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ZION NATIONAL PARK UTAH This image was made during the fall of 2015 in SW Utah. It was one of three parks that we visited on this tri...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Effie the Mountain Woman ©1972

My encounter with Effie came about quite by chance. Reverend Hatter, who was a local Mennonite preacher in the small community of Love had told me about her and said he would take me over for a brief visit. He was familiar with my documentary and thought that Effie would welcome our visit. He was also well aware that she lived alone and made it a point to see that her basic needs were taken care of.
Effie lived alone in a small mountain cabin a half mile or so up a nearby ridge. I did not know it at the time, but she was nearly blind, and had to use a stick to get around. Still, she was a tough old lady who spoke her piece.

As we approached her place, I could see her sitting on her front porch rocking away in a chair. My gut instinct told me this would be one of the images I wanted, so I started unpacking my tripod and camera as Rev Hatter and I hiked up the trail, which was not easy.
I was maybe twenty feet from the house when I stopped, jammed the tripod into the ground, and made several rapid exposures. After my introduction, I made another series of images. This time I was able to move in a bit closer and capture the true character of her face. I was right; that was my photography session for the day. When I told her that I had made the first image from a distance she just laughed and kidded me about why anyone would want to have a picture of an old woman. This was a line that I had experienced before. I told her that her face had lots of character. And I was dead serious.
One evening, several years following this visit, I was sitting around a campfire enjoying good tales and fellowship with a group of Mennonite friends who lived in that same general area. Suddenly there was a sudden commotion in the distance, and several of those in the group took off in a pickup truck to see what was going on up the road. I knew nothing at the time except that it involved Effie. About an hour later the group returned with everyone laughing and kidding each other about what had transpired up at Effie’s place. Apparently, a neighbor had heard her yelling in the distance and sent for help. Knowing her condition, everyone expected the worst.

What had happened was that some of her chickens and a small pig had escaped from their pen. Despite her near blindness and the advancing darkness, she took off down through the woods and brush after them. I’m not sure how, but she somehow managed to get hung up real good in a wire fence that was supposed to keep the livestock in. My friends said she was completely stuck and was mad as a wet hen. Fortunately, the only thing that was affected was her dignity.

It wasn’t too long after this incident when the wood stove in her house backfired during the night and when the neighbors checked on her she was gone. They think she died of smoke inhalation during her sleep. There was no damage to the house.

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