“Red barn on Maddux Ridge” by Robin Conover Canon 5D Mark IV EF 24-70mm at 28mm, 2.8 L lens ISO 200, fl22 at 1/50th sec., handheld
Working with electric cooperatives for more than 34 years, it has become second nature to watch the weather closely, especially as winter storms approach. Snow can quickly turn the Tennessee landscape into idyllic winter scenes, everything covered in a soft white blanket. Ice, on the other hand, can turn those scenes into dangerous situations, bringing down trees and power lines and causing power outages.
This February, a storm hit the Cumberland Plateau particularly hard. I joined Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation crews as they began to repair broken utility poles and lines near Cookeville. Electric co-op crews volunteered from across Tennessee to help work the long, cold days, restoring electricity as quickly and safely as possible. Following crews along Maddux Ridge Road, we came upon a farm near the end of the rural route. I smiled and laughed under my breath when I saw the red barn.
My first photography instructor, you see, strongly discouraged our class from ever entering photographs of red barns or cats for any critiques in his classes. I suppose he had seen way too many of them in his time. So, of course, it has become a mission of mine to document both subjects often.
This classic Tennessee scene combined a beautiful red barn, winter weather and a curving, one-lane farm road. What made it unique and important to me was the sign I saw on a small shed nearby chronicling a bit of the farm’s history.
“This shed was built in 1886 by Uncle Jack Maddux. For his labor he charged two bred gilts (young female pigs). It was re-modeled by Bill Marlow and Laurance April 1987.”
History and its participants are often lost as generations pass. Stories become less accurate or are forgotten as memories fade. To me, this simple sign saved at least one of those stories. I connected with the scene a bit more.
Technology makes it easy to record any event in photographs, audio or video, so family histories shouldn’t be lost anymore. Capturing some of your own history from family elders this holiday season might be one of the best gifts you can give yourself — and leave for future generations.