Archive for ‘David’s Travels’ category

Heartland 4 – Nebraska – Little Ruins on the Prairie

July 19th, 2016

A Drive Through The Heartland 4

Nebraska – Little Ruins on the Prairie

Midwestern Stories of Rust, Decay, Blight and Collapse

Keith Round Barn Under Tornado Sky, North Platte, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Keith Round Barn Under Tornado Sky, North Platte, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click image to see larger.)

(Continued from the blog post, “Heartland 3 – Starke Round Barn, Red Cloud, Nebraska.“)

European settlers continued to pour into New England, Southern and newer states in the young American republic in the 1800s. German and Scandinavian farmers from Pennsylvania preceded most other original colonial states in the move to the first frontier, which we now know as the Midwest. They bumped west in wagons, by horse and later by train in search of good farming land.

Good farmland they found in the Midwest, with plenty of rain and the ideal climate for a plentiful yield, despite cold unproductive winters. The soil was also rich West of the Mississippi, but when the woodland and grassy fields gave way to dry grass and sage prairie West of the 100th Meridian in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas and Eastern Colorado, the rain ran out. The rain ran out in fact, but not in wishful thinking. Land boosters successfully sold potential new homesteaders on the confabulation that rain follows the plow. Miraculously, it did for almost half a century, a period later discovered to have been abnormally wet.

Interior, Burned House, Franklin, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Interior, Burned House, Franklin, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click image to see larger.)

This century the water chickens have come home to roost. Water is growing scarcer and scarcer in the most westerly portions of the Midwest. Changes in farming technology have also taken a toll on the small farmer. With the rise of big, centralized agriculture, small rural farming towns are losing population all over the country. This affects even more communities in the Midwest because of the proportionally larger number of towns supported by farming.

We have all seen in the national media about urban blight in Detroit, Chicago and other Rust Belt cities, but decay is rampant in urban areas nationwide, as well as in rural areas and small towns in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Indiana and Nebraska. Those last two states: Indiana and Nebraska suffered most in the Midwest. Both states are full of boarded up small towns, abandoned farms and even whole villages that no longer exist, as in no buildings and little sign of occupation on the land. This trend has been under way for 30 or even 50 years, but has been most acute in the last 10.

Defunct Texaco Service Station, Riverton, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Defunct Texaco Service Station, Riverton, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click image to see larger.)

In the town of North Platte, Nebraska I first noticed the trend most. According to the National Register of Historic Places and several other guidebooks, at least four round barns supposedly exist in the city of North Platte. Interstate 80 runs through the newer part of North Platte, the Union Pacific Railroad runs through the older part of town and the entire city is situated between the South Platte and North Platte Rivers near the confluence. Despite its location on the traffic lanes from several eras, in the west-central part of Nebraska and the west-central part of the U.S., North Platte has at least partially fallen on hard times. Though new buildings are still popping up downtown, older homes and stores farther out are sinking into disrepair and falling down.

Abandoned Buildings and Pepsi Vending Machine, Inavale, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Abandoned Buildings and Pepsi Vending Machine, Inavale, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click image to see larger.)

Out of the four round barns in the city of 25,000 population, only one still stood when I was there in 2015: The Keith Round Barn. It was overgrown with dark windows blocked or boarded up from inside and a roof with sections open to the sky. I could not approach the barn or get within 50 yards of it because it stood in back of a farmhouse in the process of being rebuilt, with a cable that blocked the only open space passage to the barn.

Occasional tornadoes and the regular blasting wind, extreme winters and broiling-humid summers wreak great havoc on houses and farm structures, especially on roofs in the Midwest. Many other towns had receded much more than North Platte. The smaller towns in the south-central part of Nebraska such as Macon, Franklin, Riverton, Inavale and others were either partially or almost completely abandoned. In Franklin I stopped to photograph a home that had burned several years before, but remained standing in its burned out state.

Abandoned Farm Near Fairbury, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Abandoned Farm Near Fairbury, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click image to see larger.)

The towns of Riverton and Inavale were particularly hard hit by changes in farm sizes, methods and fortunes that have contributed to bleak periods in the local economy. Farther east on US Highway 136, not far from Fairbury, I found an entire farm abandoned. The barn hung by two walls as the other two walls were about to fall, the windmill spun in the wind drawing no water, the outbuildings were gloomy, dark and rotting into the ground, the main farm house with the roof nearly collapsed had one wing crushed to the ground and everything had been overgrown with hemp, kudzu, tall grass and willows. The only living beings still around were grazing cows and one bull that I had a standoff with I will share later. Even Beatrice, Nebraska, which for the most part was well painted and in good repair, when I was there included many boarded up homes and businesses.

Northwest Perspective, Western Barn With Sheds, Abandoned Barn Near Fairbury, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Northwest Perspective, Western Barn With Sheds, Abandoned Barn Near Fairbury, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click image to see larger.)

Any country is only as strong as its heart. If this view of the Heartland is any indication, our society is in deep trouble. Yet, I also found much reason for hope in the Heartland. Detroit and other rustbelt cities are rebounding, each at a different pace. Detroit is not only rebuilding its auto industry, it is also diversifying industries. Artists have taken to inhabiting and painting up inexpensive neighborhoods and currently the Motor City pulses with an art renaissance. More on Detroit in future blog posts in this series and in my nonfiction book-length narrative with working title, “A Drive Through The Heartland.”

