Everyone needs mentors, and I am not one to learn on my own. I do a lot of reading and studying on my own. But I don’t think it’s the same as learning when you have guidance. I have had many mentors through the years. And I have looked up to all of them.
My first real mentor, Doug Poll, who later became my father in-law. I owe him more than he will ever know. I was a dumb kid hanging around his daughter at fourteen when I decided I wanted to be a cowboy. Growing up in the city with hippie parents, the opportunities to learn how to be one were pretty scarce. But he took me under his wing and gave me a chance that most wouldn’t. No doubt I would not be the man I am today if not for him. He taught me to take pride in working hard and be a man of my word. If Doug Poll shakes your hand on a deal, you can take it to the bank.
He is a farrier and taught me the trade, and he is the kind of guy that if you made an appointment with him at 1:00 you could set your watch for 12:55 when he pulled in your driveway. I always respected him for that but it never really stuck with me. I’m more of an ish kind of guy. I always tell my clients I will be there around 1:00ish. I always show up, but that way I am never late either. The way I see it, everyone has phones with the time on them, and they don’t need to set their watches by me… He is a man of honesty and integrity, and the world could use more of them.
I met Chris Dickenson through his wife, Joe. She started having me shoe her horses a little over a year ago. One day at the barn, Chris happened to be there while I was shoeing. I introduced myself and told him I was interested in photography. Being the guy he is, he was more than happy to talk to me. He invited me to come to his locals workshop a couple of months later and I had a great experience. Since then we have tried to meet up every couple of months for him to help me advance my photography.
I’ve noticed that Chris has a curious mind. Ever since the first day I met him he has expressed his intrigue for the farrier trade. We have talked about getting a shoot together where we could take pictures while a farrier was working. I have messed around in my shop a few times taking pictures I thought could be interesting. And they have turned out ok. But I figured with him involved they could be REALLY be interesting.
A couple of weeks ago I came across this pic on Facebook. I love it! Whats more bad ass than an old weathered farrier lighting a cigarette with a hot shoe he just pulled out of the forge?? NOTHING! He strikes me as the kind of guy that has probably smoked most of his life and has never read the numerous medical journals that have proven that smoking is not good for you-he wouldn’t care if he did. He doesn’t exercise everyday and watch what he eats. He eats whats in front of him. He doesn’t have to worry about gaining weight, because a man that works as hard as he does burns more calories than he would ever take in on a normal day.
This guy would never fit in to a middle class corporate world, nor does he belong there. He would be a human resource nightmare. Guys like him think that political correctness is for thin skinned people who live in a soft world. Working 9-5 is a light day. His world is tough, consisting of long hard days in strenuous conditions where you work until the job is done. Slowing down long enough to have a cigarette is therapy to help him get through his day.
He doesn’t know what retirement is, he never thought he would live long enough to even worry about it. Guys like him don’t look into the future much. They wake up and think about what jobs are at hand for the day, and plan on working until the day they die, or physically cant. He is the kind of guy that thinks if you have time to check on your IRA or ROTH account, you have to much time on your hands. He figures things will work out in the end. And if they don’t, he is at peace with it.
I could go on and on about how I interpret this photo and what it means to me. I have the utmost respect for guys like him.
So when I texted Chris the picture to see what he thought about it, he could tell how excited I was. I told him how much I like pictures like this. It was his idea to try and recreate it in our own way. He thought it would be a great learning experience. I had not really thought about it, but thought it was a great idea!
Our schedules finally lined up and he came to my shop to see what we could come up with.
I have had a lot of mentors through the years. Some better than others. But I have learned something from all of them. Chris ranks up there with the best of them. Something I have noticed about people who are at the top of their craft is that they have a hard time remembering what it’s like to be at the beginning of learning curve. They forget that not knowing the simplest of details is a thing, and they are impatient. Not Chris. He either has a good poker face, or he truly understands what it’s like to start out at the bottom(I’m going with the later). Good mentors push you when needed and give positive encouragement and are honest with you.
We had a blast taking these pictures. You can never go wrong being with like minded people. My biggest concern of the night was not lightning his beard on fire when he put a hot shoe next to his face. We prevailed and I learned a ton about my camera and lighting. There is so much to learn, that I can never get enough!
My advice to anyone wanting to learn a trade is to find a good mentor and be willing to learn and respect their time. Never respond to a comment with an “I know”. Work your butt off for them, and show them your commitment. Don’t argue what they tell you. If you don’t agree with them. Do it their way anyway. You can do it your own way when you are on your own time.
I am thankful for all the mentors I have had in my life. I wouldn’t be where I am in my life without all of them.
The best shot of the night. The one Chris took.