What’s left at Lester


Formerly "the store" at Lester AR. Now it is an eye-popping display of artifacts from the community. Notice symmetry in the arrangement. You see a lot of antlers. This is south Arkansas. Antlers are to be expected.

Formerly "the store" at Lester AR. Now it is an eye-popping display of artifacts from the community. Notice symmetry in the arrangement. You see a lot of antlers. This is south Arkansas. Antlers are to be expected.

What you’re seeing was formerly “the store” at Lester AR. This story started on the Photo of the Week page on Corndancer dot com. To see the first part (a very cool thing to do), click here, (safe to do).

Lester was once a thriving rural community in south Arkansas between Chidester and Camden. All that’s left now at Lester is this old store and two residences. After shooting the store, I found my way to the Chidester General Store and was greeted by Gracie, the proprietor. It was Saturday afternoon and she was open for business. Since my previous source of information was less than substantial, I asked if she knew anything about Lester. She allowed yes, with the caveat that her level of Lester knowledge was limited — but a couple of her friends in the back of the store might be able to help. I joined the conversation at a friendly table.

     The store sign is the only sure clue you are in Lester. Hanging from a salvaged single-tree, the sign is probably a left over from when the railroad ran through Lester.

The store sign is the only sure clue you are in Lester. Hanging from a salvaged single-tree, the sign is probably a left over from when the railroad ran through Lester.

The two gentlemen at the table gave the same caveat, but did provide a couple of nuggets. Turns out that at one time, the railroad went through Lester, plus, they had a post office and a school. Schools, for those uninitiated in the ways of rural America, are very important anchors for these small towns. Schools give people a reason to be there and go there.

This collage on the west wall features, ice block tongs, log tongs, what appear to be bolt cutters, sheaves, a double open-end wrench and a couple of things that escape me. What's impressive is the precise symmetry. There's an art director lurking in there somewhere.

This collage on the west wall features buggy springs, a horseshoe, a barrel hoop, ice block tongs, log tongs, what appear to be bolt cutters, sheaves, a double open-end wrench, a one-man crosscut saw, and a couple of things that escape me. What's impressive is the precise symmetry with a slight touch of imbalance. There's an art director lurking in there somewhere.

One of the men said that he started in school at Chidester in 1943 and that kids from Lester were in his class. That being so, he said, ” … meant that their school, in 1943 had already been consolidated.” My conjecture is that this was the first step in the downward slide. Most all at the table agreed that the store had been closed probably 40-50 years. So, the fate of Lester is all too familiar. The school, the railroad, the store, the people, egress in that order.

Promise made, promise kept. A foundation of advertising. After I noticed this sign, I decided that a visit to the store was required. Thanks to Gracie and her friends, our story had a little more substance. Thanks, y'all.

Deer corn promise made, deer corn promise kept. A foundation of good advertising. After I noticed this sign, I decided that a visit to the Chidester General Store was required. Thanks to Gracie and her friends at the store, our story had more substance. Thanks, y'all.

On the brighter side, the person who decorated the store had an admirable idea to keep the memories of community alive – and an eye for design. Most of the artifacts are symmetrically arranged with more than a modicum of precision. Many were cleaned up and painted. It is obvious that great care and deliberation were taken in placement of the items. It was meant to be appreciated. And we do.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe

A sign of other times


This sign  and its terminology have fallen to disuse. The old sign, on Arkansas Highway 5 near Hot Springs AR, however, at the height of its glory was the amalgamation of some specialized artistic and mechanical skill sets hard to find today. The original story on this sign started on the Corndancer dot com Photo of the Week page. Click here to go there (a very cool thing to do) and see another picture of the sign and a short treatise on how these signs came to be.

The sign reads, "Colonial Nursing Home for Aged and Invalids." The sign has outlasted the nursing home.

The sign reads, "Colonial Nursing Home for Aged and Invalids." The sign has outlasted the nursing home, which is nowhere in sight.

Earlier on the trip, I encountered this barn on Arkansas Highway 5 south of Benton AR, a familiar landmark to local commuters. There are several other equally interesting barns on this picturesque stretch of road.

