Early Works

MARSHA STEWART
Gomer's Funeral, North Dakota, Age 11


 

When I was eleven years old, my Mum gave me an old black shutter box camera and told me to take photos of a dog's funeral. Although the dog had a proper home and a family who loved him, in the hearts of the town's children, Gomer (a chocolate-colored hound dog) belonged to all of us. He was gentle and lazy and we all loved him. Day or night you could find him sleeping outside the local pub, waiting to accompany his master home. He would raise his head and with a grunt, welcome a scratch behind his ear, a rub on his tummy, or a beef jerky treat.

All the young people, from six to eighteen years, protested his death. A poster-sized petition nailed to a fence was signed by all the town's youngsters, and by a few adults. Sadly, no amount of signatures could save him. The Town Council had a witness who said he saw Gomer killing two of Mr. Remsing's sheep. Shortly after the meeting, Gomer was spirited away to a field and shot—then buried at an undisclosed location.

The town children held a mock funeral for Gomer. The boys, wearing over-sized charity shop suits with loud ties and sneakers, rode their bikes in procession down Main Street, pulling a wagon that carried an empty box with "Gomer" painted on the side. At the grave site, I ordered my ragtag friends about, scrunching them closely together to fit them all into the picture. Typically a shy and quiet girl, I was suddenly bossing everyone around. That day, I truly was "a photographer."

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