People surprise me all the time. And I mean that in a good way.
During the design studio that produced most of the work in the first Agincourt exhibit, I spoke blithely of the Chicago & Northwestern spur that angled upward toward the city from the C&NW mainline track. Justin Nelson corrected me (gently, thank you very much) and informed us that this part of Iowa was Milwaukee Road country. Until that moment I had no idea Justin’s hobby–correction, his passion–was railroadiana. He’s the guy who’ll drive five hours, position his camera tripod beside a broadly curved railway right-of-way, and wait patiently for the steam locomotive to belch past at 3:00 a.m. Four years of studio culture generate a level of acquaintance, even familiarity, among our students and faculty, and then come moments like that when we are revealed as multi-faceted and whole–not just cardboard cut-outs in the dollhouse of academe. [With apologies to all who know me, if I don’t know you very well, it’s only my reticence to ask.] Justin’s design for the passenger/freight station at the foot of South Broad Street achieved an authenticity that I understood more fully; and it raised the bar for my part of our conversation.
I habitually learn more from students than they do from me.
So, then I went to Hastings College, a Presbyterian-affiliated school at Hastings, Nebraska, to make a presentation about Agincourt. Rob Babcock, chair of the history faculty, invited me to share the rationale for this project with his students and colleagues (not the finest presentation of my career, sad to say), and, again, I learned something about Dr Babcock: Rob’s hobby has been minor league baseball. He has visited nearly every minor league baseball stadium in the U.S., so his query about Agincourt’s team opened the door to an aspect of community history so far outside my own interests and experience that I’m reluctant to admit it. Now that Jonathan Rutter has volunteered to render some Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance triple play in egg tempera, I hope we can convince Dr Babcock to write the team’s equally colorful history.
That’s why I have friends: to keep me honest and add dimension to the cut-out that I risk becoming.