(Continued in the next blog post, “Heartland 5 – Elijah Filey – Barn Builder, Mason and Founder of Filey, Nebraska.”)

Heartland 3 – Starke Round Barn, Red Cloud, Nebraska

October 9th, 2015

Risk and Ruin at the Starke Round Barn, Red Cloud, Webster County, Nebraska

A Drive Through The Heartland, Part Three

Front Entrance and Second Floor of the Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde. (Click image to see larger.)

Front Entrance and Second Floor of the Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde, 2015. (Click image to see larger.)

(Continued from the blog post, “A Drive Through The Heartland 2.”)

Largest of It’s Type in the World

For their time, for any time, many Midwest barns were engineering marvels, especially the large round barns. Round barns do not have any European antecedents like other barn designs. They are entirely an American creation and an important part of American architectural history. Round barns are also the most rare. Less than one fifth of one percent of all barns in the US are round barns.

One of the most impressive designs and largest in the world of its type, the Starke Round Barn near Red Cloud, Nebraska holds together without any nails or pegs, entirely by the weight and balance of the building and the beams of the structure. However, the design of the Starke Round Barn is not the only interesting aspect of its history.

Conrad Starke and Sons Amassed a Fortune in Milwaukee

Interior of Second or Main Floor and Inner Silo, Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Interior of Second or Main Floor and Inner Silo, Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde, 2015. (Click on image to see large.)

The Starke Round Barn story rises and falls with the fortunes of the owners. The builders of the Starke Round Barn, the four Starke brothers, came to Nebraska from Milwaukee, Wisconsin just after the turn of the century. The Starke family had been in engineering and building for many years, constructing ships on the Great Lakes.

Starke family members at the time were known to have attended elite Milwaukee society parties, having amassed a fortune and political influence through various enterprises. They owned shipping companies, tugboat lines and other businesses on Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes.

The Starke Round Barn Historic Site explains that around 1880, Conrad Starke, Sr. and his wife Veronica purchased 400 acres of land in Webster County, Nebraska in the Republican River Valley near what is now Red Cloud. Veronica’s brothers, Gottleib and John Christian Rasser had homesteaded in the area in 1870 after serving in the Civil War.

Old Farm Equipment Inside Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Old Farm Equipment Inside Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde, 2015. (Click on image to see large.)

Conrad Jr., Ernest, Bill and Christopher Starke Build An Engineering Marvel Round Barn

Still living in Milwaukee in 1902, Conrad Starke Sr., the mastermind behind the greatest portion of the Starke fortune, gave his four sons Conrad, Ernest, Bill and Christopher funding and supplies to go to Nebraska to live at the Starke property near Red Cloud. In addition to other building materials for a barn and other projects, the Starkes shipped gigantic 12” by 12” timbers from the Great Lakes to Nebraska. The Starke Round Barn took the Starke brothers two years to complete.

As the Starke brothers erected the barn, they did not use nails or pegs like other barns of the time. The citation for the Starke Round Barn in the National Register of Historic Places describes the construction and how the building holds together through tension, weight and balance:

The Starke barn is not polyhedronal, a type more common in Nebraska, but a true round barn. It is three stories tall and 130 feet in diameter. The central silo, of brick and mortar construction, is 28 feet in diameter and 65 feet in height, with a total volume of 40,000 cubic feet. The roof is a gable and of low pitch, required by the barn’s great circumference. The construction method is a combination of balloon framing and heavy timber supports. The entire three level vertical and horizontal support frame is of massive 12 X 12 timbers, which are held together by compressive and balancing tensile forces rather than by nails or pegs, which would be useless as fasteners under the thousands of tons the building was designed to hold. The barn was originally covered with horizontal siding. In the early 1960s, the original wood siding was covered over with corrugated iron sheets… With the exception of this minor alteration, the barn still stands today virtually unaltered since its construction.

Back Downhill Side of the Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde 2015. (Click image to see large.)

Back Downhill Side of the Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde, 2015. (Click image to see large.)

With the full three stories, the barn contains over 40,000 square feet of floor space. Other large round barns may have one level that is larger in diameter, but other levels are smaller. This is the case with the Central Wisconsin State Fairgrounds Round Barn in Marshfield, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin State Fairgrounds Barn is considered the largest round barn in the US.

The Thriving Starke Dairy Farm

The Starke Round Barn with extensive room on all three floors, originally supported a large dairy operation. The third top level, or loft, provided hay storage. The middle second floor, accessed directly from the front of the barn with a triple-wide driveway and doors, housed farm machinery, wagons, buggies and other conveyances, tools and equipment. The bottom ground floor stabled horses in one section and cows in another. Nearly half of the bottom floor extended into the hillside, while the remaining majority of the ground floor had windows around it. The milking area was on the window side of the basement floor. There were also windows on the main second floor originally, but many of these were covered in 1960 when the metal siding was installed.

Milking Area, Interior, First Floor or Basement, Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde, 2015. (Click image to see large.)

Milking Area, Interior, First Floor or Basement, Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde, 2015. (Click image to see large.)

