Minnie Avery and bicycle on road between Lenox Dale and New Lenox
Minnie Avery & bicycle on road between Lenox Dale and New Lenox from Lenox Library Association Local History Photograph Collection

I have no idea who Minnie Avery is or why she rode her bicycle out to the road between Lenox Dale and New Lenox at the turn of the 2oth century.  It is enough for me that someone captured it on film.  My first question is, “Why is Minnie Avery standing in what looks like a large saucepan on the side of a dirt road surrounded by trees?”  There are even logs under the “pot” that could be lit for a cooking fire.  More questions naturally follow: Is the photographer responsible for this Minnie stew?  Did Minnie know what was in store for her when she put on her straw boater and summer finery to go riding in the Berkshires?  Why is no one named Minnie anymore?

Thanks to Digital Commonwealth’s wonderful zoom utility, I can click on the magnifying glass and get a closer look without losing any resolution.  Now it’s a whole new – and, alas, less interesting – story.  Minnie is standing on the far side of the vat, not in it.  She is holding a cup or tin of some sort and there is a pipe – not a handle – on the right.  Apparently, this is a drinking station, possibly from a local spring.  Minnie has biked out to a scenic spot and stopped for refreshment.  The box on her handlebar may be a picnic lunch or her own box camera.  Perhaps, she will be the photographer of her companion taking the next drink.  All we know for sure is she has nothing to worry about from local cannibals.

If you have a favorite photo as deserving of A Closer Look as Minnie Avery and her bicycle, please let us know.  Send your Closer Look or a link to your photo to outreach@digitalcommonwealth.org.