Requiem for a barn
Have you ever been on your way to one place only to be happily distracted by another on the way? Devil’s Well in the wonderland of springs, caves and crystal clear rivers that is the Missouri Ozarks is a very cool place. A collapsed underground cave in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Devil’s Well is accessible down a winding set of metal steps descending past seeping limestone walls to an underground lake, safely viewed through a grate. There are picnic tables on the grounds, a pond, a viewing deck surrounding the sinkhole for those unable to descend, and a set of panels explaining the history and science of the place. The National Park Service has done a good job for us here. But before visitors arrived at the small gravel parking lot, there was a barn. Coming in from the main road, the barn popped up around a corner with one of those breath takeaways reserved for awe and delight. I photographed it in the late afternoon sun, feeling as if I was the first person to ever see it, the way we photographers will sometimes. Later that evening, I found hundreds of photos of the barn online, because thousands of people enjoyed it. Later that year, I saw a photo of the barn on social media along with a request for assistance. The barn had been burned to the ground. Arson. Social media musings ran the gauntlet: was it tweakers high on their nasty vice? Stupid, misguided kids? Anti-government goons? Arrogant, ignorant loafers with nothing but the ability to burn a landmark? Who knows. All of the above are frequent travelers on our national landscape, unfortunately. The barn is preserved in our photographs and our memories. But that is not good enough. We who practice the art of life appreciation must stay vigilant against the stupid and the angry. That combination has, throughout history, burned much more than barns in the middle of nowhere. I call this photo The Barn at Devil’s Well. At least the Devil had a discernible agenda.
Copyright RC 2016