Do we outgrow that monkey on our backs?

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 16, 2010

Have you ever felt like you had a monkey on your back — like there was something holding you back, preventing you from reaching your potential?

Most of us have at one time or another.

Just this weekend, my family decided to take a Saturday morning stroll downtown.

Halfway through our walk, I spied a boy that literally had a monkey hanging on his back. I didn’t do a double take until I noticed his grandmother holding tightly to the end of the monkey’s tail.

Evidently this monkey was more for his mother and grandmother than it was for the boy. By holding onto the monkey’s tail, his grandmother could keep track of her grandson and, if need be, keep him out of trouble.

I have seen children tethered to what amount to glorified dog leashes.

But this was a mutual arrangement. According to this grandmother, her grandson likes the harness so much he puts the monkey on his back at home just for fun.

As we continued to stroll down Main Street, I remarked to my wife that soon we will have to get one for our son, now that he is walking non-stop.

He will soon find there are limits in what must be a limitless world in his small eyes, I said.

That harness may be the first of many limits we place on our child.

At first such restrictions are for safety. Then as you grow older it seems that life begins to pile up more and more monkeys — some more serious than others.

As a photographer, dealing with limits is a daily occurrence — ranging from the referees at an athletic event to the secret service at a presidential visit.

Monday evening was no exception.

“I will have to be with you everywhere you go,” “True Blood” production supervisor Sandra Stokes said. “You will not be able to photograph any actors or animals — just the house and the film crew.”

Televisions and movie production companies are notoriously tight-lipped about their products.

They go to great lengths to keep the plot lines of their shows a secret, especially with Internet bloggers scrounging around for any good morsel of information.

So Stokes’ directives on the phone did not surprise me.

What did surprise me were the lengths to which the company went to keep their secrets.

As soon as I stepped out of my car, a film crew member was waiting for me with my imaginary monkey backpack.

Even though we were at least a football field away from the filming, the crew member was already announcing in the microphone attached to his shoulder that the newspaper man was on the set.

His announcement set off loud chatter on the walkie talkies. It was almost as if a crowd of people were being quickly herded into some hidden corner of the antebellum house.

Then came the announcement that the set was clear.

As I approached the director and cameramen, Stokes interrupted. With one quick tug, she pulled me aside and reiterated the rules.

“No actors, no animals, only what I say you can shoot,” she said.

For the next two hours I photographed the crew and the house — no actors, no animals.

“You done?” Stokes said after two scenes.

“Yes, thank you very much,” I replied as started to walk back to my car.

“Here is your monkey backpack back,” I muttered to myself.

“What?” Stokes said.

“Nevermind,” I replied.

Ben Hillyer is the Web editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or