We have a lot of images in our archives. When I say a lot, I mean thousands of images. Since we started producing the paper digitally, I have been saving all of our images. Not just the pictures that appeared in print; but, all of the photos from the various events, gatherings and ceremonies.
Every year, the Chamber calls upon me to prepare a slide show which plays during the meal at their annual awards banquet. I rely upon this storehouse of images to create the slideshows. Their preparation each year is just as much an adventure as watching the finished product on the night of the banquet.
One of the things I've discovered over the years is that combing through the images in advance of the final show preparation is that looking at so many images of Mason County over the years, there are scores of stories to be told.
Some of the stories are simple and straightforward. The evolution of the Junior Livestock Show from a gathering on the square to an organized three-day production. But, the faces of young men and women showing off their pride and joy animals... the same no matter the year.
The other stories are more complicated. Looking at groups of students over the years, there is a continuity of family identifiers. I can look at a photo from 50 years ago and see a Geistweidt face, a Jordan face, a Hoerster face. Comparing those half century old images to those taken in the last few years, I see the same eyes, the same noses, the same smiles. The same; but, not the same.
There are faces that appear for a few years, then they disappear just as quickly as they appeared. There are names that don't have a connection to our early history; but, they add to our future and we see the name again and again. There are the faces that had been around for decades, then they are seen less and less in the following years. Perhaps most painful, there are the faces I knew throughout my childhood, appearing regularly in photos from 30 years ago, 20 years ago, ten years ago.... appearing less and less, and then appearing one final time.
Though we pride ourselves on how we've kept the appearance of our town, the photos tell a different story. Wooden structures rise, then fall. Rock structures go up, take on new features, then disappear back into the landscape. Balconies. Windows. Signs. Customers. They come and go in the photos. As do the cars and the many styles of clothing. Both are indicators of the time frame of the image.
The landscape also changes. Grass replaces rock. Oaks replace mesquites. Water ebbs and flows, in tanks, creeks, rivers and pools. Roadways cut through the countryside, taking people further into the unreachable portions of the county and offering images of places few of us have ever been. Other images show places we all used to go; but, now the landowner restricts access, so we have only our memories and the pictures. Fields replace pastures. Center pivot irrigation replaces dryland. Coastal replaces peanuts. Angus replaces Hereford. The landscape, and everything on it, changes constantly.
But, it's still the people that draw my attention. The faces: smiling, frowning, laughing, crying. Walking around the square, swimming in the Llano, accepting an award. The faces show people sharing moments of their lives with everyone else in the photo. Sometimes willingly - - sometimes with great hesitation. Read the faces and sometimes reading the caption is unnecessary.
One of the reasons I decided to save all images, and not just the ones that were published, is so that the stories of our community will not be incomplete. I want to preserve the full swath of people involved in making our community the place that it is. I want to remember the people I liked, and those I didn't much care for. I want to keep all the bits and pieces of Mason that fit together to make it unlike any other community I've ever known.
If a photo is worth a thousand words, what exactly are thousands of photos worth?
It’s all just my opinion.