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Sharing the light of friendly beacons

It all started at World on the Square in August, when Tahira was belly dancing. Another photographer and I were more or less silently competing for pictures when we started talking. Danny Dempster, a free-lancer from Floyds Knobs, was taking pictures for the Harrison County Convention and Visitors Bureau and had a nice camera. As photographers are prone to do, we started comparing notes on cameras and lenses, and he mentioned that he had taken the pictures for a new book called ‘Lighthouses of the South.’
I didn’t know there were many lighthouses in the southern states, except around Cape Hatteras and thereabouts. ‘Why would a guy from Floyds Knobs do a book on lighthouses down south?’ I wondered to myself. Well, guess what. Dempster had taken the pictures for TWO coffee-table books on lighthouses, and they are beautiful. You can buy them at Borders in Louisville. The other book is called ‘Lighthouses of the Great Lakes.’
At the Lanesville Heritage Weekend festival in September, I photographed a woman from Louisville, formerly Luddington, Mich., who was wearing a unique hat in the old tractor and steam engine display area. It looked like she had a giant ladybug on her head. Her name is Jeannie Chryn.
In addition to unusual headgear, Jeannie told me that she collects thimbles. She has 5,178 of them. ‘A thimble collector is called a digitabulist,’ she explained. She added that she and her husband, Richard, are charter members of the Derby City Lighthouse Club, even though Louisville has no lighthouses. Members often show each other their best lighthouse pictures.
Did you know there is such an organization? I didn’t. (In my line of work, I am continually being amazed.) The Chryns collect harbor lights, so they also attend meetings of the Harbour Lights Club, a national organization based in California.
The last Harbour Lights reunion was three years ago in Baltimore. Eight hundred people attended. The next one will be next summer in Mackinac Island.
I didn’t think much more about lighthouses until I went to Crawford County on Saturday, Oct. 2, for Auctioneer Ralph Love’s last sale. Ralph introduced me to several of his buddies, including Charlie Wampler of English, at the Canfield sale. I’m not sure why, but Charlie told me that if I ever went to Oregon, he would like to show me a lighthouse in Newport.
‘The lighthouse at Yaquina Head,’ Charlie said. ‘It’s a working light, belongs to the Bureau of Land Management.’
Charlie goes to Alaska every year, and on the way home he stops in Oregon and gives tours at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. He saw it for the first time a few years ago when he decided to drive down the coast on Highway 101. He talked to the ranger at the light, who asked if he’d like to work for him and give tours.
‘I’m very good at interpretive skills,’ Charlie told me. ‘I’m a people person, and I like to be with people. It’s the oldest lighthouse on the Oregon coast and the second tallest at 90 feet.’
He usually goes out in September, sometimes in October, but this fall he didn’t go because his sister is gravely ill. I guess that’s why we met.
Why do people talk to me about lighthouses, I wondered. Do I look like I need one? Do I appear to need help? Do I need to be rescued or saved? Anyway, I pondered these deep questions for several days and figured lighthouses must be an important part of my life for some reason. At home, I picked up a newsmagazine, and you’ll never believe this, but the first thing I turned to was a story on a lighthouse in Cornwall, England.
About the time you read this, I will be with my grandson, Blake West, 9, in Portland, Maine, to see his aunt and my daughter, Lara West. And while we’re in Maine, on that wild and rocky coast, I think we’ll probably see a few lighthouses. No telling who we’ll meet there.