07 October 2012
I had a great week in Denmark, Iowa, at Larry Raid’s Linotype clubhouse. I spent most of the week working on the three Linotype model 31s, mostly with Mark Turpin of St Croix Falls, Wisconsin. One afternoon a bad thunder and lightening storm rolled through and kept knocking out the power. The overhead lights took time to warm up again, so we spent most of the afternoon with dramatic lighting.
These machines have been sitting still since the last ‘Linotype University’ week in 2011, and some longer than that, so they were presenting us with lots of problems. I don’t think I composed a single line of type all week, other than my name and a line from Thoreau on the first day (Larry is big on making your ‘first line of type’ an event, and even though I’ve composed and cast hundreds of lines I obliged). Mostly, Mark and I spent our week moving from machine to machine, fixing, and sometimes causing, problems. This image above, for example, is not something you want to see. In Linotype vernacular it’s what you call a ‘squirt’. It is when something goes wrong and the plunger shoots metal out around the mats and into the machine. It can take a while to get everything all cleaned out and running again. Mark and I made this one. Actually, we got two in a row before we sorted out the problem.
It’s a bad one when you freeze up the mats. That expanding spaceband staring the line was the problem. It was in the composing channel and Mark and I had not noticed until we’d ‘sent the line up’ to the caster.
Mark’s daughter Sarah (his wife Laura referred to her as his “lil’ squirt”). She’s lighter than a pig of type metal and a deft hand with a screwdriver. I kept her plied with Halloween chocolate, so we’re buddies.
Saturday morning, I said goodbye to Iowa and wandered down the Mississippi River to Hannibal, Missouri, the boyhood home of Mark Twain. After a good breakfast in a little cafe, I wandered around photographing the few buildings and signs that did not have Mark Twain scrawled all over them, like the local Republican headquarters.
I liked the layering of letters on this Hannibal manhole.
In the southern end of Missouri, near Cape Girardeau, I stumbled onto a rodeo featuring young riders. I watched barrel racing and calf roping for a while. When I asked this young man if I could take his picture, he piped “Yes, Sir!” and struck a pose. There were a lot of pink western shirts and big belt buckles, and texting from the saddle.
It was a noteworthy day for me in another way. I crossed the mouths of two of the Mississippi River’s great tributaries: the Missouri and the Ohio. I’ve been reading about these great rivers and their role in forming the culture and the geography of the continent’s centre all my life – in Twain, Audubon, John McPhee and elsewhere. It felt momentous to finally see this terrain first hand. This photo was taken looking up the Ohio from the bridge at Cairo, Illinois.
I stopped in Kentucky for the night and will stop for the afternoon in western Tennessee before heading through the northeastern tip of Mississippi on my way to Gordo, Alabama. Amos, put the kettle on.
ANDREW STEEVES ¶ PRINTER & PUBLISHER