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Six Photos from the Lower Midwest: 1990-1997



Joseph Rushmore

April 12, 1992
The guy people said was turning twenty crashed his Kawasaki ZX-7R into the side of the red bricked dorm. His brains came out his head, the R.A. informed a student after Earth Science. The student saw police, caution tape, a Kawasaki ZX-7R teetering on its side. “I scooped the brains back in his head.” In the picture the student absorbs the horrible news.

October 23, 1997
Unseasonably warm school auditorium. “Around the buckle of the Bible Belt.” Southern Baptist Youth Minister sweating under lights in the half-squat of High School football coaches, palms in front, addressed his all-male sophomore audience. “There’s a lot of liquid.” He said, after, “Diseases.” He pulled out a condom. The 45-minute uniquely mandatory Sex Education our soon-to-be-if-not-only-just-finished-fucking teenagers received was images of sexually-transmitted diseases accompanied by, “When it happens. And it’s gonna happen,” from the Youth Minister. In the photo, a Creek from the reservation down the road makes a circle with two fingers and sticks another finger through it for a kid three seats down.

February 17, 1990
Mullets—illegal in Iran, situationally acceptable on Ziggy Stardust—death-rattled in ‘90s America. Then-popular, obviously dooming abominations, summed by a quote on the photo’s reverse: Future in the Arts? Kindergartener side-profile to camera holding paintbrush, flaunting illegal ’do in over-the-top rakishness. Passed to high schoolers at the same school, most agreed he was gay or, worse, a
Cub Scout.

January 20, 1993
Six-year-olds “sniped” cigarettes—smoked-ones crushed underfoot—beside the auction barn inside of which they later lobbed fireworks at one another until it erupted in flames. The kid-on-the-left’s father was the auctioneer. Deep voiced, syrupy, generations of cigarettes sniped from hay. Three others wore red and gold jackets that said 49ers on the front. They said things like “Shit,” and, “Fart,” and smoked their reeking butts.

March 27, 1997
At the 4-H meet, Jonathon’s aunt swerved the story, “We told Mama we was goin’ to Ray Jones’s, but what we’s really gon’ do was find a squirrel, and eat it. Kevin was driving—You see that? He asked. Pulled over, there was a copperhead on the side of the road. Kevin got down, when it struck whipped his hand and had that snake by the neck. I swear to God.” The story whispered tranquilly to the blonde wearing a blue ribbon. In the picture, a pig pissed an enormous stream of piss.

August 30, 1994
After the Nightly News, NBC aired a rerun. David Copperfield: “The Statue of Liberty, standing 305 feet high, weighing 450,000 pounds. I’m gonna make her disappear.” Hair and jacket from the ‘80s, exuding Zack-Morris mystique—Dave knew Image-is-Everything in the American Midwest. Barely time for a self-deprecating joke, the curtains raised to applause. A Midwesterner (this August 29, 1994 NBC airing broke all-time records, besting the original, garnering five-eighths—4.6 million—of its viewership from America’s Midline) called her husband from the back to yell, “I’ve never seen a Statue of Liberty disappear the way this one did.” At recess kids beheld hill-less life-is-elsewhere neighborhoods, felt perspectives shift underneath and in all directions their dreams disappearing.

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