The Starke brothers enjoyed a successful farm for nearly 20 years. However, they also overspent on farm supplies, luxuries and lavish parties. Novelist Willa Cather may have attended one of the parties, speculated the current owner of the Starke Round Barn, Liz Rasser, a relative of the Starkes, in Nebraska Rural Living. Red Cloud was the childhood home of Willa Cather. In one of Willa Cather’s short stories, “The Bohemian Girl,” the main character attended a barn dance to celebrate the completion of the largest barn in the state. Willa Cather’s father, Charles, who owned a real estate, insurance and loan office in Red Cloud, signed some of the surviving historic papers of the Starke barn. The Starke brothers were popular in the area and known by most.

“Everyone wanted to come out and work for them because they would just go sit under a shade tree and drink out of a cider jug all afternoon,” Rasser said. In 1915, the Starke brothers started the dairy operation, with approximately 75 stanchions for milking on the lower level of the barn. In 1922, the Starkes had Nebraska’s best producing cow for milk and butter.

Tools, Chair, Window, Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde, 2015.

Tools, Chair, Window, Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde, 2015. (Click image to see large.)

The barn has made it through two tornadoes and been missed by nearby fires, but tragedy struck the Starke brothers when their dairy herd contracted tuberculosis and nearly all died in the early 1920s. Debts had been mounting. Two of the Starke brothers left town and both died of heart attacks. The remaining two brothers moved to town, but lost the barn and the whole farm to a foreclosure sale on the steps of the Webster County Courthouse in 1929.

Walter and Will Rasser, nephews of Conrad Sr. and Veronica Rasser Starke, purchased the Starke farm in fateful 1929. Percy, Liz and son Cal, the current owners, are descendent from the original Rassers who bought the farm. The Rassers today give tours of the barn and hold special events and historical activities on the grounds.

The Rassers are actively raising funds to further restore the barn. Through various grants they were able to replace the gigantic roof and more maintenance is needed. To donate or get involved with the Starke Round Barn go to The Starke Round Barn Historic Site.

(Continued in the next blog post in the series, “Heartland 4 – Nebraska – Little Ruins on the Prairie.”)

Additional References:

Starke Round Barn Family History

Visit Nebraska: Starke Round Barn

Red Cloud Attractions: Starke Round Barn

Heritage Highway, US 136, Pioneer History

Milwaukee Waterways: Conrad Starke

A Drive Through The Heartland 2

September 4th, 2015

A Drive Through The Heartland, Part Two

Transition from West to Midwest

(Continued from the blog post, “A Drive Through The Heartland 1.”)

What I Have Found…

Horst Barn With Cumulus Clouds, Potter, Nebraska copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. This is a Western style barn in Western Nebraska. More round barns occur in Eastern Nebraska.

Horst Barn With Cumulus Clouds, Potter, Nebraska copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. This is a Western style barn in Western Nebraska. More round barns occur in Eastern Nebraska. (Click on image to see large.)

Along the way, on this journey through the Heartland of America, I have now photographed each subject I suggested in the first blog post in this series, except for waterfalls and a shipwreck. The falls I planned to photograph were in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in Kentucky and in Tennessee. The southern section of my trip through Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas has been postponed due to heat. If I had traveled up into the Michigan Upper Peninsula, as originally outlined, I would have also visited a shipwreck or two.

Nonetheless, cutting out the southern portion and the Michigan U.P. will allow me to get to a bit of Minnesota, photograph the world’s largest round barn in Marshfield, Wisconsin and find the many historically significant barns in the southeastern corner of South Dakota.

In my now nearly 6,000 miles of wandering through California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, I have managed to run across numerous old mills, historic round barns, rectangular barns, multi-sided barns, one tobacco barn, and even a Swedish Gothic Revival style milk barn listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I have photographed gardens, farm animals, birds, people, children, horses, pigs, hogs, cows, goats, chickens, beaches, trees, forests, two county fairs, one covered bridge, plastic animals, stone animals, diners of various ethnicities, ponds, lakes, grasses, cornfields, old farm equipment, fast cars, slow cars, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, abandoned homes, barns and whole farms, renovated homes and barns, relocated barns and the cityscapes of Detroit, living, dying, dead and resuscitating.

How Is The US Doing?

If this trip were like taking the temperature of the country, I would say I have found it very much alive and well in many ways, and deeply sick in others. I have been surprised by the extent of blight, ruin and decay, not just in Detroit or other urban areas, but also in the country, in small towns and large towns. One of the reasons I started photographing barns in the first place is that they are going away, but I have been struck most by how many are going and gone and how fast. Barns are dying, no doubt about it. The whole small-farm way of life is a thing of the past and fading fast in the memory of the aging and dying.

Meanwhile, Topher and Kori’s wedding was an inspiration and party to remember. More on it in blog posts to come in this series. I have learned that love takes on many shapes and forms, unless it does not, as I have had at least three romances on this trip that never became romances… more on them in subsequent posts too.

Round Barns, Multi-Sided Barns, Rectangular Barns, Barns of All Shapes

Elijah Filley Stone Barn and Masonic Temple, Filley, Nebraska, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. Stone barns are far more rare than round barns, except in New England.

Elijah Filley Stone Barn and Masonic Temple, Filley, Nebraska, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. Stone barns are far more rare than round barns, except in New England. (Click on image to see large.)

When I started actually reading the books on barns I bought from Amazon Marketplace, I discovered in A Round Indiana that round barns are extremely rare. Only about 1/5 of one percent of all barns built are round barns. If searching for barns were like playing poker, round barns would be the blue chips.

