I guess I’m just wired differently.
I have a habit when driving around the city, county or region of pointing out locations where spot news events occurred that I covered with photos. If anyone else is in the car, I will likely regale them with stories of how I got there quickly and stealthily made story-telling photos. If it’s just me, my mind replays the event and it feels like I am right there again holding the camera. I can vividly recall every photo.
I can’t drive past the Warren County Water District in the 500 block of the bypass in Bowling Green without thinking of the 1996 Howard Johnson’s deadly arson fire that killed four people and injured 16 others. I always think about the images I made of those who were injured and lost their lives.
Same when I travel on Louisville Road and pass the site of the former Horseshoe Camp Modern Cottages motel, where Russell Sublett held Kentucky State Police at bay in a standoff. He crashed a vehicle into the front of the house across the road, shot at state police and even at the photographer dumb enough to get too close.
I could go on and on about all the fires, accidents, standoffs and hostage situations I covered in 31 years, but I have to share the details of one that I drove by that made me laugh out loud at myself.
I was driving recently on Burkesville Road three miles east of Glasgow when I passed an unassuming brick house in the 3700 block. I looked at it and I glanced over at the field at the top of the hill across the road and began to giggle. I had flashbacks to a cold early morning in January, 21 years ago, when I realized I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.
I was listening to the scanner in the darkroom 21 years ago when I heard of a shooting at Farmers Rural Electric Cooperative in Glasgow. Nate Wood killed Anna Wood, who he dragged behind his car, and also shot Fred Tisdale, a former Western Kentucky University basketball player.
Wood led police on a high-speed chase, eventually crashing his car into the house and taking an 88-year-old woman hostage. I grabbed my gear and headed to cover the news that had Ky. 90 closed and dozens of law enforcement surrounding the house.
I hung out with the KSP public information officer and made frames of troopers with long guns, their critical response team or anything that showed what was going on. But I knew I could make a better photo. I drove around looking for higher ground and as light was fading I found a farm on the hill across the street, so I made my way up there and asked the farmer if I could shoot photos from his property. He agreed but told me to avoid the small field to the right.
I left Bowling Green at 4 a.m. after hearing the hostage situation was still going on. I made the mistake of not dressing for the weather. Loafers, no socks and a thin jacket. I froze my butt off.
I made my way to the farm on the hill. As soon as I got out of the car, I knew it was going to be a long, cold morning. I carried my 500mm Nikon lens over my shoulder and made my way through the fields looking for a good vantage point. I tried multiple locations while hoping to see the front of the house where I thought they might breach.
At one point, I thought one of the KSP snipers hiding in the field overnight looked over his shoulder at me as I trudged around. I decided the best spot was the field the farmer warned me about. I climbed the barbed-wire fence, ripping my pants, and headed to the perfect spot.
Just as the sun was rising and I was walking with my head down while trying to avoid all the cow patties, I happened to look up – and I am face to face with the largest damn bull I have ever seen! I stopped dead in my tracks as we sized up each other. I wasn’t shivering from the cold, I was scared to death. Not only was I going to miss the photo, I was going to be a news headline myself, “Photographer gored in field.”
For what seemed an eternity we squared off, both trying to figure out our next move. I knew what mine was, back up slowly and pray. Luckily, the bull was not as interested in me as I thought. I was able to hide behind a tree, keeping one eye on the hostage situation and one eye on the bull.
The standoff ended just after 9 a.m. when state police pulled the front window off the front of the house and plucked out Wood. I made some nice pictures of them breaching the house with Wood in custody. My only challenge was to get past the bull and back to the paper, which happened without incident.
Not every spot news event I covered had that much drama surrounding it. If you see me driving around town and smiling or laughing, I am likely remembering or thinking of something I shot or did while shooting that will make it into an upcoming column.