Welcome to my brand new blog. You have no idea how much you landing here means to me. Once I picked up a camera my life changed so freaking fast. Photography quickly became my passion. It lifted me from the darkest place I've ever been. I didn't think it would ever be possible to escape. Today nature photography and my dearest friends are the blood that brings me a great life.
Childhood was always pretty rough for my sister and I. We grew up in a home with parents that didn't want kids and they always made sure we knew it. My mom would act like she was calling the Boys Home to come get me if I acted up. Going to bed scared of waking up in a boys home sucked balls to say the least. I know lots of things that happened back then still negatively affect me today. I have a hard time believing in myself most of the time. I still wake with nightmares of being being beaten and screamed at. I still picture my mom's weekly beatings from my step-dad and a dad that didn't care what my sister and I were seeing. I've seen a wicked step-mom place my sister's plate on the floor next to the dog bowls and make her eat like the dogs. My dad did nothing to stop her.
My sister and I were pretty much raised by neighbors. My little league football coach and his wife Charlie and Bonnie Smith are the main reason I never went to prison. I still visit them every time I go home and love them more than they'll ever know.
Whether you shoot photos or not if you've been in a dark place I hope this blog motivates and inspires you to find your own way out, absolutely anything is possible. If you ever need to chat and think no one will listen... I promise to be those ears.
On my 32nd birthday my (father?) threw me a birthday party. My grandmother, step-grandmother, step-brothers, aunts and uncles, along with my wife and two beautiful babies were all there to hear my dad announce that if he could do it all over again he would abort me. It doesn't get much darker than that!
I drank so much everyday just hoping I could pass out as soon as my head hit the pillow. If I couldn't fall asleep I would lay there all night long plotting the murder of my own dad. I left the state because I knew I was getting very close to acting on my darkest thoughts.
In 2000 my wife and I loaded up our two kids, two dogs, our cat and a pet duck. We filled a U-Haul and drove away in a storm that had dropped over two feet of snow in Southeast Kansas. Nothing was going to stop us from leaving that god-forsaken place. NOTHING!!
By the time we got to Arkansas the snow had turned to ice. We made our way over and through the Ozark mountains to the place I still call home. I got there driving through the worst ice-storm on record for the state of Arkansas. As I said nothing was going to stop me!! NOTHING!!
Soon after we arrived I gave up the alcohol. That was the best decision I ever made in my life. Now my biggest problem was what to do with all this spare time? Drinking myself to sleep had become a way of life. I needed something to fill the void.
That's when an impulse buy put a camera in my hand. What followed was so incredible! It wasn't all the fun I was having out shooting in the Ozarks; it was my changing thought process. I wasn't dreaming of how to kill and get away with it anymore. I was planning sunset or sunrise shots. I studied weather patterns to know when and where to go. Slowly the negative thoughts would fade. That's what boosted my photography ability the most, my state of mind was quickly changing. That was the key that opened the door.
You see in photography the beautiful mountains and waterfalls are never the subject... The subject is always the light. ALWAYS THE LIGHT!!! You have to step out of the darkness if you want to see it. As soon as I did my world changed. It didn't change how my folks feel about me, they're still full of hate. My mom quit speaking to me again a couple years ago for failing an employment drug test for marijuana. I do like my pot and simply don't care what anyone thinks about it. I haven't spoke to my dad in twenty-three years.
Sometimes we all need a life raft and we'll never get to it if we let others keep dragging us down. LET THEM GO!! Forgive and move on.
As my beer drinking time turned into more and more time in the woods I learned to much of that is not good either. About four years after I stepped into the light I had to step into divorce court.
Today the only thing that holds me back is me and the occasional dark memories I can't quite shake. I still remember the old days but not the same way. I remember my days as a child fishing with my ole ball coach and his sons or catching his passes in their back yard. I remember all us neighborhood kids riding to TG&Y buying kites thinking we'd be able to tape them to us and have the ability to fly away. As Soon as I belly-bustered off the top of the barn I knew I still needed a couple more pieces of equipment but quickly let go of the dream to fly. I was eight years old. I don't know how come I didn't die that day.
The first thing I did when I bought my camera was join a photo club in NW Arkansas. Twice a month I'd climb out of the ditches from my plumbing job and hit those photo-club meetings. I don't know if it was my bib overalls and muddy boots or what but I knew I wasn't fitting in with all those rich people.