The author of A Round Indiana, John T. Hanou, wrote that Indiana has more round barns than any other state, but that if as exhaustive a study as he had made were done in Wisconsin, as many or more round barns might be discovered there. Also, there are true round barns and multi-sided barns. I have photographed eight-sided, ten-sided, 12-sided, 14-sided, 16-sided and 18-sided barns.

Western Deserts Give Way to Midwestern Grassland and Prairie

The drive across Nevada and Utah on Interstate 80 goes through some forested high mountain passes, but primarily it runs through a dry, dusty land of the Great Basin and Painted Deserts. Wyoming, along the freeway, is a cross between desert and grassland, a high plateau of boulder dotted baked cattle land. Nebraska feels much like Wyoming, but greener, more like the Midwest. Nebraska hayfields are more productive and plentiful and the woods are more lush and extensive.

The light changes from West to Midwest, generally. Evenings have more glow and afterglow. The light is softer and more diffuse. It is also less harsh and with less contrast, as you travel from West to East. Water becomes more plentiful moving toward the heartland of America. There is more dew, more sweat, more condensation, more mold, more rot, more rust and more and faster decay. Progressing from Nebraska into Iowa and from Iowa into Illinois and Indiana, you find yourself constantly surrounded by lawn mowers and people mowing along the road and around their homes and businesses. The volume of lawns and grass increases as you head east.

Water and Greenery

Fresh Round Hay Bales Near Ogallala, Nebraska, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. A high humidity muggy day in the Midwest. Trees and greenery along the roadside are more lush than Wyoming or other Western states. (Click on image to see large.)

Fresh Round Hay Bales Near Ogallala, Nebraska, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. A high humidity muggy day in the Midwest. Trees and greenery along the roadside are more lush than in Wyoming or other Western states. (Click on image to see large.)

For many generations, ever since we settled California, we have kept up the illusion that California is lush and green like the Midwest or the East. However, California is primarily desert, just like Nevada, Utah and in places if we are lucky, like Wyoming. Nonetheless, we have imported water, especially into Southern California from all over the West, particularly Northern California, where I live, with the idea that we could make Southern California look lush and inviting.

California already has the most interesting terrain, but we wanted it all. We had to have the green too. Now we are paying for this. Now we are rippling out lawns, xeriscaping, reengineering and trying to get back to a more natural version of ourselves because the water chickens have finally come home to roost during the current drought.

Much of the Midwest has been overly wet lately, particularly Michigan, for example. In Michigan and elsewhere in the Midwest, it is still politically ok to run the faucet as long as you like, have a giant lawn and giant lawn mower and the excess just drains away. While California has had the most severe drought in recorded history, bridges are out all over the heartland of America due to torrential rains and flooding over the last few years. The Great Lakes are all at least two to four feet above normal, which is a huge amount of water stored in excess.

Recently while talking to Mark Hursey, the owner of the Smith Round Barn in Ligonier, Indiana, I said, “I didn’t realize you irrigate in the Midwest, but now I see your irrigation ditch.” The watercourse I had noticed was brimming full of water.

“That’s not an irrigation ditch like you have in the West,” Mark Hursey replied. “That’s a drainage ditch. You see that round metal cap in the middle of the field?”

“Yes,” I said.

“That is the well for that field,” He said. “The water from the well covers that field and the excess drains off in the drainage ditch.”

“Because you have had a number of wet years lately, you aren’t drawing down your aquifer like they are in the Great Plains, in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, right?”

“Well, not as much, but we have had problems in the past with drawing the aquifers down in this part of the Midwest too.”

You will read more about Mark and Laura Hursey, their farm and the Smith Round Barn in future blog posts.

Western Barns Versus Midwestern Barns

Large Brick Round Barn Near Conroy, Iowa, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. Round barns are more common in Iowa than in Nebraska, or any Western states. (Click on image to see large.)

Large Brick Round Barn Near Conroy, Iowa, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. Round barns are more common in Iowa than in Nebraska, or any Western states. (Click on image to see large.)

Other differences distinguish West and Midwest. With some regional exceptions, people all over the West are generally friendly to strangers, but Midwesterners are generally more easy going and more apt to help and be generous to strangers. Still, just like rural areas in California, Utah, Nevada or elsewhere in the West, a stranger must be careful when approaching a home in a remote area in the Midwest. Farmers and other rural people can be heavily armed and on some occasions may be dangerous. In blog posts to come I will share stories, one in particular, that scared me out of my Chacos Sandals and gave me cause to rethink how I approach rural requests for photograph permissions.

All types of barns can be found in all regions now, but originally, barn types followed the settlement patterns in different areas of the country by ethnicity. The typical Western barn has a roof that is steeper in the center and then decreases in steepness as it goes out toward the edges, whereas the Midwestern barn is the opposite. The top of the roof is typically less steep and the outer edges are the steepest, as in, what is called the Gambrel roof. Also, Western barns usually have the hay hoist up at the roof peak. Western farmers hoist their hay up to the upper floors on the outside of the barn, then lift it through a large opening up under the eave, protected by an extension of the roof called a hood.

