Blooms and crappie


Here in south Arkansas it’s dogwoods au gogo! This story started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer.com. To see some additional pictures and get in on the beginnings, a cool thing to do, click here and you will be taken to the Photo of Week page at Corndancer.com.

Thewild dogwoods in south Arkansas are going wild. In some areas, the woods apppear to have been carpet bombed with blooming dogwood trees. A good thing,

The wild dogwoods in south Arkansas are living up to their name. In some areas, the woods appear to have been carpet bombed with blooming dogwood trees. A good thing and a good sign, if you are fed up with winter.

The dogwood blooms you see were shot near Garnett on Arkansas Highway 54 east of Star City, Arkansas. There have to be thousands of dogwood trees now blooming along that highway (March 29, 2009). In addition to the main highway there are dozens of well maintained county gravel roads which lead to and from the highway. These roads are lined with dogwoods as well. These less traveled roads frequently give one a better look at dogwoods – and you contend with less traffic for a more relaxed trip.

Twenty miles or so north of the dogwood hills, still in Lincoln County, you encounter flat Delta farmland. The area is laced with small streams and bayous. These small flowering vines seem to like the bayous.

North of the rolling hills which are home to the dogwoods is the Delta, a low-lying agricultural area. The landscape is laced with small streams and bayous. These small flowering vines seem to like the bayous. We seem to like the flowers. Notice the small pentagonal star in the center of the bloom

Twenty miles or so north of the dogwood hills, still in Lincoln County, you encounter flat Delta farmland. These farmlands are very fertile. It does not take much climatic encouragement for wild flowers to spring up. Many the fields in the area are covered with yellow flowers and bordered with rich green grass like the scene below.

The golden color of the field and tree may fool you into believing this is a scene left over from the fall. Not so. This scene, shot March 29 is illuminated by golden, late afternoon sun. The tree is just beginning to sprout the pollen rich buds which will become the leaves of summer.

The golden color of the field and tree may fool you into believing this is a scene left over from the fall. Not so. This scene, shot March 29, is illuminated by golden, late afternoon sun. The tree is just beginning to sprout the pollen rich buds which will become its leaves of summer.

And now, about the crappie

This shooting and exploration trip actually started on Saturday afternoon. While cruising through the agricultural Delta in northern Lincoln County, Arkansas, I happened upon the low-water bridge on county road 80  across Bayou Bartholomew. There was a woman fishing at the north foot of the bridge. The night before, the area was soaked by a toad-strangler rain, so the bayou was lapping at the roadbed of the bridge. These flood swollen conditions did not seem to bother this woman

Ida Hester shows off her catch.

Ida Hester shows off her catch.

I asked the standard question asked of fishermen, ” … doin enny good?” She broke into a smile and pulled four nice crappie from her ice chest. We introduced ourselves. She is Ida Hester, a high school science teacher. She told me she was, more or less, (in the words of Creedence Clearwater revival – my words, not hers), ” … born on the bayou … ,  I started fishing here when I was four years old.” she said. Hester says she is 58, so you do the math.

“I left years ago and moved to Michigan. When my mother began to suffer the results of old age, I came back to help her.” Hester’s mother died a couple of years ago, but she, Ida stays on. “I’m a science teacher at Dumas High School.”

Hester is high on the fish producing characteristics of the location and is well familiar with its eccentricities. The bayou was swirling high, nearly over the bridge. She says when the water gets this high or higher, even covering the bridge, at this time of  year, she can drag crappie out one after the other at the corners of the bridge. She explained further that the ones she is displaying in the picture are somewhat smaller than here normal catch there.

She allowed as how the bayou had not yet crested under the current conditions and that the bridge would be under water the next morning. Fast forward to early Sunday afternoon. I arrived at the bridge and found about six inches of Bayou Bartholomew running over it. As I made this observation, Ida was packing her gear in her SUV to leave, having just finished another fishing session. She had done well again. A few more crappie and a nice large mouth bass that I’d put in the two pound or there about range. We exhanged a few pleasantries and went on our merry ways.

Sometimes you just get lucky and run in to a nice person like Ida Hester.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe

Hooker home


You are in the back yard of the old home on Hooker Road in Jefferson County, Arkansas. This story began on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. To see the front yard and get in on the start of the story, click here and go to Corndancer, a cool and informative thing to do.

It’s on Hooker Road, in a not-very-well-traveled area, not in a red light district.  The empty area to the right is a former room, sans outside wall. In the background is a small outbuilding used for storage and animal shelter. There is a lean-to on the opposite side, large enough to hold a cow or perhaps a few goats.  I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing this residence dates back to the first part of the last century. It is on its last legs.

