‘Professional’ Fails To Deliver At Graduation

Published 8:28 am Thursday, June 15, 2017

“A gun that’s unloaded and cocked ain’t good for nothin’.” — Rooster Cogburn, True Grit

Search as they might, Enterprise Record readers won’t find my outstanding photos of the 2017 Davie County High School graduation, the ballyhooed final ceremony on the Mocksville campus before shifting to the new school on Farmington Road.

I assigned me to cover the event since my youngest was among the graduates and I had to go. Wow, I shot photos like crazy. Among them:

• A crisp shot of Cooleemee postmaster Craig Mock who posed proudly with his son Michael and his diploma.

• Class salutatorian Heath Slabach with his grandparents.

• Lovely Laurel Hecht boosted on the shoulders of Luke Pratapas and my son while celebrating, arms flung wide. Front page stuff.

• The graduating members of the cheerleading squad together one last time.

• My neighbor and graduate Wray Ward with his parents.

• J.K. Smith’s grandchild.

• Ali Guttenberg and George Haire and Kaylx Lyons and Anna Jones and Jordan Smith and Ashton Mann and …

I took enough pictures to fill a couple pages.

“A professional is taking our photo,” said sweet Julia Vaughan-Jones, the politest member of the Class of 2017.

This “professional” had seized the company’s big camera for the job – the one with a telephoto lens that can zoom all the way to Statesville and has a speed drive that allows the camera to click four shots per second. We use it mostly for sports. I had handled it very successfully for last year’s graduation. I popped in the office Saturday morning to grab the camera on the way to the ceremony.

There were maybe 5,000 people at graduation. We arrived early enough to claim a seat on the shady side near the north end zone where the shadows from the pines would linger throughout the ceremony. I learned that geography lesson last year while sweltering in the sun. Next year at the new campus, everybody will be in the sun.

The weather was cloudless and perfect. The temperature had only reached 72 degrees during the ceremony, and much was said about it being the last graduation on that soil and the nostalgia of the year as the Class of 2017 experienced a lot of “last times.” During the ceremony, all the Davie High graduates from prior years were asked to stand, and maybe half the crowd did.

Everybody brought a camera. A few yards from me, Kelly Robertson Wilson live-streamed the ceremony on Facebook. Pictures were popping up on the social media sites while the diplomas were still being presented. Everybody took photos.

I took comfort knowing the old pro with the monster camera would have killer shots. I took odd angles, positioned the graduates carefully and horned in on family photos to click my own.

Back at the office, I stopped to download the pictures. I opened the camera’s back to pull out the memory card only to find … a gaping hole. There was no memory card. No pictures. A failed mission.

“Dad, you didn’t get any pictures of my graduation?” Michael asked.

Susie Hecht wanted a copy of the picture of her daughter posed precariously on the boys’ shoulders. Anna Jones wanted a copy of her photo. Julia Vaughan-Jones is going to wonder about that “professional.” It was a red-faced weekend.

At our Clemmons newspaper, real photographer Chris Mackie, returned from the West Forsyth High graduation with a bevy of pictures — as usual.

I made a cub reporter’s mistake — not checking to see if the camera was loaded. Wyatt Earp would not have come back from the OK Corral had he failed to inspect the pistol chamber.

The words of an old Toby Keith song have being playing in my head: “I ain’t as good as I once was.”

– Dwight Sparks