There’s a reason they call it spring


Already, daffodils are blooming with reckless abandon here. These hangers-on are at an abandoned home site near Bodcaw, Arkansas. There are thousands of locations just like this one. When the time came to move, the daffodils weren't included in the plans. They have plans of their own.

Already, daffodils are blooming with reckless abandon here. These hangers-on are at an abandoned home site on a county road near Bodcaw, Arkansas. There are thousands of locations just like this one. The location is typical of the former rural home genre. The home site butts to the road. It has a tree in what was once the front yard – and daffodils.

My end of the country is under tension. In a big way. Millions, billions(? I’ve never been a math whiz) of plants, trees, flowers and weeds camouflaged in death-like brown have surreptitiously gone about their appointed way of preparing for an explosion coming to a location near you in a few weeks. You can almost feel the tremors. Already, daffodils are blooming with reckless abandon. Buds are appearing on trees and shrubs. The seasonal ratchet is engaged.

Before we go much further, you should know that this story started on the Photo-of-the-Week page at Corndancer.com. To see another picture and find out how this started, click here, a cool and safe thing to do.

Same song second verse. Just west of Camden, Arkansas on state highway 278, this patch of daffodils fits the pattern, to wit: adjadent to the road, backed up by a large tree, both of which were the decorative part of a familys front yard. There is no sign of the house. But it was surely there.

Same song second verse. Just west of Camden, Arkansas on state highway 278, this patch of daffodils fits the pattern, to wit: adjadent to the road, backed up by a large tree, both of which were the decorative part of a family's front yard. There is no sign of the house.

If nothing else, suffice to say that our confidence in the natural order of “things” is seasonally restored, normally just in the nick of time. When winter is about to dump us over the precipice of insanity, spring springs to the rescue. In this neck of the woods, spring behaves like a steam locomotive building momentum as it chugs from the station. The place goes crazy with azaleas, tulip trees, red buds, dogwoods and a plethora of other purple, white and wild colored flora which escapes my limited powers of recognition. Some of it deliberately planted. Some of its own volition. The juggernaut continues until these genetic orders are satisfied.

Don't get me to lyin.' This flowering tree is on US Highway 79 south of Rison AR. I do not have a clue as to the species, genus or other binomial nomenclature. My apologies to Carl Linneaus, his minions and followers.

Don't get me to lyin.' This flowering tree is on US Highway 79 south of Rison AR. I do not have a clue as to the species, genus or other binomial nomenclature. My apologies to Carl Linneaus, his minions and followers. Also to (I'm assuming, the late) Ms. Ruth Buchanan, my curmudgeon biology teacher at Fort Smith AR Senior High School. A resolute scientist, she would have enjoyed the appellation which I just proffered on her.

But of the four, only this season accompanies the announcement, much to the consternation of more than a few, with pollen. Unfortunately, nature has decreed that pollen is to plants as rain is to waterfalls. W. C. Fields would have said ” … such is the price of greatness.” To those afflicted with sensitivity to the yellow plague, my condolences. We have about 15 or so mature oaks in our yard, as do our neighbors. This translates to pollen by what seems to be the cubic acre.

So welcome to spring. As if there was anything you could do about it.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe

jdempsey@cablelynx.com

Alas poor compress, I knew you well


What you are seeing above is what's left of a cotton compress and the boiler which provided the steam that operated the compress.

What you are seeing above is what's left of a long since abandoned cotton compress and the boiler which provided the steam that operated the press.

This story had its beginnings on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. To get in on the start of the tale and another picture, click here, a very cool and safe thing to do. There, we talked about seeing things in the winter, here we talk about the things we see.

Time was in the South, where cotton was king, almost every town of any size had a cotton compress with an attendant warehouse. The output of a cotton gin is a bale of cotton. A normal cotton bales weighs in at about 500 to 600 pounds of ginned cotton. It measures roughly, about 4 feet by 3 feet by 5 feet. The gin compressed the bale somewhat, but to get the bale down to easy handling and shipping size, more muscle was required.  Hence the compress. Compresses reduced the bale to 60-66% of its original size. Virtually all of the old compresses were on a main rail line, or had rail access via a spur.

