By Hannah Herner
Keith D. had saved some bread to give to “the kids.” That’s how he greets the chickens who live in his yard. It’s part of his evening routine after selling The Contributor, along with tending to his garden.
This season Keith gave out between 120-and-140 pints of cherry tomatoes. He gives to customers, Contributor staff and volunteers, and a local low-income retirement home. Overall, he estimates that he gives away 80-to-85 percent of what he’s grown.
“I like to share,” he says. “When I give away the tomatoes, whatever’s runt-y I keep for myself. When I’m giving it to somebody I want to give my best.”
But he’s keeping one of his proudest accomplishments, Zuc-zilla, an overgrown zucchini he harvested. That one will be saved for seeds for next season.
Keith is driven to tend to the garden and chickens to help out his friend and landlord, who tills the land and owns the chickens. He draws from experience helping his grandmother in her garden when he was a child, and loves to watch gardening shows. He also thinks that as long as he’s able to do the work, he should do it in honor of those who can’t.
“That’s my main reason for gardening. I know other people can’t garden,” Keith says. “I’d say most of the stuff I give away goes to older people who used to be able to garden and can’t anymore. Most of the stuff I give away goes to people who really appreciate it. I’m making somebody a little better. That makes sweating and getting bug bit worth it.”
Keith likes to plant his produce closer together than advised. He wants a wall of tomatoes, a lush bed of greens. He said he wants to look out at his yard and feel like Kevin Costner — to see a field of dreams.
Latch hook rugs
Norma B. doesn’t do drugs, she does rugs, she says. Creating latch hook rugs has been a hobby for Norma since she was 11 years old. She only has one to show as an example, because she’s given them all away as gifts — designs with teapots, hearts and flowers have gone to loved ones for various occasions.
Norma remembers a huge rug she gave to somebody that took hours and hours to make. The recipient said, “that’s nice.” And they never displayed it. She’s slowed down on the rug-making since then.
“Somebody said, ‘Why don’t you sell this instead of the paper?’ Each of these rows is 45 minutes to an hour, and there’s hundreds of them. I could never sell it for what I got in it, but this is a great stress reliever,” Norma says.
Norma says the sign of a successful rug is when you flip it over and it looks nice and neat, almost as pretty as the front. The things that stand in the way of her rug-making are having enough money for a kit and finding a design she likes. What Norma likes about making latch hook rugs is anyone can do it. She even taught her granddaughter, now 11 years old.
“She was like, four years old, and I was like ‘All you do is you stick the hook in and you wrap it around and you pull it through,” she says. “I mean, it’s not exactly rocket science.”
David “Clinecasso” Cline
“I named myself Clinecasso after the artist, Picasso. I admire him, his works, and his works are highly similar to mine. At some point I’m going to be doing faces that are my version of a Picasso face. But they’re not going to be called a ‘Picasso face.’ They’re going to be called a ‘Clinecasso face.’”
Around The Contributor office, and most likely the greater Nashville area, David C. is rarely called by his given name. He’s made a new identity with his colorful permanent marker drawings of faces, houses, landscapes and kaleidoscope-esque abstract pieces. Each piece is given a zany name, like “Mr. Squiggly going crazy” or “WHAM!” or “Spooky Skull.”
David and his wife are both involved in Poverty in the Arts, a local nonprofit that gives artists experiencing homelessness and poverty arts supplies and the opportunity to sell their pieces for income.
In his youth, David didn’t gravitate toward art, but gained confidence in his artistic abilities in his 30s.
“I tried art class as a freshman in high school and I didn’t understand it because I really didn’t like the color wheel,” David says.
David deals with ADHD and bipolar symptoms, and says working on his pieces is therapeutic.
“It helps me with my disability, it helps me with my mental condition, it helps me calm down,” he says. “When I do art, it calms down the hyper-activity.”
In his nearly 10 years with The Contributor, Clinecasso has submitted countless pieces of art, sometimes two and three at a time, and readers can find a Clinecasso original in most issues. Fans can buy his original pieces for $5 each.
Playing the spoons
William “Spoon Man” B. started playing the spoons when he was just eight years old. As a child, he was in the hospital for an extended period of time. An older patient showed William how to play spoons, and pulled another set out of his pocket to give to him.
“I was a quick learner. He said ‘You know what? You’ve got beginner's luck. You have got the talent to play spoons,’” William says.
William says the man who taught him to play spoons wasn’t around long, but he holds a special place in his heart for him.
“To this very day I love that man for teaching me what he taught me. He gave me a gift,” William says.
Holding the spoons is kind of like holding chopsticks — you hold one tightly and the other more loosely. William customizes the pairs himself, taping them in a way that makes them easier to play. In the past, he’s taught a spoons class at Room In The Inn, and is always up for an impromptu lesson. He likes that playing spoons brings him people to talk to.
“No matter where I am, if I feel like playing the spoons and singing, I do it.” He recently did a performance at Dollar Tree, and he’s always playing along to rock music when he’s out selling the paper.
Throughout his life, playing the spoons has remained a constant through physical and mental trauma.
“This is my best medicine,” William says.
Cynthia P. is the spirit behind the Kid’s Corner section of The Contributor. Her kid-friendly illustrations of animals and seasonal scenes are left blank for coloring. She got started drawing for her own kids.
“I would draw silly pictures for my kids and print a few copies of them so they had something to color. At the time, we couldn’t afford coloring books,” she says.
From the age of 18, Cynthia traveled nine months out of the year with carnivals. Her boss took notice of her artistic skills, and she began painting the rides. After 30 years of that lifestyle, she had to stop working with the carnival in 2017 due to illness.
Cynthia misses getting to see the excitement on the kids faces at the fairs she worked.
“When I worked with the carnival, I enjoyed doing it because even when you smashed your finger, hit your head, dropped something on your foot — as soon as we opened and the lights were on and the kids were at the gate, they were just so excited to be at the fair,” she says. “I feel like getting to color something in an adult paper gives them that same excitement.”
Cynthia has regular customers who are children. One of them requested the Halloween cat that was in the Oct. 23 issue.
Creating the artwork helps her to keep her stress level down and in turn helps with her hypertension. She hopes coloring her drawings brings that same calmness to children and adults alike.
“Kids, it’s great for them to color because it helps them calm down. But it’s also great for adults that have stressful jobs,” Cynthia says. “Having these pictures in the paper shows kids that there’s people out there that really want them to have a good time and enjoy their day. Because kids go through a lot of stress, too.
The Contributor is part of the International Network of Street Papers. See their work by clicking a headline below.