I hustled over to the field day and ran around to a dozen settings where they had all sorts of cool activities. I shot stills and video from both these assignments. I planned on editing the video after my baseball game later. On the way back from the field day I called my colleague, Amber Waterman to see what was up and ask for help. It was already 1:45, and I was not able to reach my 1:30 portrait assignment for a story we are doing next week about kids who go into their father’s line of work. I wanted to tell them I would be late. She said no problem, and offered to go shoot it for me. The photo staff at the Sun Journal works together like no other. It’s why we have cornered the market on photo awards in the annual Maine Press Association most every year. We are like a family, without the hair pulling or biting, but not without animosity and a cold shoulder once in a while. But for the most part, without a photo editor, we work together like no other photo department in the state. I digress.
No sooner did I hang up with her, I got another call to go to a structure fire on Main Street in Auburn. I headed over there and not seeing smoke, and from what I was hearing over the scanner, I had my suspicions. I parked my car and met up with reporter Chris Williams just getting out of his. I told him “I’ll bet they are just training. The street is not closed down, I don’t see any cops.” My suspicions were confirmed and we headed back to the office.
I had just enough time to download my video’s to edit later and pump out a couple prints from the funeral and field day so the editors could see them in their afternoon budget meeting to decide what gets played where in Saturday’s paper. I handed them to editor Judy Meyer and left for my 3:30 playoff baseball game in Buckfield. On the way, the sky was blue with puffy white clouds, but an ominous sky loomed ahead. As I got closer, it was about 3:35, I got a call from sports reporter Randy Whitehouse, saying there was wicked lightning (foreshadowing) in the area and it was starting to rain, so the game was on hold. Within a minute, rain started pelting my windscreen.
I got to the game and no sooner had I parked and reclined my seat for a much needed moment of rest, I got a call from Judy. “Lightning struck a house in Hebron and it is fully engulfed.” When she told me it was off the Green Mountain Road, I knew where that was, so headed that way. I got to the road before the police arrived, so I drove up the dirt road off the main road toward the fire. I got about half way there and pulled into a driveway. It was still a quarter of a mile away, but I didn’t want to go further fearing I would get blocked in. As I was getting out of my car, I noticed them setting up for a dump tank behind me and getting ready to run a supply hose down the road up ahead. I WOULD be cut off. I jumped in my car and raced back up the dirt road out to Greenwood Mountain Road. I parked my car on the road out of the way and grabbed my cameras and opened my umbrella as it was still raining. I could see a big plume of smoke on the horizon as I was driving to the scene, but nothing now. As I scurried up the long, muddy, dirt road, I came to several fire commanders talking. I asked if I could go up a little further and one said, “Don’t go up there until we have secured the scene Russ.” I asked if I could go up a little further and one said, OK Russ.” It helps that I have been around for 30 years and many of the firefighters and police officers know me. Of course, when I turned the corner and saw the flames rising 40 feet in the air, I had to keep creeping closer. I got close, but not too close . I wanted to go to the left where the flames were raging most, but there were no firefighters over there, my instincts told me no. Good thing as a few minutes there were explosions from propane tanks and a wire started sparking on the ground.
The rain had stopped and there was even some blue sky. Perfect for shooting photos. I closed my umbrella and kicked myself for not bringing my bag of video equipment. I had considered it when grabbing my gear, but with no smoke visible, the long walk, already having two other video’s to edit, and the rain, I decided not. I now regretted it. Oh well. I began shooting. I got my photos and got out. Better not to overstay my welcome. Besides, I had to get back to the baseball game.
Within a few minutes of getting back to Buckfield High School, the game began. I got a great shot in the third inning, a few ok secondary shots already, so I stayed one more inning and headed back to the office. It was nearly 8:00 when I sat down at my desk to start processing everything.
First on the agenda was to attach the fire photos to the story that was already posted on our website. That done, I processed the baseball photos, captioned the other two photos I gave the desk before I left for the game and then started working on my video’s. Two hours later when they were done and in the process of uploading to our video hosting site, I started going through the dozens of emails I had received over the past day. It was my last day before going on vacation this week, so I had some loose ends to tie up.
At that time my good friend and work colleague, Scott Thistle, called me, knowing the day I had and invited me over to his man cave for a beer. At 11:30 my wife was asleep and I had already called my boys earlier, so I took him up on his offer. The video’s were still uploading, but I could attach them to the stories later at Scott’s house. When I arrived, he was tweaking his North to Augusta work blog that he just started. I had three beers, keeping me under the OUI limit, I headed home at 12:45.
My faithful dog Allie met me at the door. Ryan, my oldest, was just heading off to bed, so I gave him a hug and asked him if he had a chance to walk the dog today. He said he and his girlfriend took her for a short one because of the rain. It was so gorgeous outside and I still had a little life left in me, so I grabbed a couple Hannaford bags I use to scoop the poop, and the leash and headed out the door. I don’t have to hook her up at night. We walk down the street, across the intersection and then jog to the end of the street. Before crossing Campus Avenue into the Bates campus Allie always stops. At that point I attach the leash before heading to the campus, usually. The college kids are gone and not one car on either side of Campus Avenue. No cars anywhere. She looks up at me and I said, “Go get the squirrel!” and we are off racing through the campus. It’s nearly 2 before I am crawling in bed.
This is not an unusual day, just different. Most every work day is long, and I like to squeeze everything out of a day. Friday I did not get a chance to spend any time with my family other than to cook breakfast and drive them to school, but most day’s I can find time to go for a bike ride, or play pass, basketball or whatever the sport of the season it. Walking the dog with one or all of them is great fun too. Because I have long day’s like this, I have no qualms about skipping out during the middle of my shift to watch a game or go to a practice, doctor or school appointment, or other function my boys are in. I have great bosses in Judy Meyer and Rex Rhoades who have no problems with this, knowing they get way more work out of me than the 37.5 hours I am paid. Being on salary has it’s ups and down’s.
I have the best job in the world, a great family in my wife, boys, brother and sisters. My dad is still around who I usually have coffee with most mornings after dropping the older boys off at school and heading to work. I could not have asked for better in-laws, and my extended family and friends are the greatest. I have been blessed with a wonderful life. Now if I could just figure a way to pay my bills, I would be the happiest man alive. But money can’t buy love and happiness. In that, I am the richest man alive. I did not know Kylee Gendron, but like many others, she has inspired me to keeping on living life to it’s fullest. I have always done that, but will try to do so even more. Love, share and care is my motto. So as Kylee would say, I’ll Keep on Keepin-on.