Boy, dog and mackerel

My father claimed that he had no talents whatsoever. He was just an engineer. He made that claim as if having talent was a bad thing, which is odd considering the fact that his grandfather was a photographer of note in the Dakota Territory (late 1880s).  A fact I did not discover until after my father’s death. 

Unfortunately Great Grandpa Flaten died young and his widow married a judge.  A very practical, no-nonsense judge. Grief takes people in strange directions, or in my great grandmother’s case, toward comfort and solace. I suppose that’s when talent got a bad rep.

My grandmother as captured by her father

Although he claimed to have none of his grandfather’s talent, I remember a time when my father turned one of our bathrooms into a dark room. He covered the one window with black sheets of paper, laid out pans of solution on the vanity and used the shower curtain as a drying rack for his photos. He owned other cameras but a Brownie like this one was his favorite.

The following pictures were taken with the Brownie. They’re not in very good shape but I love the way he caught light and shadow.  

My brother and me

He also had a good sense of timing.

Look at the happiness on my brother’s face

Or here … a rapturous moment. Boy, dog and mackerel (at least I think it’s a mackerel).

And he had a way of predicting the future. This picture of me at age one … after taking a tumble down the stairs and banging my head … is exactly what I look like now decades later.

How did he do it? My wardrobe hasn’t even changed! Unfortunately the dark room was disassembled when he left us in Reno to get a PhD. Thereafter he seemed to lose interest.

More of grandmother … nice to think she was at one time happy!

I’m waiting on news of a friend which I fear has little chance of being good. But the Red Quill continues to grow. It’s now up to my knees. Time to order seeds. I need to see other signs of life rise from the ground.

What will you be planting this year? I’m thinking Shasta Daisies and ornamental grasses.

42 thoughts on “Boy, dog and mackerel

  1. Another great post.  .   John and I have started downsizing/reorganization projects.  Two days ago we cleared 17 ”packed to the brim’ crates out of one corner of John’s office.  Many of the crates are from cleaning out his work office.  It will take weeks to sort/toss/donate.  So many momentos; hundreds of tchotchkes!  Books!   I am attacking the filing cabinet.  Made it through letter G.  Tomorrow’s “H” files are 12 inches thick with household receipts/warranties/etc.    After the filing cabinet I will hit the safe which is full of important documents with absolutely no organization whatsoever. Then there is the garage.  Found four crates of fabric I forgot I had!   Underlying all the activity/whirling is knowing Carol would be making contact if she could.    Still reeling with the loss of Nancy…

  2. Oh, an interesting post JT. Hmmm, are you sure your wardrobe hasn’t changed.
    Adore the history within, and the photos. This is really great, thank you!

      1. Yeah… one of the sleeves in one of my shirts isn’t a sleeve anymore. It’s an arm cape. I should copyright it!

  3. I love this post, Jan. And the pictures. The photography stuff I relate to a lot–my dad had a Brownie as well–I think it’s somewhere in my attic now–as well as a darkroom in the house where I grew up, and a bunch of other cameras. He loved photography, as well as ham radio and flying small airplanes. Reading your post made me think of him and smile.

  4. oh you are so funny to say your wardrobe looks like it did at one and that you also do
    and that was a big knot on the head

    and JT – the carriage was one artsy amazing gilded kind of carriage!

      1. seeing the old photos – reminds me again how I can take so many photos to get a dog and smiling child – but your dada had to really have good timing

  5. Hi Jan,

    The older one gets, the more one likes the old days. We have little choice in the matter, since with every passing day we add another old day to the count. Maybe we should start listing the kinds of old days. We could start with 1) Old Days, 2) Really Old Days, 3) Ancient Italian Marble Days, 4) Pre-Historic Dirt Days, 5) Grunting Days, 6) Hiding in Tree Days, and finally, 7) Voided Ticket Days (don’t worry about it, just keep moving and stay invisible). The last one would be without any sort of internet access or virtual heartbreak. Good luck. Nice post and photos. Why do I always think I’m in those photos? Love. Duke

  6. I remember my father having a box camera similar to the one in this post, Jan. And it brings back memories of him teaching me how to use it. If I recall correctly, images appeared upside down in the lens. Somewhere, there are some photos taken with that camera.

  7. Another well-written essay, Jan, on life and all its curious pockets. I really enjoyed the photos a lot, and the stories of your father and his artful talents (even though he thought of himself as talentless), your grandmother, the background, and the quill. I send you my warmest wishes for this difficult time, waiting for the news of your friend. Keep up the art and your poignant thoughts, my friend, your talent is a special prize.

    1. Unfortunately the news was not good but it wasn’t a surprise. At least my friend was able to get her book out before she passed. I think that made her happy.

  8. I’m pretty sure that’s a salmon. Large size, wide girth, squarish tail, hooked lower jaw.
    Sepia is such a dramatic tone effect. Add a whole new emotional dimension.

  9. Can’t go wrong with Shasta daisies and ornamental grasses — I have both and want MORE!
    That’s really neat, to see the photos from your father’s Brownie. I have a bunch my father took of me in early childhood, and I am almost always wearing a white sweater, which is still my go-to wardrobe item, lol!

  10. I am so sorry to hear about your friend’s passing, Jan.
    Your father’s pictures are adorable. He had a great eye for portrait photography.

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