One of the reasons round barns became more popular in the Midwest is that Midwestern farmers generally hoist the hay upstairs after the hay wagon enters the barn. In a round barn the hay wagon and a team of horses has enough room to circle the barn moving forward, without having to get the horses to back up to turn around. In the transition states between West and Midwest, there is a greater mixture of types of barns. The transition from West to Midwest is noticeable in the types of barns. For example, Nebraska has more Western style barns than Iowa, but Iowa has more than Illinois and Indiana and so on from West toward the East. The Midwestern state that feels the most Eastern is Ohio. Ohio transitions from Midwest to East. More typical in the East are stone barns, but stone barns can be found all over the US. More on different types of barns and different ethnicities in different areas in future blog posts.

(Continued in the next blog post in this series, “Heartland 3: Starke Round Barn, Red Cloud, Nebraska.”)

What types of barns are typical where you live?

A Drive Through The Heartland 1

July 23rd, 2015

Journey Into The Heart of America

Old Tractor, Tall Grass Field and Edge of Thundercloud Near Oroville, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

Old Tractor, Tall Grass Field and Edge of Thundercloud Near Oroville, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

When I was a boy, I played in a local barn quite often. Godar’s Barn had a rope swing. Ed Godar smiled and greeted us kids most of the time, but he would get grumpy if he heard us much or if we rough housed. He said to strictly stay off the hay stacked in his barn. However, with the rope swing right there and him not around the barn much, it was extremely tempting to climb way up on the top of the stacked hay and leap off into mid air on the rope swing, which made for a much more exciting ride.

I have always loved barns and started photographing them for no particular reason in 2009. Recently I provided photographs to help in the Feather River Land Trust campaign to raise funds to preserve the Olsen Barn in Chester, California. More on the Olsen Barn in the blog post, “Save The Historic Olsen Barn: Campaign by Feather River Land Trust.”

From Plumas County in the Sierra Nevada of Northeastern California, I branched out and started photographing barns all over California. Recently, because of a wedding in Michigan, I decided to drive to the Midwest and photograph all the famous and historical barns of the Great Plains and Midwest. My journey of 8,000 miles through the Heartland of America: the Midwest and part of the South, United States, will celebrate architecture and land. I plan to photograph historical barns and farms, cityscapes, landscapes, covered bridges, old mills, wildlife refuges, waterfalls, urban blight, rural decay and perhaps even a shipwreck and more, though barns and their culture will be the main focus.

Highway Interchange at Wick's Corners Near Oroville, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

Highway Interchange at Wicks Corners Near Oroville, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

My friend Topher, short for Christopher, instigated this trip. Topher and I have been friends for almost 20 years. We were friends for a number of years in Albuquerque during my 30s when I finally went back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree. After I graduated from UNM, I moved to Massachusetts. Around the same time he moved back to Michigan, from where he came originally.

“I’ve been having a good time in Albuquerque,” Topher said. “But, I’ve been having the same good time in Albuquerque.” He was a traveling bus tour guide not inclined to stay put long. Out of the group of us who hung out together in Albuquerque, Topher was the least likely to get married. It was a fairly wild group. To our surprise, Topher did stay put in Michigan and lo and behold, here 15 years later he called early this year to say he will marry Kori July 30, just before the only blue moon in 2015.

Driving up to the West Coast of Michigan for the wedding will allow me to continue the barn photography project I began in California. I will do a study of the famous round barns of the Midwest, horse barns, feed barns, hay barns, milking barns and the tobacco barns of the South, as well as farm houses and other ranch buildings.

Metal Barn, Corn Field and Water Tank Near Kirkville, California, copyright 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Metal Barn, Corn Field and Water Tank Near Kirkville, California, copyright 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

I will visit many sites I discovered through the National Register of Historic Places. I plan to photograph barns, state capitols and other structures in California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

Thursday, June 16, 2015, with the evening light, my photographic journey to the heartland of the country began in the Great Central Valley, the heart of California, near the small agricultural and lumbering town of Oroville. I saw an old tractor juxtaposed with contemporary billboards in a big open field under a half clear, half stormy sky. Also, I stopped to photograph the barns and the interchange at Wicks Corners where California State Highway 70 and 149 merge. I have wanted to photograph this group of barns on two adjacent ranches for years. A few days later, I photographed metal barns near Knights Landing and Kirkville, California. I also photographed a red barn and white shed near Gridley.

Julie, Her Granddaughter and Her Horse Barn, Wick's Corners Near Oroville, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

Julie, Her Granddaughter and Her Horse Barn, Wicks Corners Near Oroville, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

At Wicks Corners, Julie and her granddaughter came out to say hello and talk for a bit. On her small ranch she previously had many animals, but is now down to one Quarter Horse, six dogs, one cat, four goldfish and one magpie that talks. She raised her two daughters on the ranch and now they bring their granddaughters to visit.

My goal on this journey is not only to photograph barns, but the settings of the barns—the ranches, farms, homesteads, people, animals, freeways, dirt roads, blue highways, back roads and campgrounds. The only thing missing on my travels is that I don’t have a dog named Charley, but you never know what might happen by the time it’s all over. Check back here and stay tuned for more on my adventures. I will post more updates here, at least weekly, hopefully more often and tweet my travel progress from the heartland of California across the deserts of Nevada and Utah, the Rocky Mountains and into the Heartland of America.

