Horse on a hill, redux

“There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed 
Some forever not for better 
Some have gone and some remain 
All these places have their moments 
With lovers and friends I still can recall 
Some are dead and some are living 
In my life I’ve loved them all” -In My Life by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

When I was still a young photo student, I entered the Kodak International Newspaper Snapshot Awards (KINSA) photography contest held locally through the now-defunct Sacramento Union. I won a prize with a tight shot of an elderly woman’s hand feeding a peanut to an elephant’s trunk. It showed her arm from about the elbow and a commensurate length of the pachyderm’s snout. It was a quick grab shot and I only managed to fire off a frame or two. All the winners were run in the paper, and a week or so later I got a letter thanking me for the photo. It was from a woman who recognized the hand as being hers. Moreover she recognized the trunk a being “Winky” the elephant’s.

Last week I wrote about photographing a horse in a pasture years ago among the rolling hills along Highway 26 near Linden, and, as a part of an artistic decision, how I chose to crop its head out of the picture. While I shot ones with the head included, the one without the head was the one I liked the best. I also wrote about my late mother-in-law’s puzzlement over that choice.

On Monday I got a voicemail message from Jack Jennings of Linden, who said that he at first recognized it as his old horse, “Coco.”

I called Jennings a few days later, and it turns out the picture wasn’t of his horse but one that looked a lot like his. He said that the photo in the paper brought back fond memories of the appaloosa that he had raised from a colt. Jennings said that he used to ride Coco often in the rural pastures near Linden where he used to live. Coco lived to be about 36 years old, but about 8 years ago she went blind and had to be euthanized. Although the photo wasn’t of his horse, Jennings said: “It brought back pleasant memories of the mare I used to ride.”

It is the power of a photograph to bring back emotions and remembrances of things long since past. They can stir recollections and emotions of certain places, people or events, even if they are unrelated to what’s actually in the picture.

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