I arrived early to my first club meeting eager to learn and show off a couple pictures I had lucked out with. There was only one person there when I arrived. He just so happened to be the guest speaker that night. I was eager to show him what I had done. He was eager to put me in my place. Once he got to the podium he ridiculed me in front of the entire club. I was the only one that knew who he was talking about and I was so pissed-off I could feel heat radiating off my face.
The next day at work I was called into the office and informed I was being laid off. The economy was crashing and many were worried what they'd do next. NOT ME!! I knew I was going to use that unemployment time to study photography. I wanted to be able to kick ass in those club photo contests and kick ass I did. At the end of that year I would win the big one. I was voted photographer of the year. I had done what I set out to do. I grabbed my coffee cup prize and walked out the door never to return.
I walked into that Photographer of the Year award ceremony a little late. There was only a couple seats left. As luck would have it I picked the best seat in the house. I introduced myself to the man next to me. He was a nature photographer and I had no clue but he was the guest speaker that night.
He stepped to the podium and led an awe-inspiring photo slideshow of his summers in Alaska. To say it lit a fire under my ass doesn't quite cut it. My head hit the pillow that night thinking how can I get to Alaska? How can I make a living doing what I dream about?
The man's name was Terry Boyd. He not only had the greatest photographs I'd ever seen. He had a story of perseverance to go with it. I could relate! We became Facebook friends and I followed him closely. I told him that going out shooting with him was on my bucket list.
Ten years later while sitting at a ball game in ABQ, New Mexico my phone rings. I look down shocked to see it's none other than my favorite photographer in the world TB. He was calling to offer me a job as an Alaskan photo-guide.
I promptly quit my job the next day and made it to Denali, Alaska four days later. When I arrived I swear to god I had twenty-six cents left in the bank. I knew I'd be cutting it close but like before I had somewhere I wanted to be and once again nothing would stop me. NOTHING!!
I'm preparing to leave again for my fourth summer in dreamland. I always knew making a living out shooting the wild would the absolute pinnacle but I was wrong! I share my world there with four people at a time going into the backcountry introducing them to the blood that brings me life. Igniting passion and helping others step from the dark to the light is the absolute pinnacle.
The nice thing about our small groups is the intimacy that were allowed. I teach photography and we all learn more about life. I cherish every person and every conversation I get to share in. What happens on tour goes well beyond my dreams.
I don't care if it's photography or Tiddlywinks, find your passion! Follow your dreams!! It's not the destination that brings you back in the light; it's the journey. Stick your face in that light and soak it up!! Let folks go that drag you down and do what it takes to find peace in your home.
I recently met a gal that really believes in me and my ability. She's starting to help me believe in myself. Thanks to her I am dreaming big again. I'm in the process of setting up a Nature Photography YouTube channel that documents my time in Alaska or anywhere else I may end up. I hope to inspire and teach from this new platform. I see some pretty cool stuff and look forward to not only sharing my photos but videos as well. I've learned a ton since taking that leap off the top of the barn. I have learned to fly with my feet still firmly on the ground. I'm proud of my journey and to all those that inspire me along the way. I want to thank you all and continue to pay that forward.
Today my job in Alaska has turned into multiple jobs. I photo-guide, do the dishes, clean toilets, make beds, and shuttle backpackers. I have my own plumbing business. I not only work for Terry now I work for his wife Bethany also. I don't see any of it as work. I love who I work for more than I love what I do. They make dreams come true, not just mine. Anyone that crosses their path is better because of it. They do all they can for everyone they can do it for. They inspire the hell out of me and I'll never be able to do enough for them. My life is incredible! I owe it all to them.
Oct 20, 2021
It's been awhile since I've written. I'm sorry! I need to do better and I will. I have a story to tell and eventually it will become a book. You'll read it here first. I need to write! Sometimes I want to scream but no one ever hears me. Or they don't listen. Lots has changed since I wrote what's above. The ole ball coach that I wish could've been my dad has passed. I'm so lucky to still be able to hear his words. He was always positive, supportive and the best role model ever. I want to be more like him but evidently I fall way short.
Life for me has always been hard. I've always felt hated. Recently I learned I suffer with ACoA Syndrome. That stands for Adult Children of Alcoholic parents. What happens to kids that grow up in home with parents who are substance abusers is they are never made a priority. Parents blame all the problems on their unwanted children. This causes irreparable emotional damage.
I have mentioned before the struggles my sister and I had as kids. I can't ever shake the visions of my mom getting beaten it seemed like every day. I'll never be able to forget how scary it was there. I'll never forget my dad making us stay there through all that.
