A Santa Fe Education

There’s no reason that Ansel Head should like Santa Fe. He grew up in Alabama with its hot, humid weather; green was everywhere. By the time he came along, Kudzu had already covered any barren land; and it was well on its way to capturing everything else.

Despite her similar Alabama upbringing, Head’s mother liked Santa Fe the first time she went out for a Garden Club do. Her inherited bank stocks were doing very well; so she bought an apartment and then a house in a gated community on the southern edge of town. Continue reading

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Jay Maisel’s Boot Camp

Jay Maisel

Jay Maisel

Ansel Head felt he owed his family and friends some relief. Even though he was pretty certain that none had ever looked at his previous “Continuing Education” picture books, he felt their interest would be better served if he tried to improve his photography skills before gifting them new editions. To that end, he went to Jay Maisel’s week long, photography boot camp in the Bowery district of New York City. Eight others from around the world were also in attendance.

There the Brooklyn native and Yale graduate desperately strove to educate his minions on what constitutes a good picture. His opening instructions: “Get your ass out of bed before dawn so you can bring pictures to review.” Intense classes started three hours later with a break for lunch,two to three hours of afternoon shooting, three more hours of classes, and then dinner until ten or eleven. Five days of this ensued. Continue reading

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Folsom Comes to the Rescue

At the end of his Birmingham years, the developer Ansel Head found himself in uncharted waters. His efforts to re-invigorate the historic downtown were in shambles. The bankers, politicians, investors, and reporters, who had just months earlier been singing his praises, had now turned on him. He had descended from the Achiever level in Birmingham society straight through to Misfit and he wasn’t quite sure what to do next. His Achiever friends and family were advising accommodate, compromise, beg, plead for forgiveness, humble oneself in front of authority – things falling Achievers often did to remain in status.

None of these seemed right to the failing developer; he had come from a long line of successful Achievers and accepting defeat was not something bred into his bones Continue reading

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407 Tattoo & Piercing Studio

A tattoo and piercing studio moved in next door to Ansel Head’s restaurant.

This was something new to Head; he knew little of life beyond the narrow confines of his private school education. Not being the intellectual in the family had narrowed the school choices for his parents; they rightly reasoned that exposing their second son to the multiple stimuli of a public school curriculum would have caused confusion and prevented him from retaining the fundamentals. Continue reading

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Robert Thomas Brooke, a.k.a., The Red Pig

No relative of the Red Pig would volunteer to write a brief story of his short life for McCallie’s 50th reunion publication; so the task fell to his old roommate, Ansel Head. What follows is Head’s tale in his own words of events that transpired 50 years ago.  If nothing else, Head has proved the theory that in history, the story line is often more important than the facts.

“At McCallie, Robert was my roommate for four years. Continue reading

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American Spirit

What is the American Spirit?

Ansel Head could never quite put his finger on the answer. There is something there though. He senses it in himself and in other Americans. It is stronger in some than others, but it is still there in most. When Americans are challenged, that’s when their spirit is most visible.

In other countries Head has visited, especially those where he could not find that spirit, people call it arrogance. And they are right. Americans are arrogant, or said another way, proud. And they swagger about wearing that pride on their sleeves. This trait offends most intellectuals, even some in this country.

Is it Americans’ individualism; is it their hatred of losing; or is it their refusal to give up? Not being the intellecual in the family, Head lacked the words to describe the American spirit. But he can recognize it when he sees it.

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A Veteran Without Legs, Marine Corps Marathon

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The Holy City

In the unsophisticated opinion of the young Ansel Head, he had been boorishly treated when he was suddenly and without recourse yanked from religious schooling with his best friend Ross at the South Highland’s Presbyterian Church, forced into the suffocating, perfume and cigarette infused Oldsmobile 88, and deposited at St. Mary’s On The Highlands where confusion reigned. He had been led to believe that his church going exercise was supposed to help him find God. The fact that he was unable to even grasp what a God is in St. Mary’s new and challenging environment, much less find Him, was further proof that an Ivy League education was out of the question for this, the least intellectual boy in the family. Continue reading

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Chancellorsville, Lee and Jackson At Their Best

Defending the Breastworks at Chancellorsville.

Defending the Breastworks at Chancellorsville.

Perhaps it was because he lacked the superior intellect required for an Ivy League Education that Ansel Head shunned German philosophy and Greek tragedies and gravitated instead towards Civil War battles. When he got older, he was heartened to learn that he was in good company: Winston Churchill had been shipped off to his country’s military academy because his elders felt he too lacked the brain power to study at Oxford or Cambridge. Continue reading

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Civil Disobedience Is Alive & Well

Locked Out

Locked Out

Ansel Head’s college education failed to include courses on civil disobedience, even though it was all the rage during that time. Yes, his friend Gates did organize a Viet Nam War protest one sunny afternoon; but Head recalls only two people showing up – Gates and a reporter from his college newspaper. Head and his colleagues had more important, cultural matters to attend to: Girls wanted wooing and beers were under threat of growing warm. Continue reading

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When To Stand, When To Sit, When To Pray…..

Hanging Next To The Entrance to Head's Mother's Bedroom

Hanging Next To The Entrance to Head’s Mother’s Bedroom

Ansel Head’s father stepped into the doorway to his son’s bedroom, “Rise and shine!”

Unlike most mornings, Head jumped right up. It was Sunday, and he was looking forward to his Sunday School at South Highland’s Presbyterian with the Formans. He was still residing in the middle bedroom with the light blue walls and brown trim. His mother had just completed the change from a nursery look into something more suitable for her youngest son’s self image. Head had approved the redecoration and had even tried to help the painters complete their task while they were on a lunch break, but his work went unappreciated.  Fortunately his Male Ego Interuptus Syndrome was already well established so the adult criticism did no permanent damage to his self-esteem.

Head carefully removed his Lone Ranger six-shooter from underneath his pillow and returned it to the holster hanging on the back of the armless, upholstered chair next to his wooden toy chest.   Continue reading

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