The Semi-Planned Trip: Snakes, Angel Wings, and an Angry Mutti

Schmidt & House recently returned from another excursion to the Wichita Mountains. Don took portraits–some arranged beforehand, others spur of the moment–, and I photographed mostly buildings and landscapes.

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Geronimo High School

One of the most obvious but also difficult things I have learned about photography is acceptance of the unexpected. My paper houses project involved careful planning; yet, many of my favorite photos from the series came about because I happened to have a miniature house with me in the right place at the right time. Work on the Schmidt & House Wichita Mountains project has been following a similar approach of knowing what we want to do, but only to a certain extent. We map out some definite stops, put our equipment in the truck, and start driving, ready for whatever and whomever we will encounter on the road.

Still, we weren’t quite prepared for the aggressive pygmy rattlesnake we met on a hike at the end of the first day. It challenged us on a hill in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and refused to budge. That’s unusual behavior, even for a rattler. (Venomous snakes encountered in my fifteen years in the U.S. before meeting Don: one. Since meeting Don: I don’t even know. Life has become much more interesting.)

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Wichitas sunset. Somewhere, a pygmy rattlesnake is awaiting us.

We made a planned stop at the Holy City so Don could take a portrait of the director. A friendly employee asked me if I wanted to try on an angel costume, and I hesitated for only a second. He led me to one of the prop rooms, where the costumes, Roman soldier helmets, a Judas effigy, and an infant Jesus doll for the annual Holy City passion play are stored, and fitted me with giant wings. I posed in a courtyard in a white gown with two wings made from white shag carpeting spreading out from my back. Don has Hasselblad evidence.

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The Holy City: looking like Jerusalem since 1935.

Driving through an industrial section of Lawton a few days later, we noticed a nondescript building with a huge German flag and the sign “Mutti’s German Restaurant” on the front. It’s like being offered a chance to wear angel wings: you don’t turn it down. We went there for dinner the next evening. When  we arrived an hour before closing, the place was almost empty. It looked exactly as I had imagined–posters of German tourist sites, garden gnomes, blue-and-white table cloths, and a long list of beers. The food was fantastic, probably the most authentic I’ve had outside of Germany. But my happy nostalgia ended during dessert. Twenty minutes past closing time,  we had overstayed our welcome. In wonderfully, authentically German passive-aggressive manner, Mutti started vacuuming the restaurant. The American waitress apologized. We left. There is no photographic evidence.

Welcome!

This is the new home on the web for Schmidt & House. We are at work on a book of photography, essays, and poems on the Wichita Mountains in southwest Oklahoma. We will be posting images and texts as the project develops. We also plan on announcing a fundraising page soon and invite you to check back (or subscribe to updates) if you are interested in the book project.

Sabine Schmidt & Don House

Hazel Valley, Arkansas

Questions or ideas? Please get in touch.