My 2022 Altamont Fair results – and a post-fair good deed.

When was the first time I tried the Altamont Fair’s photography competition?

Way back in 2009. It was so long ago, I was blogging about it on a different platform. Way long ago.

I didn’t win that year. Nor did I claim any ribbons in 2010.

Things picked up in 2011, however, with a couple of silks. My first blue came in 2012, with a photo of an Icelandic sheep, The Jumbuck.

Since then, I’ve achieved reasonable success with the Altamont Fair’s photography competition. Several blue ribbons, including scoring ones for my Milky-Way-over-a-covered-bridge photo Washington County, 2:30 a.m., my macro shot of a drenched dandelion After the Rain, and an infrared photo at St. Agnes Cemetery, Farrell.

This year, I brought what I felt were four strong artworks to Altamont. I brought a lenticular fireworks image that I will most likely repurpose for this year’s BUILT. I brought a precision shot of the American Legion’s rifle team that will most likely be donated to the Legion Hall after the Fair. And yeah, I brought my two pieces for which I have the most hope – my infrared snap of the vine-covered Toll Gate Ice Cream parlor, We Serve Wayward Strangers, and my 5 1/2 hour lunar eclipse collage, The View From Screven County.

And during my time at Altamont, I’ve developed several superstitions. I first check out the scarecrow exhibit at the Fairgrounds. Oh look, there’s Bernie Sanders.

I don’t enter the Fine Arts Building until I’ve at least had some food at the fairgrounds eatery known as Josie’s. One order of chicken and a biscuit and a diet cola later … I’m ready for the art building.

I don’t go directly to where I think my pictures are; I walk into the building with my gaze on the floor, and I turn left – to see the great paintings and photos from the youth entries first.

Okay. Let’s do this.

Here’s the lenticular print of the fireworks.

Nuts. No ribbon. Oh well, off to BUILT you go.

How about the American Legion military salute?

Dang. No ribbon. Oh well. This picture would look better at the American Legion Hall anyway.

Okay. Let’s see if my ivy-covered Toll Gate Ice Cream parlor gets some love … and …

Nothing? Wow.

Okay. All I have left to aim for is the eclipse photo. Come on, give me some good vibes here … and …

Okay. Honorable Mention. I’ll take that. This means that As Seen From Screven County has earned two ribbons in two shows. And it’s earmarked for three more appearances in Competition Season 2022.

Not my best showing at Altamont this time around, but I’ll do better next time. Time to drive home. I’ll stop back on Sunday and claim my photos when the Fair ends.

I left the Fairgrounds at about 6:30 p.m., driving up Route 146 on my way back home. Of course, now I’m thinking about whether I should have ditched one photo or another. Should I have added a shot from the Saratoga, Corinth and Hudson Railway? Should I have brought over Katcha’ nu: weso or The Snowflake Ride or one of my Vermont covered bridge images?

Oh well. I’m good. Driving along 146, and all of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I spot a vehicle on the side of the road. Driver’s out of the car, calling someone on her cell phone. Car’s flashers are on.

At that point in time, I had three options. I could have either:

  • (a) Driven on my way, still mentally swapping out one photo for another all the way home.
  • (b) Driven on my way, contemplating whether I should stop at Stewart’s and pick up some foodstuffs.
  • (c) Driven on my way, mentally cursing out the parking field attendant who kept telling me I couldn’t park at one spot “because the ground isn’t solid and we’ve been trying to get people out of that area,” only to watch someone else pull in that spot and then he tells me, “Oh, that car was there already.”

You know in the end, I’ll always choose Option D.

And Option D meant that I turned around at the Tawasentha Park entrance and drove back to the disabled car.

“Do you need help or assistance?” I asked.

“I’m trying to call my insurance, to set up a tow.”

“Do you have AAA?”

“No,” she replied.

I got this. “Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll call my AAA and have them come and tow your car.”

“You can do that?” she asked.

Yes I can. So long as my membership is in good standing (it is), and so long as I’m there when the tow truck arrives (what else am I going to do, drive home and mentally decide which photo should have been used at Altamont instead of what I submitted?), then I can use AAA that way.

I called AAA and told them the situation. I explained that there was a stalled Hyundai on the side of Route 146 in Altamont. Despite having a quarter of a tank of fuel, the car wasn’t powering properly. Could be a fuel pump issue, could be an alternator, could be a hundred different things. AAA said they would send a tow truck as soon as they could, but they were stretched for coverage.

“That’s fine,” I said. “I’ll wait with the driver until you arrive.”

And I waited.

See? There’s Lightning’s Girl behind a stalled Hyundai.

Look. In a situation like this, a person’s emotional state is all over the place. I’ve been there. I know. I’ve had four cars before Lightning’s Girl; all four of them had one issue or another at one point in time. And thank God I’ve had AAA in emergencies, whether it was to get Dracourage out of a snowbank, or to replace a battery in the Blackbird, or to tow Cardachrome out of a ditch, or to help bandage up my Pontiac 6000 for a few more miles.

So I waited with the driver. We talked. Nothing much, just small talk. A family who lived next to where our cars were parked brought the driver some water and cookies.

And eventually, at 8:30 p.m., a AAA tow truck arrived. The tow truck operator – Joe – was very nice and understanding and calm. This is important. Again, when you’re worrying about why your car broke down, and whether it will cost $ or $$ or $$$$$$$ to repair it …

Joe backed up the flatbed, strapped some chains on the Hyundai’s front, and hauled the disabled vehicle onto his truck.

Joe hauled the Hyundai to a nearby garage. Since Joe couldn’t take the driver home, and since I didn’t know if the driver had Uber or anything like that … I volunteered to drive her the few miles to her home. Dropped her off, then I went back on the highway to my home.

See, here’s the thing. If that had been you on the side of the road, worrying and fretting about why your car wasn’t working, and your nerves are already frazzled, and the world just hit you sideways … wouldn’t it be a relief to find someone who’s willing to stop and help? Look, we already live in tense times. And I’m sure there are people who’ve seen enough Investigation Discovery TV shows to worry that a disabled car + a passing motorist = Joe Kenda solving the crime …

For every story like that, it’s important to have a story where someone helps out someone else in need, without requesting anything in return. You know, the old “pay it forward” mantra. A well-executed mitzvah. Matthew 7:12. A good deed is rewarded threefold, says St. Jerome of Garcia. Whatever Scripture you prefer.

We only get one ride on this Earth. If we can’t make it a better place for our fellow men and women, than why are we here?

And on my way home that night, I stopped thinking about my photos at the Altamont Fair.

My mind was filled with a warm feeling of doing something positive.

And in the end … I’m good with that.