Since all compresses were steam operated, having a dependable supply of water was of prime concern. So they all had water towers on the site. This one is typical of the era. Now folks might think it looks like an oversized wren house. Tree limbs between the camera and subject are compressed by the telephoto effect.

Since all compresses were steam operated, having a dependable supply of water was of prime concern. So they all had water towers on the site. This one is typical of the era. Now folks might think it looks like an over-sized wren house. Tree limbs between the camera and subject are compressed by the telephoto effect.

With few exceptions the old compresses were steam operated. The process was simple. Put the bale in the compress, pour the steam to it, mash the fool out of it and re-band it in the smaller size. When the operator released the steam, a resounding “whoosh” could be heard for miles. Close to the puffing whooshes one hears from a steam locomotive, just not as frequent.

One local resident recalls the predictable steam whistle at the compress. The compress whistle sounded daily at 6:00 a.m., noon, and 6:00 p.m. In that day and time, the compress whistle was as inevitable as death and taxes. Now just a pleasant memory – the whistle, not the taxes.

Starting in the fifties, gins and gin technologies began a change that eliminated the need for free-standing compresses. Smaller gins were falling by the wayside in favor of larger gins which had huge hydraulic presses capable of doing what steam had formerly done. Trucks were becoming the more common means of shipping cotton. The party was nearly over for free standing compresses.

This particular compress goes back to at least the early 1920s. The door on the boiler reveals that The Casey-Hedges Company of Chattanooga TN built the boiler for the compress in 1923. Casey-Hedges, from what I can find out, was a major supplier of steam operated equipment.

This particular compress goes back to at least the early 1920s. The door on the boiler reveals that The Casey-Hedges Company of Chattanooga TN built the boiler for the compress in 1923. Casey-Hedges, from what I can find out, was a major supplier of steam operated equipment.

The death stars finally converged and administered the coup de’ grace, not just to this compress, but the compress business as viable entity. The south is dotted with once vibrant and viable, now empty, shells of compresses.

We ask, why just abandon the buildings? There is a modern counterpart to this mode of behavior, to wit: It’s economic. The reason – the same reason you don’t get the digital watch fixed when it stops, the same reason you don’t fix a lamp or a myriad of other items that pose a greater expenditure of “trouble” and money to repair than to replace. The business was dead and it cost money to demolish the former premises. Some things never change.

UPDATE, MARCH 31, 2011

It saddens me to report that the owners of the property have leveled the old compress site. The water tower is still standing, but the old compress building, boiler, and with it, the boiler door have fallen to an  ignominious end. JPD.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe

Gaylon and his team


Gaylon Wilson's mules, (from left, Ruth and Mattie) seem to be sharing a secret. They are half sisters. Gaylon raised and trained Ruth and later trained and bought Mattie,

Gaylon Wilson’s mules, (from left, Ruth and Mattie) seem to be sharing a secret. They are half sisters. Gaylon raised and trained Ruth and later trained and bought Mattie,

It is appropriate that a modern day muleskinner tool about in a modern day covered wagon. At least that’s how it appears with Gaylon Wilson of McCaskill AR. This story had it’s beginnings on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. To see more pictures and read it from the start, click here, a cool and safe thing to do.

Gaylon’s wagon goes far and beyond what one normally expects to find behind mules. Hydraulic brakes, a radio, electrically adjustable bucket seats. He bought the wagon from Junior Griggs in Como TX. Apparently, Junior is well known among mule aficionados as a reliable source of custom wagons, harness items and tack

Gaylon’s wagon goes far and beyond what one normally expects to find behind mules. Hydraulic brakes, a radio, electrically adjustable bucket seats are among the amenities. He bought the wagon from Junior Griggs in Como TX. Apparently, Junior is well known among mule aficionados as a reliable source of custom wagons, harness items and tack.

Gaylon says there is an informal gathering of mules, mule skinners (not his words), wagons and observers annually at Okalona AR in May. One of the events is a parade of mule drawn wagons through the small town.

"We passed five wagons in the parade before I got the team calmed down."

Gaylon Wilson:  ” … we passed five wagons in the parade before I got the team calmed down.”