Follow my travels on Twitter at @PhilipHydePhoto

(Continued in the blog post, “A Drive Through the Heartland 2.”)

Sierra Eastside Adventures: Bishop, Mono Lake and Bodie

May 14th, 2010

First An Update on Philip Hyde at Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery

By 5 pm Friday, May 7, thanks to hard work by the Mountain Light Gallery staff, the Philip Hyde Exhibition was up. Kevin, the gallery operations manager and I started laying the show out at 7:30 am. The layout went quickly, the hanging took longer, but in one day Kevin and Janet, the framer, put more than 50 large 16X20 matted prints on the wall.

Sierra Wave Cloud, Mono Lake, Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 1967 by Philip Hyde. Nationally toured to major museums, libraries and other venues as part of “At Mono Lake Exhibition” that helped raise awareness that the City of Los Angeles was depleting this one of a kind lake and threatening endagered and unique bird and aquatic species. The people of Los Angeles led the response to the campaign to restore the water supply of Mono Lake. Today the lake is rising steadily toward its historic elevation. Mono Lake is already 12 feet higher than its low point in the early 1980s.

That evening Bishop hosted a local art walk that had not been scheduled when we booked our show. Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery was open and many people coming through could see the prints of Philip Hyde up and getting their final leveling, enough to get interested to return the next night for the opening reception. Galen Rowell’s daughter Nicole Rowell-Ryan and her husband Ray Ryan drove up from the Central Valley and we talked about Galen Rowell and Philip Hyde. As the art walk began, Janet invited me to stop by the Pilates studio where she teaches body work. The Pilates studio had a group playing live music: hammer dulcimer, banjo, guitar, acoustic base and good singers. I told everyone about the Philip Hyde opening the following night. It was heart-warming to find out that many people had heard of Philip Hyde. The banjo player even had a copy of Slickrock at home.

The opening at Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery on Saturday night started out slow, but after about an hour the gallery filled with people. Barbara Laughon, Mountain Light Gallery public relations, said that the turnout was even larger than when they had a contest of photographers from the area and the gallery workshops. I spoke for about 30-40 minutes about Mom and Dad, their travels and the part Dad’s photography played in the establishment of a number of national parks and wilderness areas of the American West. The talk seemed well-received and people stuck around afterward to ask questions and chat. Camille in sales said that she was very busy ringing people up all evening. She said that evening they did not sell any Philip Hyde prints but one had already sold before the prints even made it to the premises.

Night Soft-Focus Industrial Photographs

Night Shadows, County Yard Near Bishop, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Hand held Nikon D90.

By a little before 10:00 pm I said my goodbyes and hit the road. I felt a little sad to be leaving having had an enjoyable time meeting everyone. I drove about an hour up to Mono Lake to catch the sunrise the next morning. On the way up the big grade between Bishop and the Mammoth Lakes turnoff, I spotted the same Mono County Construction Yard I had noticed on the way into town on Thursday night. The steel machinery and industrial forms were interesting lit up at night. I stopped and jumped the fence to make some hand-held-soft-focus-night photographs. Fortunately either the surveillance thought I was harmless or they were not paying attention as I made over 20 images.

Mono Lake Back Roads

I drove through Lee Vining to the Mono Basin National Forest Visitor’s Center to check the hours. It did not open until 9:00 am, which would give me time to photograph in the early morning. I drove back a few miles south of Lee Vining to the turnoff for South Tufa. In the dark I must have missed the turnoff because I drove for many miles until the road entered a woods and was climbing noticeably. Once I turned around, in a few miles I saw Mono Lake Mills historic marker on the right. I pulled off and noticed a small road going down toward Mono Lake. The main road seemed to parallel the lake shore and never get any closer.

At first I thought I would go just a short distance to find a secluded place for the night. However, the road smoothed out and headed straight for the lake shore that I could now see more distinctly in the distance under star light. I drove toward Mono Lake for some time, but then the road veered to the right to parallel the lake shore again. I decided to stop, hit the hay and find out what to do in the morning. The next morning I could see that the road I was on did seem generally to go to the lake even though it jogged back and forth in other directions a few times. The road gradually became alternately rougher and more sandy, it had turned into a 4X4 road, not meant for an old Ford Van with two-wheel-drive. I kept going until the track started down steeper into the Mono Lake basin. By then I was getting bogged down in the sand even going downhill. I imagined that coming back up would be next to impossible. The one consolation was that strangely enough I had good cell phone service way out there. I imagined that I would probably spend most of the day either digging myself out of the sand or calling a tow truck. Hopefully there was one in Lee Vining.

Morning Shadows, Mono Lake, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Hand held Nikon D90. I have been visiting Mono Lake for over 40 years but this was the first time I photographed it.

The track became even smaller and degraded into mainly sand. I kept looking for a good place to turn around but found none where the ground was hard enough in a large enough area for the van. Finally there was a wide place that looked like it had enough foliage on top of the sand to provide enough traction to turn around. It did not. I got about half way turned around and the back wheels started to dig in. Fortunately in the van I carry a small Army issue shovel that my parents had carried through all their travels. They taught me at a young age to use a shovel for going to the bathroom in the wilderness. It also came in handy for burying fires and organic garbage. Fortunately the Mono Lake sand did have a harder bottom down six inches or so and the sand itself was more like fine gravel, quite grainy and not completely soft. Also, I had recently put on four brand-new tires. As my two back wheels dug in, I stopped before the axel was buried. The sun was just hitting the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance and lighting up the Tufa and the far shores of Mono Lake. I abandoned the van and ran with camera in hand the remaining half mile or so to the lake shore.

