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'Family in Vian, Oklahoma,' 1939, Photograph
by Russell Lee
The years of dirt and dust have settled
into every corner of the crumbling buildings,
covered the scraggly bushes and coated
the bare feet of the children. Faded shades
of blue and gray and buckled coveralls
blend with the dirt making it hard to see
where the color of one and the shadow
of the other begins. Broken lines of fence,
barns, and hay lie between the man, the field
and the sky. Today he smiling, staring into
the camera. His wife turns away. She is not
smiling, not frowning, just looking.
Each child gazes toward the camera.
The oldest girl is smiling slightly.
Like her mother, her hair is combed,
pulled back with a ribbon. The older boy's
hair is oiled and slick- but, the years of dirt
and toil have taken their toll-the younger
children are less groomed, their hair free,
tousled, wild. It's hard to tell if the woman's
dress shapes the curve of her body
from a slight wind-or, if the washed
and worn cotton has lost its ability
to cover. Now, it just clings. She doesn't
care. The man cares-it is enough.
With his hat on, he is ready to go.
This is new-the car, the camera, the
Except for the twinkle in the man's eyes,
there is only one other fully aware
of what this day means. He is hiding behind
his father-glancing toward the black box-
intrigued, but his real interest is in the car's
steering wheel. He rubs his left hand
lightly over finely polished black metal,
griping the floor shift with his right hand-
both legs are stretched, taut-one foot
on the pedal, one on the clutch,
he is watching, waiting-today,
tomorrow, tonight-soon, very soon-he's
gonna drive this baby right out of this world.
Linda Dousay © 2003
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