On our last night of shooting in the Palouse, we toured some of the most iconic barns and old houses in the area. At the top of the list is an old house that reminds me of Dorothy’s house in the Wizard of Oz. I’m not the only one who feels that way: several of my photography friends commonly refer to it as “the Auntie Em house.” It is a beautiful old dwelling that is extremely popular for photographers. In fact, it is so popular that it would be overrun if it weren’t for the diligent efforts of the owners. Last night, we had the pleasure of meeting them.
So, I’d like to introduce you to Charlie and Karla. The house, which you can see in the background of this picture, has been in Karla’s family for five generations since it was first built in the mid-1800s. Karla’s family immigrated to this area from Germany before Washington became a state in 1889. The house began as a log structure and, over the decades, was expanded and improved by Karla’s family until it had multiple rooms and out-buildings. The family has made a living farming this land for more than 150 years.
Charlie and Karla graciously shared this story with us, in addition to teaching us about some of the crops in the area and farming in the 21st century. This conversation with Charlie and Karla was the highlight of the trip for me! Seeing and photographing old structures like this is quite rewarding. However, meeting the people of the area and learning the history behind the structures is priceless. I would trade all of the images I’ve created on this trip just for the 30 minutes I spent with Charlie and Karla. Their story, and countless others like it, is what really matters.
It reminds me of my chance meeting with Sgt. Miller on Memorial Day 2017 in the Colfax Cemetery as he individually saluted and honored every fallen Veteran in the Colfax cemetery early last Memorial Day. I wrote about that encounter last year. It was a special lesson in what really matters: people. So thanks, Charlie and Karla, for reminding me again what really matters!
And, to all the photographers and visitors to the Palouse: think about Charlie and Karla’s story during your visit. Enjoy the beautiful scenery of this amazing area. But, most importantly, respect their property and their lives by staying on the roads and not trespassing. Photographers en massé have a way ruining locations in the name beauty. Kind of ironic when you think about it. We can ruin a place because we trample it. In reality, it’s NOT about our precious images, it’s about stories like Charlie and Karla’s. Their stories are what really matters. Let’s not lose the Palouse because we’ve overrun it in the name of beauty!