I was introduced to Brandon and Laura Reeder through Bob Miller, one of our photographers on "Whitman, Alabama." Bob told me that Brandon was a farrier—he trims horses' hooves and fits and places shoes on them.
I had never met a farrier before nor had a clue for what that type of work entailed, so I was fascinated. I wanted to see what it all looked like up close and personal.
According to Laura, it's a full-time job. Brandon learned the craft from his dad, and he got his first client when he was 14 years old. Horses need to be reshod every five to six weeks, so Brandon travels all over the place, within a hundred-mile radius of Cullman, fitting horses with shoes.
We filmed Brandon on a job he was doing in Sterrett. To see him shoe a horse, it's pretty amazing, all the specific and different and swift movements involved. While we were filming, out of the blue, the horse lay down on his back, cooling himself off, rolling around like a dog in dirt. Brandon said something like, "Oh that’s cool that he’s doing that for you." I guess that doesn't happen all the time.
We decided that we also wanted to film Laura and the rest of the family—Haddon (now 8), Henry (6), and Adelaide (4)—at their newly purchased plot of land.
It was 23.5 acres outside of Cullman, where Laura grew up and her parents still live.
Now they call the property Revival Hill Farm. They do field trips for schools in the area. They sell eggs and dairy and make their own biodiesel. They raise pigs, chickens, rabbits, goats, and they have a cow that Laura milks every day.
The day we went to film, Laura and Brandon were building a chicken coop for 63 chickens that had been displaced because of a tornado in Ashville.
While Laura was reading the verse, the kids kept walking up to her and handing her various things they found: apples, leaves, a yellow flower. "They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their possession," Whitman wrote. Making this project, we encounter really neat moments of text-meeting-life in unexpected ways, all the time.
Looking back, Laura says what you see in the video pretty much embodies their life at the time. Kids running around. Blanket on the ground. Bag of pretzels. Working weekends, trying to clear the land and get it ready for living and more working.
The day we went out to film Brandon and Laura was the same day they found out they were having their fourth child. He is now two. His name is Walt.
By filmmakers Jennifer Crandall and Bob Miller, as told to writer Liz Hildreth