Carson Valley man’s photo makes Union Pacific Railroad calendar |

Carson Valley man’s photo makes Union Pacific Railroad calendar

by Nancy Hamlett

Start with a solitary hike in the Donner Lake area. Add a love of trains. Stir in an ever-ready camera, and you have the recipe for the high-quality photograph chosen by the Union Pacific Railroad for its annual calendar.

“I’m certainly not a professional photographer,” said Kevin Barnes, the creative talent behind the photograph. “As a matter of fact, I don’t know that much at all. But I love trains and saw the shot and took it.”

Barnes is an avid collector of model trains and subscribes to many magazines pertaining to trains and model trains. He thinks that he must have seen an advertisement requesting pictures for the calendars in one of the issues. He sent in a slide and forgot about it until he received notice in the mail that the photograph would be used in the 1999 calendar.

“Of course it was exciting,” said Barnes. “Now I guess I’m a paid professional photographer.”

Barnes has been associated with the arts since he was growing up in the Bay area. In elementary school, he began playing musical instruments, and in high school, he was a member of bands, orchestras and choirs.

“Plus I was a member of a folk group, Me, Him and Her – I guess you could say it was a direct takeoff on Peter, Paul and Mary, and I played in a rock band in the San Jose area,” said Barnes. “We had some great local exposure on local TV and fairs.”

– Early songwriter. Barnes always thought that he would do something with music. He wrote a campaign song for George McGovern and it was selected as a rally song for McGovern’s West Coast appearances.

“‘He’s A Long Time Comin’ was the name of it, and I guess he still is a long time coming,” joked Barnes. “But it was a great experience. I met a lot of people at rallies, people like Jack Klugman and Gene Hackman and Jon Voigt. And the highlight was a rally in San Jose. I got to sing the song in front of 8,000 people, and I wasn’t really nervous. I met McGovern and he thanked me for the song.”

Barnes married his wife, Sally, in 1973. The both wanted to leave the Bay area, so in 1974 they moved to Las Vegas where Sally’s parents lived.

“Among other things, I worked at a recording studio and played with a good country show band,” said Barnes. “But you have to have a thick skin to be in the music business, and I don’t have a thick skin. I knew I was talented enough, but talent isn’t the major motivator. I didn’t have enough drive.”

However, Barnes continued writing his songs and eventually a demo record was made of one of his tunes.

“‘Don’t You Believe’ was a good song,” said Barnes. “But I was given some stupid advice and I never signed the contract.” He shrugged. “It was a missed opportunity, but you can’t go back and change things.”

Las Vegas wasn’t the Mecca that Barnes and his wife were looking for. Barnes knew that he wanted to finish his college education, but before cracking the books, he and Sally took off on a cross-country adventure.

– Finally home. “We traveled around the United States for 2-1/2 months. Of course, that was before the kids,” said Barnes. “Our plan was to end up in Reno so that I could go to school. And when we got there, it felt like we were home. We loved it.”

After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno, Barnes substitute taught for the Washoe County School District. Then he accepted a job offer in Washington.

“But we were back a year later,” said Barnes. “I accepted the position at Kingsbury Middle School teaching English and history, and I’ve been with the Douglas County School District ever since.”

Barnes transferred to Carson Valley Middle School 12 years ago. This year he is teaching speech and physical education, plus he has coached every sport except cross-country. This spring he will be coaching the track team.

“I enjoy being around the kids,” said Barnes. “And this year, I am really enjoying my speech classes. Kids can keep you younger, but can also make you feel old, as you can’t do the things you used to do quite as quickly.”

Barnes lives in the Johnson Lane area with his family. Sally works in the medical imaging department at Carson-Tahoe Hospital and Minden Medical Center. They celebrated 25 years of wedded bliss last September.

Their son, David, will be 21 in February. He is currently working to pay for a trip to Europe.

“College will come when he is ready,” said Barnes. “Right now he wants to see something of the world. He’s already been to Argentina. On this trip he will be visiting with exchange students he made friends with while he was in school.”

Samantha is 14 and attends Carson Valley Middle School. She is on the Douglas High School tennis team.

Although he has a busy schedule with school, Barnes still keeps music active in his life. A guitar and a banjo sit on stands in his living room, and he is putting together several songs that he has written with plans to perform children’s concerts.

“Small kids don’t care how old or ugly you are,” said Barnes. “I’ll make a recording of these songs, play for groups, and who knows.” He laughed. “Maybe I’ll make my fortune at music yet.”

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