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A visit to 'Russel's Roost'
Finnegan reinvents photo essay
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Peter Finnegan is reinventing his "Good Soldier/Bad Soldier" photo essay at rural Castle Rock farm house. - photo by Robert Callahan photo

Peter Finnegan is alive and well.

It has been a while since Finnegan, the Whitish-Funk American Legion Post No. 184 Historian has penned a “Spirit of the Legion” submission, but it is not due to complacency. He has been more than busy.

Not far from County Highway Q in rural Castle Rock, you will find “Russel’s Roost,” where Finnegan has been spending many of his days and nights reinventing his “Good Soldier/Bad Soldier” photo essay.

“Good Soldier/Bad Soldier” is a collection of nearly 100 images compiled from negatives Finnegan had shot during his 21 months in Vietnam while shooting for “The Hurricane” magazine during the Vietnam War.

Finnegan’s photo essay was last featured at “A Salute to Vietnam Area Veterans from Grant County” last September at the Youth and Ag Building at the Grant County Fairgrounds.

“A Salute to Vietnam Veterans” is planned for Sunday, Oct. 4 in Monroe. “Good Soldier/Bad Soldier” will be on display, but with a new wrinkle. For the first time, the photo essay will not cover walls.

“It will be in a great, big football-like arch that will go 16 feet,” Finnegan explained. “I am going to have 18 feet of brand new tables to display it on.”

Thanks to Rickey and Kathy Staskal of Fennimore, “Good Soldier/Bad Soldier” will be displayed on 20 black panels created by Rickey.

“He is a tremendous woodworker,” Finnegan said. “These boards are very solid and they are going to be very durable.”

To prepare for the October event, Finnegan has moved into “Russel’s Roost,” a country home owned by Richard and Kathy Hanson, in May. Finnegan affectionately nicknamed the home “Russel’s Roost” in honor of Richard’s father.

“For the first time since 1972, I have had everything Vietnam and army related under one roof,” Finnegan said. “Richard and Kathy have become by biggest benefactors. They have not only opened their door to their home, but they have let me into the old family farm.”

“Russel’s Roost” has given Finnegan the space he needs to revamp “Good Soldier/Bad Soldier.”

“This idea has always been out there, but it is too big. I never had the space to do it,” he said. “I could not do it up in Madison because there is no space to stretch out like this and walk away from it at the end of the day and come back to it the next day.

“If I did anything in Madison, whatever I worked on I would have to put it away so other people could live in my house with me. Now Richard and Kathy have afforded me this so I can do this.”

Finnegan has spent time reviewing many of the slides of images that to date have not been included in “Good Soldier/Bad Soldier.”

“There is one in there that I don’t remember taking, but it is right there along with some of the other ones and matches up,” he said. “It is a photo of this Buddhist monk in his robes, sitting in the lotus position, in front of this monster Buddha.

“The marble floor is reflecting and it is just perfectly lit. I just can’t believe it didn’t make the cut. There is a bunch of them like that, that rival tons of these pictures. Where does it end?”

As he has since May, Finnegan will spend a few days each week at “Russel’s Roost” refining his work.

“I sit here and go, ‘This is really sweet.’ I have got momma deer over here with one and I got another momma deer over here with a set of twins,” he said. “I will sit out here on the porch and it is so peaceful.

“I am going to make this time productive. I am going to have to make all my time between now and October getting this set up.”