I traveled here with dad several times and I believe it was one of his favorite places. My brother Mark lives just across the river and he, too, visits Boquillas often. He told me that it has only this year acquired electricity.

A las familias de la villa de Boquillas del Carmen, felicidades y salud!

Borderlands

Charlie, northern exposures

Dad loved landscapes and believed the best ones showed some touch of mankind. “God made the earth for man,” he would say, “so a nature photograph that doesn’t show the hand of man is like a half empty cup.”

While he did not consider himself a portrait photographer, his portraits seem remarkably honest and revelatory to me. His subjects were often strangers to him and many times they did not even speak his language. Yet somehow he disarmed them and they stood there before him willing and transparent. Nobody could pretend before his lens; nobody wanted to.