Did You Try the Champions Wall?

Shane entered four of his photos into the county fair competition. So we went to the county fair to see how he’d done.

We went to the arts building, and finally located the wall labeled “Children’s Photography.” There were about 200 photos on that wall, many stuck with ribbons to designate what award they’d been given. We were happy that the judging had been done before we’d arrived, so we knew whether or not Shane’s photos had been recognized.

Shane found three of his photos right away. “I got third place for my picture of the camera!” he exclaimed. “And fifth place for my water fountain!”

He found the squirrel in the “Wildlife” section – which was a very popular section. The squirrel photo was awesome. I’d been trying to capture a squirrel in action for thirty years and had never taken a photo that good. “I got Honorable Mention for my squirrel,” he said.

We all scoured the wall for his fourth photo, which was in the “Buildings and Memorials” category. We couldn’t find it.

I thought maybe they’d lost it, somehow, during the insane submission and judging process. We kept looking, to no avail.

I remember when Shane took that photo. It was a photo of the Bennington Battle Monument, in Vermont. We’d stumbled upon it over spring break, while trying to find Robert Frost’s gravesite which we never did locate. The monument is more than 300 feet tall, and towers above everything for miles.

Shane took half a dozen photos of it – but what he was doing was just odd. He was pointing the camera toward the monument, and waving his hand in front of the camera. With his left arm in the photo realm, he was manipulating the camera with only his right hand.

I was baffled, watching him. He looked like he was doing some kind of ritualistic dance.

“What are you doing?” I finally asked.

“I’m taking a picture,” he said. Then he showed me the digital images on the back of the camera. In the photo, it looked like Shane was picking up the monument. Using perspective, he was able to make it look as though his hand was actually around the entire 300-foot monument. And the way he framed it, he could have been carrying it away.

After we’d matted all four photos, Shane and I liked the monument best. But we couldn’t find that photo on the wall.

Finally, we asked a fair volunteer if maybe that photo was lost.

“Did you try the Champions wall?” she asked.

“The what?” I said. We had never heard of the Champions wall, so the volunteer pointed the way.

We all raced over to a board labeled “Photography Champions.”

And there, on the wall, was Shane’s photo of the Bennington Battle Monument being carried away. It was one of only three children’s photos to be selected for the Champions wall.

Shane won the Chairman’s Choice Award.

While we were snapping photos of Shane next to the Champions wall, my eyes were so full of tears that I could barely see the photos I was taking.

I’ve been crying for years, every time my son walks out onto a stage. But I’ve just realized that these tears are not necessarily only tears of joy.

They are tears of pride.

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