Fredrick Graue saw a different wheel turning and used the building for another mechanism. The human wheel of history and freedom. The Graue Mill housed runaway slaves in the basement under his watch as a stop in along the underground railroad.
In this area of Illinois, there were many stops like this. But this is the only one in the county that remains with nothing more to tell the story of their humble role in history and humanity save a few words written on a wall in the mill.
So beyond the history lesson, why does it matter? What compelled me to go there for two days and shoot many shots and share this one?
For the human wheels of history to move forward, we need scoundrels and rogues and rule breakers. Looking back we all know human slavery is wrong and we celebrate the underground railroad.
The slaves who ran and the people who coordinated the paths and stops to bring them to space where they could live free were criminals. The act of a reprobate.
The right thing is often a subversive act. Many will not understand why you are doing the right thing. Sometimes you will feel like you are a lone drum beating in the night. The right thing is not always the easy thing or even the legal thing, but it is the right thing.
Grist mills have been common and ordinary since mid evil times. This one had a remarkable secret inside for a period. We are common and ordinary as well, but we have within us the rogue spirit that can do things in secret that will change lives.
I know a single mom who will not only do anything for her kids and her few carefully chosen friends, but will go the extra mile for special needs children or neglected children at the school she works at part time and will be helping prison inmates soon. I know a pastor in a small church who does what many churches claim to do, but do not...she accepts all and her unique family (congregation) shows that fact. I know a taxi driver with a rap sheet who will educate whomever will listen about the nuances of race relations from a place of love and knowledge. There is an artist who fights every day for the freedom of her daughter while working a shitty job who will be there for a friend regardless what she has on her plate. There is a model who works hands on with GLBT children who are homeless. I know others. They will not be remembered by the history books and they will never tell their own story. When the time is right and the picture is right, I may tell their stories. Even if I do not, their stories matter to the ones who need them.
I don't tell my story often. I try to do my part. That is all I will say about that.
Be the rogue if it is right. Be the scoundrel. Be a simple ordinary vessel capable of the extraordinary.
The wheel of history needs us all.
Even if we are forgotten.