He recalled some excitement at one of the past events. Seems someone else’s mules spooked at something and those mules spooked Gaylon’s team. “We passed five wagons in the parade before I got the team calmed down,” Gaylon said, adding the the brakes on that wagon malfunctioned about the time the team spooked. The wild ride was reported in the state wide newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Gaylon revealed the story with relish. He is a man who enjoys being himself, a rare commodity in this day and time.

For those who may be interested, Okalona is southwest of Arkadelphia AR. Take the Okalona exit off I-30 and follow AR Highway 162 west. It’s not far from the interstate.

Hats off to Gaylon Wilson and his friends who keep the care, feeding and utilization of these noble beasts of burden alive and well.

Thanks dropping by,

Joe

Happy Trails!

Happy Trails!

Yes it made a sound.


“When a tree falls in the woods and nobody is … ?”  We’ve all heard the question and probably joined in heated conversations. To see my debunking of this eternal question and to get a closer wilderness scene above, visit the photo of the week page on Corndancer dot com where this story started, a very cool (and safe) thing to do. Click here.

There's more to see here during winter months. During the winter landscape colors are not as intense, but the shapes and intracies of nature are much easier to see.

There's more to see here during winter months. During the winter landscape colors are not as intense, but the shapes and intricacies of nature are much easier to observe. This creek is near the bridge over the Ouachita River in central Arkansas, east of Gurdon and west of Sparkman.

It has always been my belief that there is more to see in the great outdoors in winter than in summer, at least in these environs, where we are not up to our keisters in snow for the biggest part of the winter. The scene above illustrates the point. A lot of what you see there would not be visible in the summer.

Many who enjoy the outdoors confine their forays into the depths of nature to more temperate seasons. There is a lot to be missed. The light is different because the sun is lower in the sky and where deciduous trees cover most of the landscape, there is simply more to see when the leaves drop.

The colors are different. The image above  would not look the same in warmer months. This was shot just north of Holly Springs AR on a county road. A creek crossing the road is routed through a large culvert, leaving a nice sized pond up stream. In the pond, the two old dead trees and sky made an interesting reflection, particularly when crowned with the winter version, golden yellow grass. This is not available during the warmer months.

Winter colors are different. The image above would not look the same in warmer months. This was shot just north of Holly Springs AR on a county road. A creek crossing the road is routed through a large culvert, leaving a nice sized pond up stream. In the pond, the two old dead trees and sky made an interesting reflection, particularly when crowned with the winter version, golden yellow grass. This is not available during the warmer months.

While I was shooting the scene above, what I was doing did not escape the eye of an area resident. Neither did the scene. He stopped his car, and with a big smile on a toothless mouth, asked what I was shooting – well actually, ” whut I was takin’ a picture of.” I explained what I saw. To my surprise, he said he had noticed the same thing and agreed that it should be recorded. He departed, but before I finished shooting the scene, he returned with a friend in the passenger seat of his car. He did not want his friend to miss seeing the action. His buddy had teeth, but far short of a full set. They were not youngsters by any stretch of the imagination. We all conversed a bit and they went on their ways. Then I swung the lens a 180.

Evidence of a cast gone bad, the ubiquitous icon of southern bank fishing.

Evidence of a cast gone bad, the ubiquitous icon of southern bank fishing.

Where the creek exited the culvert on the south side of the road, sure enough, there was the ubiquitous icon of southern bank fishing, a hook, line, sinker and bobber on a twig. This is not the first time we’ve explored this phenomenon. Click here for that adventure, you’ll snicker — and a practical joke I played on a good-natured neighbor.

This interstate highway right-of-way marker has not a thing to do with the subject at hand. However, I suspect that not many people have ever laid eyes on one. Now, more people have.

This interstate highway right-of-way marker has not a thing to do with the subject at hand. However, I suspect that not many people have ever laid eyes on one. Now, more people have.

Later in the day I encountered something seldom seen even by outdoor explorers such as myself and probably never for those not so inclined. It is a right of way marker for Interstate 30 near Prescott AR.

Thanks for dropping by, feel free to comment or drop me an email at jdempsey@cablelynx.com.

Joe

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