One night I laid in bed. I know it was after midnight. I heard my step-dad pull in the drive. I could always tell my mom was in trouble by how loud he slammed his truck door. He made his living playing cards in different taverns around Coffeyville, KS. I'm guessing the cards didn'tfall his way this night.
I heard the door slam and started to sneak through the dark to the back of the house where their bedroom was. I heard the screen door shut and a smack immediately after. I ran into the room to see my mom knocked out cold on the bed and this man ripping her pubic hairs out.
I made it out and called my dad. Surprisingly he came and got me. He was in court the next day and got six months temporary custody of me. At the end of the six months I was told I would basically get to choose where I wanted to go because I was thirteen years old. They figured I was old enough to make a good decision. The problem was there was no good choice. It was either go back where I had to watch my mom get abused by my step dad or me and my sister get abused by my step mom.
My sister didn't come to live with us. For some reason it angered my step mom. I know she didn't want either of us but I think she felt second rate. Not good for the queen! She had two sons of her own. She didn't like my sister choosing her own mom over her. It was always easy for her to condemn us. She complained about us so much that our drunken father stayed mad at us constantly. He'd yell and scream then take his belt off.
I was sixteen years old when I smarted off one day to my step mom. He told me to go to my room and take my pants off. I headed to my room as he followed behind me taking off his belt. He loved hearing me cry. He'd whip me and call me a cry baby. I knew there would be no crying this day. I laid in bed, the last thing I saw before bitting my lip and burying my head in my pillow was his enraged glowing red face. I bit my lip and refused to make even a whimper. I don't know how I stayed quiet. He kept swinging that belt I bet twenty five or thirty times he struck me. I think he quit because he was tired. I don't think he wanted to stop. He was completely out of breath when he walked out. I told myself this would never happen to me again. I was sixteen years old and new I couldn't let him physically abuse me again. A couple times after that he came at me like he was going to punch me. I met him halfway and had my fists clinched as well. I wasn't going to swing at my dad unless he hit me.
Like I said I was sixteen. I was on a swim team and was swimming about eight miles a day. I knew he may hit me harder. I knew I was in great shape and could hit him longer. I think he knew I was a man now. It wasn't going to near as much fun beating a man. He beat my son with his belt once too. My son was sixteen months old. My dad would never get to be aone with him again. He didn't care. He was then and still is a coward and a dead beat dad. I try to forgive and move on but sometimes I'll have a bad day. I always hear his words... "If I could do it all again I'd abort you. You stupid mother-fucker!!" I wasn't sixteen anymore. I was 32, I had two kids I loved more than life. It was time to get them away from this and I did.
I know I paint a bad picture of that man. He's not all bad. He's very well liked in the community. He just should've never had kids. I have to say that what bothers me most is that many of the people there I had stood up many times. I had protected most of them at one time or another. I beat up someone that beat them up. Not one person said he shouldn't have said that. They act like I deserve it. Maybe they fear his anger. I don't! Not one person in my family acted like they cared. This was 23 years ago and not one person in my family ever spoke to me again.
I'm blessed to have my photography today. Usually when I get down I can grab my camera and stay busy enough to bury my past. It's not been easy lately. Usually I'm over-trusting. Today I trust no one. I don't want to talk to anyone I just want to hide and not come out. Now I understand why I get this way. Growing up with alcoholics sucked!!
I think it's time to let go of some people I held as near and dear for a very long time. When people show you they want to walk out of your life... let them go!! When someone shows you who they are...believe them!! I'm so tired of being thrown away by my family. I'm tired of feeling like a piece of garbage. I do all I can for all I can do it for. Evidently it's not near enough. Do I give up? I think so.
I've been channeling my aggression into a new endeavor. I've been trying to learn about video editing. I'm starting a Patreon Channel to help others with photography. Staying busy and focused on the task at hand is how I keep my past buried. Helping others helps me feel better about myself. That's a battle I need to be winning more.
I'm also starting my own plumbing business again. I hope it's just temporary until I get revenue coming from my channels. Sometimes I feel stuck in places where I'm not wanted. Being self sufficient and having my own business will allow me to leave places I don't feel I belong. It sucks to not have choices. I won't stay around people that make me feel unworthy anymore. I don't deserve it. Neither do you! I know I'm not the Lone Ranger here. I'm sure we all get down at times. That's ok! But... you have to get back up! Stand on your own two feet and go on with your lives! Forgive and move on! Keep your gratitude higher than your expectations!!