Barn on Arkansas Highway 5, south of Benton AR

Barn on Arkansas Highway 5, south of Benton AR

An hour or so later, driving west on Arkansas Highway 298, I saw this old barn. Next to it was a nice two-story home. Most residents with barns such as this on their property consider them to be outdoor museum pieces and simply “leave them be.”

Barn on Arkansas HIghway 298 West of Hot Springs Village AR.

Barn on Arkansas HIghway 298 West of Hot Springs Village AR.

Not too much further down Highway 298  I found this old residence, now relegated as a decorative part of a pasture. It reminded me of a pasture softball game when I was a child. Everything was going fine until my neighbor friend, Billy Jameson slid into what he thought was third base. The game broke up shortly after that untoward and unfortunate slide. Billy was a key player and keeping him downwind was not working well with our game strategy.

The dark object in the lower right hand side of the image is not third base.

The dark object in the lower right hand side of the image is not third base.

My apologies for the brevity of the story this week.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe

The reluctant natural enemy


This started out as man versus pelican tale and wound up as an object lesson in the value of humility. See the first part of the story on the photo of the week page at Corndancer dot com, a very cool thing to do.

Bottom line was, I wanted to shoot pelicans (the Nikon way). Despite my good intentions, the subject pelicans declared me a natural enemy, rejected my intrusion and swam out of range after just a few shots.

After just a few frames, the wily birds said “no more” and turned tail, following their leader to a perceived safer distance.

After just a few frames, the wily birds said "no more" and turned tail, following their leader to a perceived safer distance.

Further west, in what many believe to be the lake slums, is the cormorant tree. It is a deceased cypress tree, adopted by cormorants. I’ve seen them in this same configuration at just about any given time of the year. From what I can tell, cormorants enjoy little appreciation from anyone or thing except other cormorants. Their only saving grace so far as I’m concerned is as an interesting picture.

The slums of the lake, according those not enamored with cormorants. This deceased cypress tenement is populated year-round by cormorants.

The slums of the lake, according those not enamored with cormorants. This deceased cypress tenement is populated year-round by cormorants. One can note their social habits. They will seek out pelicans for company. The reverse of that is not true to the best of my observations.

Far be it from me to challenge The Almighty, however I’ve yet to come up with a good reason for poison ivy, chiggers, gnats, jellyfish, cockroaches, obnoxious people and perhaps, cormorants. The message from Above is, in this case, ” … boy if I’d needed your advice, I would have asked. Learn to live with it. Amen.” OK Big Guy, you’re the boss.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey


Boys will be, well, boys


I encountered this sign, which has been hit more times than Muhammad Ali, on a trip to shoot pictures for the Corndancer Dot Com photo of the week. This week the picture is of an old barn. See it here. The nearly obliterated stop sign is on a National Forest Service Road off AR Highway 314 in central Arkansas.

You would not have wanted to be down range from this sign.

You would not have wanted to be down range from this sign.

Apparently, there’s some genetic disorder which runs rampant in us southern good-ol’ boys. It goads us to become armed, to quaff a few brews and to seek out highway signs and attack them with reckless abandon. The only other explanation hearkens back to the great comedian of the 60s, Flip Wilson, when he said, ” … the devil made me do it.”  In either case, the landscape is sprinkled with much evidence lending credence to both arguments.

Notice, in my first statement, the operative word is is “us.” I have to admit, that before my brain had learned to deflect these leanings, I was an active participant in this nefarious rite of passage. I hope there’s a statute of limitations on this sort of thing.

It's not as if we weren't warned. But then few good ol' boys carry a maginfying glass in their jeans.

It's not as if we weren't warned. But then few good ol' boys carry a magnifying glass in their jeans. Even less stop to inspect their targets first.

Exit wounds on the sign. Also, a good hint as to the exact location.

Exit wounds on the sign. Also, a good hint as to the exact location.

So life goes on. As long as there are good ol’ boys and signs in out of the way places, this practice will continue to flourish. But that’s OK. We have far more serious issues to address.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe

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