Leather and Steel

_C1_2008Motorcycles are an image. Their rumbling engines and relatively unprotected drivers evoke the risk, freedom and power we Americans see in the open road. Leather, steel, grinning skulls, bare arms and flaming pinstripes are all part of the package, and they were all on display during Fayetteville’s 15th Bikes, Blues & BBQ rally this past week.



_C1_1893For four days, hundreds of thousands of bike enthusiasts celebrated that image, filling Fayetteville with music, choppers, bobbers, trikes, crotch rockets and the patented Harley Davidson roar.

It’s an image full of history and light-hearted contradiction.

Motorcycle clubs as they’re known today began after World War II, when many returning GIs yearned for the camaraderie of wartime and the independence of peacetime. Now there are hundreds, maybe thousands of clubs. Some, such as the Outlaws and Hell’s Angels, declare themselves under their own law and begot the motorcycle gang stereotype. Others are based on religion, fighting against child abuse or for other causes or simply having the time and money to own a Harley.




_C1_1959This diversity means evangelists, middle-class mothers and fraternity brothers are all jumping into the leather-and-steel-stud scene. Nearly all of the bikers wore the same stoic, self-assured facial expression, but it broke often into smiles and laughs with the addition of beer, food or a nearby photographer. Grizzled and tan loners rode among sleek, primary-color scooters and racing bikes. The motorcycle conveys ties to nowhere, but many of the club members are retired from comfortable jobs or soon will be.

It’s no coincidence that the image codes as masculine in our society; rare was the woman who rode alone or with a man sitting behind her instead of the other way around.





_C1_1940In the end, the image seems at least partly to be an excuse to see the scenery with the wind in your face and to have one hell of a party. I don’t think I had seen so many motorcycles in my life, and most of them were ridden by friendly people. The noise stretched to every corner of town and the bars were open into the morning hours. The BBQ of the name was pretty good, too.






_C1_1578On top of everything else, the weather last week was beautiful. The high was 80 and the sun was out every single day of the rally. Perfect. Congratulations on good timing, organizers.






_C1_1779Thanks for looking!


Summer’s End

_C1_1424Fall begins Tuesday and highs in the 90s have vanished from the forecast. With summer’s end come fall sports, politics, shorter days and more pants. I tried getting a sample of these changes this week.

I’ll start with the boys surfing cardboard, above. The Razorbacks once again trounced their opponent, and a celebration for parents and families meant a bit more activity around the student union, including some singing along to classic rock covers:



_C1_1452Also on Saturday, the opponents of Fayetteville’s anti-discrimination ordinance turned in more than enough petitions to bring the ordinance to a public vote. The law protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from being fired, evicted or turned away from a business because of their identity, along with a few other groups. (I took some photos outside the City Council’s vote on the law here.)

The opponents question whether such discrimination is a problem and say the law takes away from business owners’ rights. If enough of those signatures are verified in the next week or two, the vote would probably come in December or January.

These next several weeks will bring plenty more politics for us to cover, so wish us luck.


_C1_1298All right, that’s enough news for this post. The rest I’ll devote to summer’s fading light.








_C1_1258The Bikes, Blues & BBQ Motorcycle Rally begins Wednesday and looks to bring a few hundred thousand people to the region. Surely I’ll get at least a couple of photos from the crowd for next time, right?

Thanks for looking!



Fire Pt. 2

_C1_8823My project on rural and volunteer fire departments, which I first mentioned here, came to an end this weekend after three and a half months of work. It’s behind a paywall, but you can read the finished story here, if you like.

I focused more on reporting than photography during the second half of the project, but I still have a few to share. The first few are from an August fire south of Fayetteville; five departments squeezed their tanker trucks down a narrow country lane to fight it, but one man, Dale Cheatham, died inside, likely before crews arrived.



_C1_8972It was so hot around the house the fighters took 15-minute shifts before retreating to this area, where medics checked their vitals and passed out bottles of water.

_C1_8279This photo is from a training meeting up in Goshen. Going through a half-built home is a good way to see and discuss how a home is built, how to approach fires in different parts of the structure, where there’s lots of air to feed a fire, how the floors are constructed. Firefighters, even volunteers, have to keep probably three dozen things in mind as they fight.

Finally, just a few images from a fundraising breakfast for the Northeast Benton County, or NEBCO, department. Many departments are struggling with recruitment and resources, but hundreds of people turned out to support them earlier this month.



_C1_0841As with many long projects, I’m glad I did it, and I’m glad I’m done. I owe so much to all the volunteers, chiefs and supporters who talked with me and let me intrude into their lives for a little while. It’s an amazingly tight-knit and friendly group.

Thanks for looking,


Game Day

_C1_0951It was a cool, rainy start to the Razorbacks football team’s home season yesterday, a day more fitting to late October than early September. After four years of Nebraska marching band and football, I’d been looking forward to my first game day here. Despite the 60-some degrees and drizzle, dark red cars waving Razorback flags flooded downtown bringing tens of thousands of people, and it felt a little bit like being back in Lincoln.



_C1_0936I hadn’t been able to walk around aimlessly during game day for years — the marching band’s schedule was always fairly packed. I saw a lot: a lot of young women and men in their Saturday finest (many times I felt as if I’d wandered into a Ralph Lauren catalog), a lot of mixed-race families, a lot of women holding hands, a lot of red. I’d say the crowd was a bit more diverse than Nebraska’s but half the size; the stadium wasn’t full. Sorry, Fayetteville — you didn’t match Lincoln today.











_C1_1111Away from the stadium, the campus was quiet, with occasional roars from the crowd breaking the stillness. The rain faded. The Razorbacks beat Nicholls State University 73-7.

I experimented a bit this day, such as placing subjects near the edge of the frame and shooting from the hip. I hope the results look all right.

Thanks for looking,