Not so much a story this time, as a more-than-accurate representation of rural North Carolina – or indeed, rural anyplace-in-America. I’d been out with The Girlfriend and, you know, that Jim Kramer, and we were returning from a little side trip out by Elizabethtown, NC, and Jones Lake State Park. Jim was driving, but I spotted the two primary elements in the image and made him turn around so I could get this shot – I assured myself no Buck-Roys were hanging around outside the hunting club before I positioned myself behind the sign, believe me.
I don’t do photojournalism much, mostly because it involves photographing people, but this is probably one of the most expressive shots that I’ve done, and it illustrates rural America pretty damn well, if anyone from another country wanted to get an impression from a single image. Pickup trucks are everywhere, and road signs with bullet dents are pretty common in any quiet area. And just to clarify for anyone that needs it, they’re typically from rifles, not handguns – this is not gang-related or anything of the sort, but bored yokels looking for something to shoot other than old bottles and cans (which require a hell of a lot more accuracy.) You’d think a hunting club would provide some other kind of opportunity, but there you go.
Now, I presently live in a bit more of an urbanized section, so bullet-ridden road signs are much less common. But there’s a different kind of damage instead, and it took me a while to figure it out. From time to time, really far too often, I’d see signs that were twisted and mangled, usually still attached to the posts and upright, which was what made them very curious. Mangled while lying flat, sure – some drunk-ass fuckhead, or some kid who wasn’t capable of handling a car at the speeds they were driving, had taken out a sign. But still attached to the poles? A utility truck lost a ladder in passing, maybe? But suddenly, after seeing one in a particular location and time, I knew what it was (especially since I’d almost seen it happen somewhere else): the guys trimming the roadside verges with the huge mower attachment on the end of a hydraulic arm are notoriously bad at watching what they are doing, and swinging the arm clear of the road signs before they make contact (or shutting the blade down when they lift the mower into a vertical position, as they really should and are probably required to do.) As you can see from my image above, most of the bullets never actually penetrated; road signs are tough. So mangling one with a mower almost certainly results in a bit of damage to the blades as well. I imagine that the budgets for such services could be vastly improved by hiring more people who can actually pay attention to what they’re doing.
[It occurs to me, as I type this, that I should see if there are any examples nearby to show you. Stay tuned.]