By Scott Morris
The old box sits in the back of the closet daring to be opened.
A Kodak emblem on the top and writing on the side say it holds 250 pages of blank photo paper. But I know better.
The images inside the box, which I processed long ago in the red glow of a newspaper darkroom, tell stories I like to remember and others I want to forget.
My camera captured subjects and events in black and white, a study in stark contrasts that mirrored the two sides of my life, the professional and the personal.
Even so, I open this box of past, pushing aside my apprehension, and memories of my first paid job in journalism come rushing back.
My career began at a small weekly newspaper with coverage of county fairs and high school football games, with requests to photograph a farmer’s giant watermelon or a hunter’s trophy buck.
My first assignment was half disaster, half success.
Editor Steve Oden sent me to the annual county steer show with instructions to shoot a photo of every contestant standing next to his or her steer. A novice behind the camera, I set the shutter speed too fast for the flash. When I got back to the darkroom, each negative held only a half a steer. Luckily for me, it was the front end with its owner.
Those photos rest in the archives of the Hartselle Enquirer. My closet box holds a mockingbird attacking a cat, a giant snapping turtle perched on the back of a pickup, a mother bird feeding her young in the nest she built in a boot, cows grazing beneath a pecan grove on Burleson Mountain and other good memories. I guess I didn’t hold on to pictures of the painful ones.
Every image chronicled my professional development through the lens of a Canon manual camera. As a cub reporter, I shot photos, developed film, made prints, wrote stories, laid out pages, took the pages to the printer, hauled the papers back to the office, helped bundle and attach address labels to them, and drove them to the post office on Wednesday nights.
As I close the lid to the Kodak box and put away the old black and white photos, I can smile and remember the fun times with great folks. They made a dark chapter in my life much brighter.