Rad A. Drew Photography: March 2023

Continental Divide at Dawn

Continental Divide at Dawn
Continental Divide at Dawn

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Rural Life In Indiana and Around the World!

Rural Indiana Barn and Winter Sunset

Growing up in southern Indiana, my parents instilled in me a love of rural life. 

While I grew up in a small town and not on a farm, Mom and Dad grew up on farms in rural areas in northern Illinois and Indiana respectively and so, it seemed, they were drawn to the country in their adult lives. We kids couldn’t help but be influenced by their love of the country. 

My late parents, Bob and Shirley,
who instilled in me a love of Rural Life,
circa 1953

When we had family time, we’d often pile in our Rambler station wagon and drive to the most remote regions we could find. It was a game that when we came to a crossroads, we always took the smaller of the options. 

While many of my friends spent their weekends at the mall or the movies, my sisters and I would be out with Mom and Dad hiking creek beds, walking plowed fields looking for arrow heads, or hunting morel mushrooms in Indiana woods.

Many of the places we hiked were private farms. Over the years we made friends of farm families who graciously allowed us to hike their fields and forests. Dad always asked permission and we were rarely denied. It never occurred to me then to go onto property without permission and I abide by that practice to this day.

A big part of the fun was driving into a barnyard and talking with a farmer. Often we were taken on a tour of an old barn or shown other features of the land. Once in Switzerland county, a farmer hiked with us and showed us the remains of a Conestoga wagon trail. Another farmer from that county took us to one of the largest native burial mounds I’ve ever seen.

Often, when I was a teenager, it was just Dad and me who went out together. We always had an objective for our outing — hiking, squirrel hunting, or mushroom hunting — but despite our objective for the day, Dad was always good at going with the flow.

Once, we stopped at a farm to ask about squirrel hunting. The farmer, probably in his 70s, was hanging tobacco in an old barn. When we asked him about hunting, he hung his head and seemed a little embarrassed. 

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Don’t allow hunting no more since I had a cow shot last year.” 

Dad sympathized and he and the farmer cursed the “idiot” who’d do such a thing. 

The next thing I knew, we were in the barn hanging tobacco. We spent the better part of the day working side-by-side, the three of us, until the wagon was empty. When we finished, the farmer said, “You boys are welcome to hike and hunt my land any time.” 

Another time, again in Switzerland County, we drove along a hay field where an old farmer was working alone loading bales of hay onto a wagon. It was hot work and the old guy was making slow but steady progress. He’d drive the tractor and pull the wagon into position, climb down from the tractor, load a few bales onto the wagon, climb back onto the tractor, drive a few feet and repeat the process. 

Dad stopped and parked the truck. “Come on,” he said. Dad talked with the farmer for a few minutes and the farmer climbed back on his tractor. He drove a slow, steady pace, and Dad and I walked alongside and stacked the bales on the wagon. We worked the rest of the day. I don’t remember what we’d set out to do that day, but what we ended up doing was far more satisfying and we made another friend who invited us to hike his land.

My parents are gone now, but I feel their presence when I drive country roads, regardless of where I am in the world. I still drive into barnyards and talk with farmers. It’s been a while since I hung tobacco or loaded hay, but I’ve had my share of fun. Here are a few anecdotes from my adventures.

A few years ago I was out photographing with my long time friend, Sally Wolf. We saw a herd of cows standing in front of a great barn. It was early and we didn’t see any sign of human activity, so we pulled over and began making a few photographs from the side of the road. 

Within a couple of minutes we heard a man yell across the barnyard in a none to friendly voice, “Hey! What are you doing?!

“We’re photographing these cows,” I called back.

“Those aren’t cows!” he snapped. 

“They’re not?” I said. “Well, what are they? Enlighten me!”

He had moved closer now and I could see a grin spread across his face. 

“They’re heifers!” he said and burst into a belly laugh. He then proceeded, with great relish, to explain to this city boy the difference between a cow and a heifer.

Within minutes Sally and I we’re sitting at his kitchen table jaw-jacking with him and his wife. He later invited us (with his dog) to pile into his beat up farm truck and he drove us to another part of his farm to show us another herd of cattle.

These rural adventures have taken me all across the country and even around the world. 

Sally Wolf and I have done a photo workshop in Amish country in central Ohio for years. One year, while scouting in preparation for our workshop, we stopped at a small Amish grocery in a remote area. I noticed an Amish woman about my age purchasing a stack of canned goods and other food. She was dressed plainly in all black, had a stern expression, and didn’t seem very approachable. When I noticed that she was loading her considerable purchase on her own, I asked if I could help. Her stern expression immediately changed and a smile spread across her face. “I’d be grateful,” she replied. For the next several minutes we loaded her goods into her buggy. 

As we were loading the last of her purchase, she looked at me and declared, “You know,” she said, “this is not all for me. I cook for groups!”