Forgetting my vehicle troubles, I photographed while it was still very cold. The grasses were still brown, matted and showing signs that the snow had just melted away. The marshes were still soaked with melt water into which I sunk up to mid-calf. I had to keep moving to not sink in further.  After exhausting the photographic possibilities, I waded and sloshed back to my poor old van. I rested for a time then got back outside for the digging. By then it had warmed up and I was sweating as I shoveled the sand away. There actually wasn’t that much shoveling to do before I tried to get the van going. I was able to get out of the self-made hole and got going up the road. The trick to the road was that if you went too fast you would get bounced sky-high when you hit the ups and downs of the rougher areas. On the other hand, if you went too slow, you would bog down and stall out in the deep sand. I definitely bogged down a few times and bounced very high a few times, not to mention scraping the side of the van some on the close Junipers, sage brush and other desert growth along the road. However, I was amazed that I somehow miraculously made it past the worst of the uphill deep sand and up to the solid ground. I thought for certain I would lose a day waiting around for AAA to bail me out of my predicament.

At the Mono Basin National Forest Visitors Center I introduced myself. The desk staff pointed me to the back exhibit room where my father’s 1967 black and white print of the Sierra Wave Cloud is prominently displayed as part of the At Mono Lake Exhibition with photographs by Ansel Adams, Brett Weston, Philip Hyde, Timothy O’Sullivan, Edward Curtis, Al Weber, Ted Orland, Don Worth Dave Bohn, Robert Dawson, Clinton Smith, Stephen Johnson and others. At Mono Lake toured the country to help raise awareness to save Mono Lake. This early 1980s campaign will be the subject of another blog post. I met Deb and Lou Main who work at the Mono Basin Visitors Center. Deb Main is a photographer. Lou told me that many prominent photographers come through regularly to photograph Mono Lake. I told Lou Main that I was thinking of heading up to the ghost town of Bodie Historic State Park. My dad photographed Bodie with a group of his classmates from the California School of Fine Art in 1949.

A Hiking Quest For The Ghost Town Of Bodie

Window, Bodie Historic State Park, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Lou said that Bodie Historic State Park did close at 4:00 pm and the sign at the entrance said the hours were strictly enforced. However, as a general rule, if I was just photographing and minding my own business, not barging into buildings or messing with anything, they would probably let me walk around and photograph after closing. Lou said that the main road was not open all the way in that time of year as there was still snow on the ground in the ghost town of Bodie. He said it would be about 1/3 mile walk each way. The mistake I made was to take the road along Mono Lake toward Hawthorne, Nevada, rather than to go in the main entrance to Bodie farther north off of U. S. Highway 395. From the route to Hawthorne, a back road to Bodie winds up through the hills and appears on a map to be shorter than the main entrance road, especially from along Mono Lake. On the map, the two roads look like they might meet near Bodie anyway. As it turned out, they did not come together until right at the entrance station. Meanwhile, the back entrance road gave me reason to worry right away.

About two miles in, a sign said, “Road Closed.” I considered for a moment that my father would have turned around at that point. He was generally a law-abiding citizen, unless there was a good reason, advantage or point to be made by breaking the law. I have never had any reason to break any serious laws to speak of in a manner that would get me caught. However, when it comes to adventure, I have rarely let a little thing like a few signs or road statutes get in the way. Considering I had already come close to 20 miles from the main highway and only had about ten more to get to Bodie according to the map, I decided to keep going and see why the road was closed. The sun was sinking toward the horizon. It was some time after 5:00 pm, the temperature was dropping and the wind had been very gusty all day. There were no gates but as the dirt road climbed, more and more snow appeared on it and runoff flowed down it, turning it to a muddy morass in places and at the least full of ruts in others. Along the hillsides, football to beach ball sized rocks had tumbled into the road. Lou Main at the Mono Lake Visitor Center said that the state park service had announced the main entrance would be open in about a week. He said that even though it had been an extra-heavy snow year, the snow had been melting fast recently. Just the previous week, the whole town of Bodie had still been under snow.

Fire House And Mine, Bodie Historic State Park, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Up, up the trusty old van climbed past slippery sliding rutted and rock strewn road sections. Finally just as I began to see mine tailing piles and signs of perhaps an approaching town, there was a solid iron gate across the road. ‘Okay, no problem,’ I thought. ‘I can hike from here. It will only be 1/3 of a mile.’ I bundled up with as many layers as I had, wool hat, gloves and my camera. It was May 10, but it was also around 8,000 foot elevation and had just snowed lightly that afternoon.  As I stepped out of the van I might as well have been wearing a T-shirt because the howling wind went right through everything. I had on my long-haul Vasque hiking boots, the ones built for mileage.

