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Quick, quick, pass me the camera ...

... "I didn't bring one." "Me neither." "I left mine at home ..."

from the Stringer Photo Team

As a Boy Scout, I was taught always "to be prepared". And so I tend to think ahead, to plan for contingencies. Usually. But now, 70 years later, it's not that easy. The mind certainly is not that efficient thing anymore, and short-term memory lapse is definitely a sign of the passing years.

Take what happened to the SilverStringers' Photo Team last month. Usually there is someone in the group who has a camera whenever we are together. Either Louise Fennell, our leader, or Don Norris, perhaps Ella Letterie, Shirley Rabb or Natalie Thomson. Someone usually sticks a little digital camera in a pocket.

Last week was different.

The crack photo team had been out the week before, doing a study of "Doors" around town. Four of them had shot somewhere in the vicinity of a hundred frames, which they had edited down to about 20 for publication in a recent issue. And when directed by the board of editors to supply one of their pictures for the Front Page -- which is a rather large, carefully edited photo -- we found that Louise had inadvertantly discarded her original.

With an errant click of the keyboard, the file was gone.

All she had left was a small picture of the Maybee House. It had been reduced to a matter of a few inches -- hardly suitable for the Front Page.

And when we asked Louise for the address of her prize-winning photo, she said that nobody had kept addresses -- they just shot tight photos of doors, at random, and kept moving. So after luncheon one day, four of us went in search of THAT door. It was a unique setting, a mansion (so to speak), obviously one of several hundred Victorian houses on the East Side.

But we couldn't find it. We drove from street to street, block to block, neighborhood to neighborhood -- but no luck. We couldn't make the match. At one point we stopped a mailman and Louise spent ten minutes discussing the possilities with him. He finally concluded that the likely house would be the Maybee place on East Emerson.

We had been by that house three times that afternoon.

But sure enough, this was it. And as we gaped at the beautiful lines, and admired Louise's selection -- a large red-tail hawk circled above our car, then flew right over the roof of the mansion. In its claws was a large, limp, red squirrel.

The hawk circled once over us -- as if displaying his trophy -- and then alighted right on the ridge of the Maybee roof, still clutching its prey. It looked down at us for about a minute -- showing off, posing.

At last I remembered, holy cats, get the camera! A red-tailed hawk in the city of Melrose is a relatively rare thing, but one with a red squirrel had to be a trophy. But no one spoke. No one -- not Don, not Louise or Ella or Russ Priestley -- had a camera.

So much for being prepared. We eventually did get a nice photo of the Maybee front facade, but we surely missed getting one of that red-tailed hawk.

August 5, 2005


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