It took a minute before the light bulb went off in my head. 

“We’re a group,” I said. “Would you cook for us?!”

That year, Lizzie prepared an Amish meal in her home for our photography group. Over the years she’s cooked for our groups many times!

The Palouse in Eastern Washington along the Idaho border is one of my favorite farming regions in the world. I've had the pleasure of leading workshops there for the past eight years. The farmers in the region are among the friendliest I've met. Many have granted me (and my groups) permission to photograph on their farms. Some have even allowed us to ride in their combines, some of the largest farm equipment you'll find anywhere in the world!

Another favorite farming region is Vinales, Cuba, famous for tobacco farming. Once, while leading a workshop with my friend, Ramses Batista, Ramses spotted smoke rising in the distance and we began making our way toward it. We discovered a Cuban farmer tending a huge earth-covered, smoldering fire. He was doing the hard work of making charcoal.

Later, on that same trip, we noticed three old men sorting dried beans on a large tarp. As we approached, we noticed that the two younger men looked to be in their 80s. The other, Modesto, was much older and we discovered that he was the father of the younger men and that he was 102 years old! 

We quickly learned that Modesto is a character with a capitol C. He loved having an audience and entertained us with his tales. When one of our group asked for his secret to a long life, he quickly replied, “Pretty women and hard work!”

Among other things Modesto was fascinated by the mobile phone, which he called a “gossip machine!”

The most exotic rural region I've explored was in the United Arab Emirates in 2016. My friend Riyad and I were invited to visit the farm of one of his old friends, Ali, who could be described as a "gentleman farmer." We traveled in a four-wheel drive vehicle to his remote complex in the desert where he raised camels, sheep and goats. In addition to getting up close to these creatures, the highlight for me was watching him milk one of the camels. Later that evening, we sat together on a carpet in the desert and drank that camel milk with our dinner. 

It’s these kinds of experiences that keep me going back to the country. That and the beauty of country roads, lone trees, farm animals, hard-working farmers, and aging barns. 

Here are a few of the barns, lone trees, farmers, and other rural scenes that I’ve photographed over the years with cameras ranging from Nikon, Fuji, Sony, and iPhone.

Rural Indiana

Lone Tree, Rural Indiana

Aging Barn, Rural Indiana

Barn under a Winter Sky, Rural Indiana

Barn and Lone Tree, Rural Indiana

Heart-Shaped Lone Tree, Rural Indiana

Barn and Old Trees, Rural Indiana

Lone Tree, Rural Indiana

Fall Creek, Indianapolis (iPhone Infrared)

Barn, Brown County Indiana

Barn, Rural Indiana

Dilapidated Barn, Greene County Indiana

Barn, Rural Indiana

Abandon Victorian Home, Rural Indiana

Tree and Barn in Winter, Rural Indiana

Barn in Winter, Rural Indiana

Sycamores, Winter, Indianapolis (iPhone infrared)

Abandoned House, Rural Indiana

Barn, Rural Indiana

Lone Tree, Winter, Eagle Creek Reservoir

Those Aren't Cows! They're Heifers! Rural Indiana

Train, Delaware County, Indiana

Abandoned Farm House, Rural Indiana

Barn in Winter, Rural Indiana

Rural Ohio

Round Barn and Hay Bales, Rural Ohio

Amish Farmer Getting Cows from Pasture, Rural Ohio

Percheron Horse, Amish Farm, Ohio

Rural Washington 
(The Palouse)

Lone Tree, Palouse (Infrared)

Riding in a Combine, The Palouse, Washington

Rural Barn, The Palouse

New Growth Wheat Field, The Palouse

Historic Farm House, The Palouse

Retired Farm Truck, The Palouse

Rural Cuba 
Vinales Region

Tree, Vinales, Cuba

Modesto, Farmer, Vinales, Cuba

Farmer, Tending Charcoal Fire, Vinales, Cuba

Making Charcoal, Vinales Cuba

Tobacco Farmer, Vinales, Cuba

Farmer's Hands and Tobacco, Vinales, Cuba

Farmer, Vinales, Cuba

Farmer and Oxen in Tobacco Field, Vinales, Cuba

Rural Italy 

Rural Farm, Tuscany, Italy

Expansive Farm in Rural Tuscany

Idyllic Country Scene in Tuscany

Rural France 
(The South of France)

Village of Larnogol, France 

Farm, South of France

Rural Al Ain 
United Arab Emirates

Bull Camel, Al Ain, UAE

Curious Camel, Al Ain, UAE

Roaming Herd of Camels, Al Ain, UAE

Camel Milk, Al Ain, UAE

For more stories, photography tips (both "big" cameras and iPhone!), and news about upcoming workshops and learning opportunities, I invite you to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (here). 

Thanks for reading. Until next time, be safe, stay well, and keep on creating!