Author Jim Butcher wrote, “Men plan. Fate laughs.” Everyone can pinpoint a time in their lives when fate stepped in and skewered well-laid strategies. That’s particularly true of Gene Pelham, the model in the cover at right celebrating the arrival of spring. The New York native had moved his family to Arlington, Vermont, in 1938 from New Rochelle, New York. In that former life, he was an artist and photographer and knew (and occasionally modeled for) the great Norman Rockwell. But in Arlington, Pelham was happily ensconced in the country and hoped to try his hand at farming, raising livestock, and, in his own words, “building stuff.”
One crisp fall day in 1938, Pelham was working on his car in the front yard of his new Vermont digs when a stranger pulled into his driveway. The driver rolled down his window and said, “Can you tell me where the West Arlington Bridge is?”
As Pelham’s son Tom relates the story, his dad looked up and was amazed to see none other than Rockwell behind the wheel. “Norman? What are you doing here?” Pelham asked. Rockwell explained he was moving to Arlington.
And so, Pelham not only returned to modeling for the First Flower cover but he later became Rockwell’s assistant. He found and photographed models, scouted locations, and more. Fate certainly had other intentions for this would-be farmer.