Monday, August 27, 2007

So long, J.D. Cash

Earlier this year, I was asked by Mother Jones magazine for permission to use a photo of investigative reporter J.D. Cash that I had taken back in 2004 at the state trial for Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols. Never heard back from the magazine after transmitting the photos, but found online that they story had run in last month's edition of the magazine.

I read the story and was shocked to learn that Cash had died in May. Fuck. This is not the kind of entry I envisioned when I began this blog.

The photo abovet was taken March 22, 2004, outside the courthouse at McAlester. I covered the trial for the British magazine, Fortean Times, in a story called "White Noise."Cash -- who wrote investigative stories for the tiny McCurtain Gazette -- was featured in the article. He had gained notoriety by questioning whether Nichols and Timothy McVeigh had acted alone, or whether a group called the Aryan Republican Army was also involved. I had also done some original reporting on the ARA, and they kept a safehouse at my longtime hometown of Pittsburg, Kansas.

The Pittsburg safehouse is at left, in a photo I took in February 2004. The ARA robbed at least 22 banks across the Midwest and were the poster children for white supremacist nutjobs - they were attempting to finance an all-out race war. The gang was led by boyhood friends Pete Langan and Richard Guthrie. Timothy McVeigh, who was executed for the OKC bombing, may have beena wheel man for the gang. When Langan was outed as a cross-dressing transexual, the gang fell apart. Guthrie and Langan were caught by the feds in 1996; Guthrie committed suicide in prison and Langan is now serving his time at the Supermax prison at Florence, Colorado.

Cash dieda couple of days after the Greensburg tornado, so I was otherwise occupied. But I still feel badly that he died and I didn't know about his passing. He was a terrific guy, and in addition to writing for the Gazette, he also did a local program, and he had me on as a guest a time or two promoting some book or another. Probably The Moon Pool.

Here's what the Associated Press ran on his death:

Published: May 07, 2007 4:55 PM ET

TULSA, Okla. (AP) Newspaper reporter J.D. Cash of the McCurtain Daily Gazette has died at age 55. Cash died at a Tulsa hospital Sunday following after suffering from liver disease and pneumonia.

Cash had spent the past 12 years reporting on the Oklahoma City bombing, including a report from a woman who said she was an undercover agent who warned the government of plans to bomb federal buildings in 1995.

He's survived by his mother.

A private funeral service is planned in Tulsa.

Cash did not have a journalistic background. He came to reporting for one story, and one story only: the Oklahoma City bombing. He did it better than anybody else, he did it for a newspaper with a circulation so small that most journalists cited it with a chuckle, and he came closer to the truth than anybody else. Damn.

And come to think of it, Mother Jones never paid me for the photo. But maybe they didn't use it. Also, J.D. never told me he was sick. But then, as tough as he was, he wouldn't. But I'm glad to have known him, and glad to have taken a photo that tells his story -- outside a courthouse, notebook and pen in hand.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Greensburg Neighbor

I love old trucks, and this one -- carrying an appeal for the "Neighbor to Neighbor" fund in Greenburg -- caught my eye. It was parked at the southeast corner of U.S. 54 and Main Street, at what used to be the center of town. The website for the fund is:

Big Well Sign

A donation jug on the chain link fence surrounding the Big Well site. Above, the Big Well sign autographed by workers and others attending the Aug. 4 rededication ceremony. Click on the photo for the larger version, and you can read the names.

Big Well -- August 2007

Here's how the Big Well site looks now -- most of the debris has been removed, the skylight has been covered with a blue tarp, and the stump of a tree is thick with new growth.

Monday, August 20, 2007

More Katrina 2005

Top photo: The French Quarter, as seen fhrough the turret of a Humvee. I rode from West Plains, Missouri, to New Orleans in one, and I can tell you that they are very loud and the seat cushions don't have much padding. Bottom photo: A boy waves at a Missouri National Guardsman at a food distribtuion site at Kenner, La.

Katrina 2005

It's coming up on the second anniversary of Katrina. I took these photos while embedded with the 1138 Military Police, a Missouri National Guard unit from West Plains

The top photo is ruins of a building in the French Quarter; the middle shot is a street scene a few days after the hurricans; and the bottom is a copy handing out MREs and bottled water to Bourbon Street residents who refused to evacuate.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Hiroshima 1986 - Frame 35A

Another Hiroshima anniversary photo. Here, the old man (see post below) describes the fireball and mushroom cloud he saw on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945. His 14-year-old son, Kenji, died in the conflagration. The man was one the oldest living hibakusha, which means those who received the bomb. He had never before spoken about the events of that morning, and was particularly suspicious of an American reporter. When he asked, through an interpreter, why he should talk to me, I pulled out my billfold and showed him photographs of my children -- Julie, who was 10, and Abby, who was a baby. My third daughter, Megan, would not be born for another four years.

The Past is Just a Good Bye

Today is the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. In 1986, I was in Japan interviewing survivors of the bombing for a series of photos and articles. I also interviewed was Graham Nash, who bought me a piece of pecan pie. Despite the rock star lifestyle -- he breezed into the hotel with an entourage in tow, including a gorgeous woman he had taken shopping -- he was a nice chap. He was 44 at the time, and I was 26.

He explained that he had formed his anti-nuclear views during a stay-aboard visit to the Calypso, where Jacques Cousteau had explained to him that the waste product of the nuclear power generation cycle is weapons-grade plutonium. All nuclear power plants produce plutonium, and originally the government was going to buy back all of this stuff to make bombs with. But that plan was scrapped for fear of plutonium proliferation, and in the early 1980s the plants were ordered to keep all this stuff in cooling ponds on site until a secure storage facility could be built. Now, it's 2007 and that storage facility -- now being built a Yucca Mountain, Arizona -- still has not come on line. The night of the interview, I heard Graham sing "Teach You Children" at a peace rally.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Seattle 1945 - Frame 7A

Another souvenir photo, this one taken at Hollingswoth's Melody Lane, Seattle. My father was 20, and less than a year before had been on the USS Pennsylvania at Leyte Gulf -- the largest naval battle in modern history. I wish the photograph were as in focus as the one below, because the composition is much better. Information on the back identifies the photo as 7A, taken Dec. 11, 1945, and that additional copies are available for $1.35.

My parents separated in 1975 but never divorced. My mother died of cancer in 1986, a few months after I returned from Japan. She was 59. My father died in 1997, age 73. He had remarried. These photos were found in a Christmas tin recently while cleaning out my (former) garage in the wake of my divorce. I read somewhere that photographs last longer than most intentions.

Thirty Years Later

Here's me as a teenager next to a close-up of my father from the photo below. Never thought I looked like him much, but the resemblence is rather strong. And, just look at the acne and all that hair piled on top of my head.

San Francisco 1945

Here's a souvenir photograph of my parents at the Gold Coast, 972 Market Street, San Francisco, taken June 1, 1945. My father, Carl McCoy, is a yeoman on the battleship USS Pennsylvania. My mother, Mary Carter McCoy, is 18 years old. It was two months before the atomic bomb was dropped. When I went to Hiroshima in 1986, my mother wrote the emperor urging him not to allow me in the country -- I was, she said, a traitor because my father had sailed against the Japanese.