A Magazine Man Came Through the Hills
The year was 1937, WPA and the Relief were being sold to voters through the work of photojournalists that poured out of the cities into the rural areas looking for stories that would pay. Photographers from St. Louis and the surrounding affluent areas journeyed to the backwoods Southwest Missouri Ozark Mountain region looking for mountain people in rustic cabins, and they found us. My Grandma said the photographer’s car was shiny, nothing but farm trucks and milk trucks generally came that far into their neck of the woods. They immediately knew that he wasn’t from around there. He knocked on the door and asked her Mother if he could take pictures of the children, and she said yes. The kids had been playing in the yard outside their cabin and he snapped a few pictures, thanked them and left. Some time later they received a package in the mail with a print of the picture he had used for the story, a poignant snap of Mary Maudeva Jay, my Grandma’s older sister, holding up a cowbell she’d picked up when the photographer turned to her. Her mother was outraged at the picture chosen, Maud’s dress was ripped and hanging awkwardly and no one knew why she grabbed the cowbell to pose with. Later generations though have treasured the picture, we relate to her carefree defiant air, and we know we’d pose with the cowbell too. I chose to paint her in black and white to keep in mind the 1930’s city newspapers that gifted us with this glimpse back in time.