July 2008 Sampler
One of the most memorable and intense months of my life was July 2008, following the intensity of June 2008.  In retrospect, I can see that this glory was a sign of what was absent elsewhere, but that's another matter, except that the perpetual civil war inside of my brain is, sadly and happily, part of the source for whatever good there is to my photography.  I realize that that is cliché, but, sometimes, cliché is reality.

We start on Independence Day in West Fargo, North Dakota.

That was BNSF Railway train H-CSXPAS, bound for BNSF’s big hump yard in Pasco, Washington, which is why it is not surprising that this train had several empty centerbeam flatcars, undoubtedly bound for lumber loading in the timber country of the Pacific Northwest.  The H-CSXPAS is normally interchanged from the CSX in Chicago, but this one apparently detoured over some other railroad and came online to BNSF at Northtown, which is BNSF’s big hump yard north of Minneapolis.

The next day, I went foaming on the other side of the Red River.

That's a yard job working at the BNSF yard in Dilworth, Minnesota.

Two days later, on the 7th, I caught the West Fargo Local working at JY Junction in West Fargo.

Yeah, the colors there are kind of jacked.  Oh, well.  My skills have their limitations, of course.

The next day, on the 8th, I was coming out of class when I heard "Northtown Grand Forks Manifest" over the radio.  Well, crap, some of us were talking about going to a Seether concert in Fargo that night, but what did I do instead?

Can you believe that I passed up a chance to go to a Seether concert with three ladies so that I could chase this train all the way to Grand Forks?  I have done dumber things, and I wasn't as into Seether back then as I became only a few years later, but, still, that's crazy.

Two days later, I am back at JY Junction to photograph another BNSF Railway local train.

I miss the Yellowbonnets.

The next day, the 11th, we began our great journey that would take us through the western part of the state and across southern Saskatchewan.  We stopped to see this Germans-from-Russia cemetery at St. Vincent, North Dakota.

The openness of the not-entirely-flat plains, with the vistas provided by the crests of ridges, always fascinates me.

The next day, we are at the Hutmacher site, working on some restoration of some mud huts, something of which I often think as I ponder human subsistence.

I was tasked with, among other things, lifting these buckets of rock from the ground and dumping the contents into the mixer.  I was very strong and in great physical shape at the time (could bench press about 100lbs more than my body weight), and I really had no competition for being the strongest guy on the site, something that would not be the case if this were a regular for-profit construction site!

The next day, the 13th, we crossed the border into Saskatchewan.

Normally, in these "sampler" essays, I include no more than one image for each date, no matter how many presentable images that I made on one day, but I will, for reasons relating to the significance of this expedition to my life and who I have become since then, break my own rule here in this essay.

Southern Saskatchewan is a special place, and I very much wish to return.  Like any person who likes to travel, I have a long list of places that I have not visited that I would love to visit, but I also very much wish to again visit some places that I have already visited, and, near the top of that list, probably below New Mexico and Colorado, is Saskatchewan.

Yes, that is a very iconic southern Saskatchewan scene!

The next day, we went to the T. rex Discovery Centre.

That's TI.

The next day, the 15th, was our last full day in Saskatchewan (or our last day fully in Saskatchewan), and I got the stormy picture that leads this photo essay at the top; to be able to see, experience, and photograph storms like that is one of several reasons that I would love to return to Saskatchewan.

That night, I got my magnum opus.

The skies were well dark by the time that I snapped this exposure; the lightning bolts lit up the sky and illuminated the valley below, revealing hay bales and homes scattered across the miles-wide valley.

There is so much that I could say about this image, but, as has usually been the case lately, when I am writing these essays, my creative abilities are beaten down by the unavoidable-but-avoidable demands of involuntary servitude.

The next evening, the 16th, we arrived in Winnipeg.

This part of North America has much Ukranian and Russian influence; I found Winnipeg to be fascinating.

The next morning, we visited the Saint Boniface Cathedral, after which we traversed the Esplanade Riel bridge, of and from which I made this image.

Yes, that is the image that I used my Patreon video that explained my philosophy of photography and about what creativity is and means.

That evening, we ventured south from Winnipeg and were back in the United States of America, in northeastern North Dakota, before dusk; I recall that we ate at some diner in Grand Forks.

Four days later, I was working on the railroad, on the Red River Valley & Western.

That's engineer Gary Miller at the controls of what I recall to be an EMD SW1200, or something like that.

The next day, in Fargo, I photographed a train of another shortline in the area, the Minnesota Northern.

Hey, look, a high-nosed first-generation GP at work in 2008!

Two days later, on the 24th, I photographed a place that I patronized too much during my time in Fargo.

And, the next day, the seminar ended.

Here is a self-portrait of me and the westbound Empire Builder at Fargo on the 27th.

Later that afternoon, after some some sleep followed by foaming at Dilworth Yard, it was time for me to head south, where I caught up with a Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad train.

The next morning, in front of soybeans as far as the eye could see, I photographed this laborer for the RJ Corman company working on the replacement of the old Chicago & North Western stick rail on this part of the DM&E with continuous welded rail.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Seether?  Have I ever mentioned how hauntingly beautiful a song "Tied My Hands" is?  Oh, wait, I know that I am not supposed to make comments like that on these retrospective postings.

Anyway, two days later, on the 30th, this is the sunset through stormy clouds near Ellsbury, Missouri.

Finally, on the 31st, here is the bridge over the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau.

I am impressed!

I hope that you enjoyed this longer-than-normal sampler essay.  As my summer break travels were coming to an end, the upcoming sampler essays will not be nearly as voluminous.

The most noteworthy aspects of the August and September samplers will be scenes from Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Ike.

Stay tuned.

Merci,

JBX

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