The road on the other side of the gate wound around the mountain out of sight. Hundreds of fresh footprints reassured me I was doing the right thing and would be in wonderful historic Bodie soon, just around the bend. I rounded the bend and the road kept going up, up, and up. Finally after at least half a mile, already farther than the 1/3 mile promised, it began to sink in that I had not come in the main entrance. I was taking another road and who knows how far that gate would prove to be from Bodie. I came to the top of a rise in the road. Before me stretched a high desert valley and far away in the distance, there was the ghost town of Bodie. It was hard to judge the distance but I have done a lot of walking in my life. My guess was that it probably was at least another mile and a half, if not two miles to Bodie from where I stood.

Bodie Hotel Bar, Bodie Historic State Park, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

I looked down at the road and saw that most of my friendly companion footprints had deserted me at the top of the hill and turned around. However, I was there to photograph and the sun was getting lower all the time. I guessed it would go down on Bodie in about 45 minutes to an hour. There was no time to run back down to the van, drive forty miles around to the other entrance and then hike another 1/3 mile. I had to press on even though I was dead tired and my hands were literally numb. I knew I would have to mingle with ghosts and then hike back in the falling dark. I shrugged it off and said to myself, ‘I used to jog that far every day on purpose. Maybe I’ll just move my camera around under my arm and take a little jog.’ So that’s what I did.

At about 6:30 pm I arrived at the entrance to Bodie where the sign says, “Open 8:00 to 4:00 pm, Hours Strictly Enforced.” I walked right past the entrance and into the streets shutters blazing. I had about 15 minutes of sun. As the sun went down, the sky began to light up in various oranges against the dark stormy mood that had prevailed most of the day. Even after the sun set, a glow lingered and gave me a beautiful, soft light for photographing. I wonder if many photographers dare to capture sundown at Bodie with that foreboding sign up front. I was shivering and my hands were numb in the wind, but I hurried on in case I was kicked out any moment. I made a lot of exposures quickly. I am not sure my photographs do that amazing evening justice, but seeing Bodie in that light alone, without any photographs, was well-worth the hike. In a little while it became unbearably cold and when the oranges and reds faded from the sky, I decided to begin the return hike while I still had light.

Looking South From Entrance to Bodie, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

I passed the entrance station and began making my way up the long road to the top of the hill where I had first surveyed the scene. I had gone about 100 yards when a state park truck came over the horizon on the main entrance road. I moved smoothly on up the other road and either he or she did not see me, or did not bother to follow and interrogate me. I felt so uplifted, light and inspired, especially once I was able to put my hands deep into my pockets and get them warm again. The hike and jog back went very quickly. I even made it to the van before it was completely dark and made it out past the closed sign before any more rocks fell off the hills. As I pulled onto the road to Hawthorne, this time headed for U.S. 395 and home, I breathed a sigh of relief and elation.

The Santa Monica Experience

April 28th, 2010

Billboard And Sign, Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, California, 2009 by David Leland Hyde, Nikon D90 hand held.

People have asked me to give a little tasty taste of what I photograph, ponder and write about while I’m on the road on the way to a Philip Hyde exhibition opening, or while I’m lugging around framed prints.

I did write something called “The Santa Monica Experience,” that I sent as an e-mail to my list of friends of Philip Hyde Photography on November 7, 2009. I wrote it at a friend’s beautiful house, not even close to the largest in the neighborhood, but way above my status. I wrote the e-mail sitting in my friend’s guest suite looking out at the swimming pool, lawns, orange trees, lemon trees, and several other fruit trees while the smell of exotic flowers filled the air. I was visiting Pacific Palisades, between Santa Monica and Malibu on the Pacific Coast Highway, in my Dad’s tan 1984 Ford Van, with a dent on the right side and the paint peeling off, parked in the driveway. I had just returned from leaving 30 framed archival fine art digital prints at Santa Monica College for the upcoming exhibition.

Wow, SUNSHINE! I love L. A….

Not a drip of smog, blue skies, warm days, scantily-fashionably clad beautiful people everywhere…

Beach, Santa Monica, California, 2009 by David Leland Hyde, Nikon D90 hand held.

…The speed limit is 45 on the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica and I’m doing 60. Mercedes, BMW’s, Porsches blasting past me like I’m standing still. The last mad race of a race madly running like lemmings into the sun… On the radio of the convertible Mustang ahead of me, Madonna scintillating, “You might be my lucky star…” The girl in the white Saab looks at me, like, “You have a lot of nerve to drive that old jalopy van along here and look at me.”

The van is a quiet tan from an era gone by, but not lost at Santa Monica College. They teach cutting edge digital photography and old fashioned darkroom black and white print making. It is the only college in the United States that still teaches Ilfochrome printing. Santa Monica College has millions of dollars in photography equipment. In the new and high tech business building on the second floor there’s this beautiful gallery space with top quality lighting, completely straight white bare walls, where the work of a quiet man who loved nature will hang for an instant in time. And this quiet show starts tonight. It is the “Road Less Traveled…”

Come see…
Tonight is the night.
Santa Monica College.
It will be good for your soul…
Love,
David Leland Hyde
Philip Hyde Photography
Fine Art For Earth’s Sake Since 1942

http://www.philiphyde.com/

This time the show will be at Mountain Light Gallery. A different show. Come see. It will be good for your soul…

And, maybe somewhere along the way, in Reno, Carson City, Mono Lake, Mammoth, Bishop, Lone Pine, Alabama Hills, maybe Death Valley National Park, maybe even Yosemite National Park, I will write another experience. There is always plenty to write about and photograph on the road…