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Edition #11, July 28, 2005
Of Horns and Headlights
Photographer: Chris Crook
Photo © 2005 by Chris Crook
Of Horns and Headlights
I am a bit of an insomniac, and February 8, 2005 was not much different than most days when I don't get much sleep. After my wife rolled out of bed for her teaching job, I followed her, bleary eyed and crabby. The sun was doing it's best to lighten the eastern sky, despite the solid cloud cover. I knew Ohio Central's local would be out and about, and as the sky lightened it took on a beautiful, pearly blue cast, so I headed out the door.
And I couldn't find him. As I left the house I could hear him blowing for a crossing, so I headed in the general direction of the horns. I drove all over town, as the sky lightened, and a fine mist began to fall. Up Ohio 666 to peer across the Muskingum River to see if he was in the steel mill. Ridge Ave to the glass plant. Back to the yard, west of town to the box plant.
I spent an hour driving around town, hoping to catch him somewhere, anywhere, before the pearly blue sky went gray. And finally I gave up. They sky lost its hue, the rain became steadier and it turned into a generally ugly mid-winter Ohio morning. I went home in disgust, hoping for a nap before heading to work, and as I stepped out of the car, I heard him again. So off I went, across town, retracing my steps to the Owens-Illinois plant, served by a thin tendril of jointed rail that winds along the edge of Zanesville. I caught up to him as he approached the fairgrounds, moving much faster than the CSX crews who had operated the line before OC took over, and I had to hustle to get a shot. Ducking through side streets and lucking out with the stoplights, I slid to a halt in the parking lot of one of six Dollar General stores in town and stepped into the mist. He was in sight down the straight trackage, his headlights volcanic in the gray distance. My camera let forth with its flat chatter.
I looked at my review screen as I got in the car, and was disappointed in the flashing highlights. Damn ditchlights. But as I looked and listened as the train clattered past, I began to warm to the picture. It had been a little bit of adventure on a cloudy day, and the picture had a feel to it. I headed off to work, knowing that the photo I had just made had more soul than anything else likely to come out of my camera that day for my newspaper job, and it wouldn't have to be mutilated by pre-press and squished by newsprint. It wouldn't have to answer to anyone, and could tell its story in blown out headlights, a leaning tree and a cloudy sky.
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