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It’s John Wesley Pinckney (1861–1919), a great-grandfather of Jackie’s, in, we think, Nebraska or Iowa. The “Grandpa Pinckney” written along the bottom looks to be the handwriting of Jackie’s maternal grandmother, Lillian Fay Buckley Pinckney, perhaps as a keepsake for her daughter Violet. Lillian married John Joseph Pinckney, John Wesley’s son.

I was fortunate to meet John Joseph Pinckney and Lillian in 1977 at their farm in Smyrna, N.Y., where he had raised Red Polls. This was two years before Jackie and I were married. This was also the same day I first met Aunt Violet, Uncle LeRoy (“That what they teach you in college, to put your coat on to walk from the car to the house?”: his very first words to me), and cousin Dale, over at their Goodrich dairy farm not too far away in Sherburne. Aunt Violet gave a copy of this photo to Jackie.

It is simply my favorite picture. In it lives the ancient virtue of perseverance. Staying with it is seen here, as is getting rid of dead wood. It looks like composing to me. In this wash of a snapshot, his left foot is just about to alight and his right arm is slightly akimbo, just enough to balance the load on that broad Scottish shoulder. He is upright and straight. To the left, a hint of a simple clapboard house. He has just this half-second cleared the out-buildings. From above, the log frames them. In another step or two the front of the log would be hidden, but we see all of it, bluntly cut in front, trailing a dramatically decaying comet’s wake behind. It is stunningly parallel with what looks to be a garden-border on the ground. He is just left of center, driving the motion out of the frame, but amazingly, the log is perfectly centered between the right and left borders of the picture. He both bears his burden and is obscured by it. They make the sign of the cross.

This photo is a one in a billion, and transfixes me.

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