The Race

The Race

A camera’s self-timer does double-duty—while it’s a workable stand-in for the remote release you forgot to pack, it’s real function is getting you in the picture too. I got to thinking about this when I discovered my grandfather’s camera equipment—a Kodak Autographic camera, Kodak 1b tripod, and self-timer—among my folks’ possessions (the cleanup continues), which in turn triggered my memory of The Race.

In the early 60s the maternal side of my family met each summer for a family reunion at Cascadia State Park, a quiet, shady destination at the time because of its mineral spring water. Although it looked like any other I’d seen, the waters along Soda Creek had what were called curative powers—at the end of the 19th century there was a hotel and resort there catering to an average of 1,000 people a week, all of them seeking better health and happiness.

When I was there a tall metal pump still sat creek-side, down a short hill from the picnic area, and this was usually surrounded by a crowd of old-timers who took turns on the long handle, priming and pumping. An ancient ladle hung from the pump for filling cups and Mason jars with this magic elixir. I quickly learned two things on this picnic: 1) rhubarb can taste like strawberries in a pie and, 2) Don’t Drink The Water! just because someone tells you it’s healthy (my young opinion was vindicated years later when the State removed the pump and put concrete lids over the soda wells, and placed a sign saying water contaminated and unfit for human consumption. I told you!).

I’ve wandered off a bit here, and returning to the long row of tables above the creek I was met by a seemingly endless array of home-made dishes and desserts—how many of those recipes have survived to this day, I wonder? All of this was beautifully accented by the presence of women in long hand-made dresses and men wearing suspenders and ties. In our age of easy communicating over long distances it’s difficult to imagine how important reunions were, and that you might not see a brother or sister for another year, until next year. After everyone had had a chance to finish dessert word was passed around that it was time for the group photo, and thus began the preparations for The Race. I gathered from the good-natured laughter that this, too, had become a tradition: my grandfather setting up his camera and tripod, wrangling all the relatives into a coherent grouping, attaching the pneumatic self-timer to the cable release, and running to take his place before the shutter fired. Actually, Grandpa ambled, and didn’t always make it into line on time, which drew more laughter and a second or third (or fourth) attempt before everyone was sure he’d beaten the tell-tale hiss of the shutter releasing.

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