Call and Response

Call and Response: Megan King and Wendy Dinwiddie

Megan King . August 20, 2014. Kingsport, Sullivan County, Tennessee.

Megan King. August 20, 2014. Kingsport, Sullivan County, Tennessee.

The Golden Calf Funeral Home


The man at the Golden Calf Funeral Home says it’s haunted by one of Christopher Columbus’s original cows. He says her name is Isabella and that you can hear her mooing out in the vestibule among the antique couches and plastic magnolias. He’s got a painting of her hanging up above the podium where you sign the guest book. 

The man at the Golden Calf Funeral Home’s name is Ralph, and we mostly agree that he is full of shit. He found the cow skull when they expanded the hearse garage, and he took it over to the community college to have it tested. It was a big to-do. There were reporters from the state capital and sweater-wearing bald men from NPR and the Smithsonian even sent a woman down in a Buick but she said the Days Inn had bedbugs and left. The town historical society paid to have one of those metal markers put on the side of the hearse garage, but it was so shady back there and the print so small that only people from out of town ever bothered to read it.

Now we aren’t saying that the community college is also full of shit. They do charge $475 for a class on the harmonica, but we’re not saying they’re full of shit. Maybe Isabella rode over with Columbus in 1492, swam to the mainland as fast as her hooves would allow, and walked a thousand miles northwest to the Great Smoky Mountains. Maybe she dodged snakes and swamp and hungry Italians and three kinds of bear, just to die at the foot of Jaybird Hill. Maybe she waited there for 500 years for Ralph’s grandson to find her with a backhoe. 

Maybe not.

Ralph’s grandson says if your loved one has a message to you from beyond the grave, you can see their face drawn out in Isabella’s painted ribs. Jimmy Cantrell says this is cow shit. He’s lost four cousins, a brother, both parents, and three grandmothers, all embalmed at the Golden Calf, and he’s never seen any faces. Wouldn’t at least one out of all that family have something to say? 

Out of respect, those of us who’ve seen faces don’t mention it.

Wendy Dinwiddie. Tuscaloosa, Alabama.


Call and Response is a photo-literary exploration devoted to the relationship between photographs and words. Using photographs from the Looking at Appalachia project, writers are encouraged to respond narratively to a single image in 1,000 words or less. We hope to use this platform to expand our community and encourage collaboration between photographers and writers. Learn more about how to submit here.

Call and Response: Josh Birnbaum and Kari Gunter-Seymour

Josh Birnbaum . July 9, 2016. Amesville, Athens County, Ohio.

Josh Birnbaum. July 9, 2016. Amesville, Athens County, Ohio.

WEDDING DRESS                                                               

It looked like a defeated botanical,
stuffed butt first in an old hat box,
petals of crinoline, silk and netting 
leafing out. A waning magnolia, 
shaped of faux pas, trapped between 
memory and the moment.

She’d carefully packed it in tissue 
thirty years ago, schlepped it town to town,
her gut the depository of a thousand 
swallowed tacks. Now a freewoman, 
she wanted to drown it, torture 
each perfectly petite pearl button. 

The day she accidentally unearthed it, 
bracelet snagging a needle-laced sleeve, 
her forceful yank, its silken skirts 
a dance of air, spring-winged, 
and she that girl, stunningly 
unacquainted with loss.

Kari Gunter-Seymour. Athens, Ohio.


Call and Response is a photo-literary exploration devoted to the relationship between photographs and words. Using photographs from the Looking at Appalachia project, writers are encouraged to respond narratively to a single image in 1,000 words or less. We hope to use this platform to expand our community and encourage collaboration between photographers and writers. Learn more about how to submit here.

Call and Response: Sam Owens and Chad Smith

Sam Owens . January 3, 2016. Dakota Flowers spends an hour boxing on the front porch, eventually busting his hand open, at his house. Flowers, who works out nearly every day in-between his busy schedule of working for Coalfield Development Corporation and going to community college. Lincoln County, West Virginia.

Sam Owens. January 3, 2016. Dakota Flowers spends an hour boxing on the front porch, eventually busting his hand open, at his house. Flowers, who works out nearly every day in-between his busy schedule of working for Coalfield Development Corporation and going to community college. Lincoln County, West Virginia.

Evenings are the best part of my day. A time when it all slows down a
touch and one can look back on the toil and look forward to hope.
After supper’s done, I thumb through the Gazette on my front porch and
wait for the sun to slip behind the hill. Once Night has fully hugged
our holler, I venture out for a stroll with my four-legged friend so
he can recoup the claimed telephone poles of hours gone by.

Summer nights have a way of making time seem infinite. Its humid
embrace, the crickets and whippoorwills melting together with the
faint scent of honeysuckle and smoldering campfire. The staccato of
distant laughter. The splash of a backyard cannonball. Yeah, a good
night walk opens your senses to the revery of a fading day.

Up yonder, right past the creek, he’s there like he always is,
steadfast. I hear him long before I see him. The chain clanging and
jerking against the old wooden truss; the muffled thud of leather
against weight, bone against sand; strained exhales of winded might.
There he is, up on that porch, hitting that bag, giving the day the
old what for.

Dad called it the sweet science. Mom, barbaric machismo. Me? I saw the
fire in the belly, the beauty of will unbroken. For a few minutes I
watch in silence under the cloak of an ancient oak’s shadow. I
question my routine. I guess we all have our fight.

I return to my trailer shortly after and award my pooch with a
milk-bone and a belly rub. I cut up some onions and cucumbers and soak
them in vinegar for the dusk to come. Tomorrow evening is pinto beans
and cornbread with sour kraut and fried potatoes.

Maybe I’ll offer him some. I’m sure he’s worked up an appetite.

Chad Smith. Charleston, West Virginia.


Call and Response is a photo-literary exploration devoted to the relationship between photographs and words. Using photographs from the Looking at Appalachia project, writers are encouraged to respond narratively to a single image in 1,000 words or less. We hope to use this platform to expand our community and encourage collaboration between photographers and writers. Learn more about how to submit here.