In 2010, Castaway Books owner Kitty Parr purchased an island in Little Rindle Creek, renaming it “Crusoe’s Island” in honor of store founder Milton Dunnacker and the novel he loved so well. To defray some of the cost, Kitty commissioned a commemorative photographic print, recreating an episode from the book, to be taken on the island. Choosing the iconic scene of Crusoe discovering Friday’s footprint, she hired Castor “artist” Julian Rochelle as the photographer.
“I wouldn’t do that,” I warned her. “Artists aren’t like the rest of us.”
Kitty wouldn’t listen.
According to his website, Rochelle specialized in “artistic pastoral nudes,” meaning he took photos of naked women sitting on tractors in soybean fields, so I wasn’t surprised when he insisted that a simple photo of a footprint would not do. According to Rochelle, goats were important to the novel, therefore he must have a goat for the photo, even though hundreds of illustrators had depicted the scene goat-free. Nippy Keene agreed to provide one nanny-goat.
Rochelle next demanded that, for reasons of artistic integrity, Friday’s footprint be made by a black man. Shady Glen, owner of the Shady Glen Campground, who qualified because he is black and has feet, reluctantly agreed to provide the required appendage.
“I’m telling you, though,” he said, “a black man’s print ain’t no different than a white man’s, nor a Chinaman’s either. The Lord didn’t specify—he just made feet.”
The session began on a Friday—another demand—with Shady and Rochelle arguing over which foot made the best impression, quickly deteriorating as Rochelle accused Shady of clamping his toes together out of spite, saying if he had wanted a flipper print he would have hired a seal. Telling Rochelle that he was no “foot slut,” and that he splayed his toes for no one but his wife, Shady left, mumbling something about the size of the photographer’s aperture as he waded back to the campground.
Then the goat ran off. Nippy followed, yelling from midstream that he’d been in the rent-a-goat business for three hours and had already lost a nanny and his self-respect.
Saying he should have known better than to attempt an important artistic assignment in a “hick town full of illiterate rubes” who didn’t appreciate his gift, Rochelle returned to Castor and his tractor.
“You see,” I explained to Kitty as we stood alone on the shore, “artists think they’re special. They’re not. They’re just like everybody else, only they don’t know it.”
On Saturday morning I waded to the island, spread my toes, made an impression, and took a photo. Kitty sold 79 prints, raising over $1000.00. You can see them in the lobby of the Fainburn Hotel, at the Crawdad Club, in the mayor’s office, at the Angel’s Rest Funeral Home, or in private homes throughout the town.
And Shady? He hung one of the photos behind the snack counter at the campground.
“Just think,” I always tease him, “that could have been your footprint if you’d only splayed your toes.”