It’s on Hooker Road, in a not-very-well-traveled area, not in a red light district. The empty area to the right is a former room, sans outside wall. In the background is a small outbuilding used for storage and animal shelter. There is a lean-to on the opposite side, large enough to hold a cow or perhaps a few goats. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing this residence dates back to the first part of the last century. It is on its last legs.

The old home is the only structure for miles on either side of its location. My guess is that the residence dates to the early part of the last century. The home place was on a spacious lot and consisted of the house, a small storage house / barn and a larger barn. The place smacks of reasonably prosperous residents. One wonders if the neighbors were as thin as they are now in the days when families called the structure home .

The south side view of Hooker home reveals its second highes and best use after being abandoned for the first time, to wit: storage of hay, a not uncommon fate for abandoned residences in these environs. You can also see what appears to have been a "picture" window,

The south side view of Hooker home reveals its second highest and best use after being abandoned for the first time, to wit: storage of hay, a not uncommon fate for abandoned rural residences in these environs. You can also see what appears to have been a "picture" window,

The square “picture” window gives evidence that perhaps the home was occupied as late as the late forties or fifties. That is about the time “picture” windows became the rage. This is pure conjecture on my part.

The square “picture” window on the side perhaps gives evidence that the home was occupied as late as the late forties or fifties. That is about the time “picture” windows became the rage. I say "perhaps." This is pure conjecture on my part. Maybe this side of the house was for storage. The "awning" above the window is sheet metal cut from an old sign and fabricated to serve as an awning. There are similar awnings on windows on the other side of the house.

The awnings indicate that someone cared about the residence. There also are some construction details such as door trim and porcelain door knobs which show some concern for quality and appearance. Next to the hay storage, there appears to be a closet which had outdoor access. See the picture below,

Near the hay storage area on the same side of the house is this home-made door which would be of little use against the elements. The other entrance doors to the home are solid. What the shelves stored is a mystery. The home made door could have been to a closet with outdoor access. Since walls are falling down in the structure, it is hard to tell what might have been.

Near the hay storage area on the same side of the house is this homemade door which would be of little use against the elements. The other entrance doors to the home are solid. What the shelves stored is a mystery. The homemade door could have been to a closet with outdoor access. Since walls are falling down in the structure, it is hard to tell what might have been.

Damage is more evident on the other side of the house. Part of the outside wall has fallen away and some of the interior structural planks are splayed like a fan. It makes one wonder what is holding the old house together.

The north side of the house seems to have taken the brunt of Mother Nature's poundings. On many occasions, I will cautiously step inside an old structure to satisfy points of curiosity and take a shot or two. Hooker house is the exception. Fear and trepidation are the rulle here.

The north side of the house seems to have taken the brunt of Mother Nature's poundings. On many occasions, I will cautiously step inside an old structure to satisfy points of curiosity and take a shot or two. Hooker house is the exception. Fear and trepidation are the rule here. I am purely chicken on this one.

The last picture, resplendent red buds, are an offering to one of my grade school buddies, Betty Ann W.  nee Betty Ann C. (I use initials due to privacy concerns). Betty Ann alleges that during early years of grade school, that I was inordinately mean to her. Sort of an early male chauvinist pig behavior or on the fringes of sexual harassment. Since neither of those terms had seen the light of day in the forties when the alleged offenses occurred, I suppose I can plead boyish innocence to those charges. However, since Betty Ann is a woman of impeccable integrity and honesty, I must now presume the original allegations are true. That being so, amends are in order. A few weeks ago, Betty Ann, a denizen of Texas for what seems to be forever, lamented on the absence of spring blooms endemic to the environment of her early years — in her current environment. She specifically mentioned red buds. So Betty Ann, these Weekly Grist red buds are for you.

Betty Ann's redbuds, shot on the bayou running alongside Hooker Road.

Betty Ann's red buds, shot on the bayou running alongside Hooker Road.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe

Bridges in the boondocks


Springfield Bridge over Cadron Creek near Springfield, Arkansas was completed in 1874. It was in continuous use for 117 years until 1991 when a new bridge was built upstream. Since maintenance has stopped on the bridge, it is rapuidly deteriorating. However, the fact that it is still standing after 135 years in the elements tells us someone did something right when they designed and built the bridge.

Springfield Bridge over Cadron Creek near Springfield, Arkansas was completed in 1874. It was in continuous use for 117 years until 1991 when a new bridge was built upstream. Since maintenance has stopped on the bridge, it is rapidly deteriorating. However, the fact that it is still standing after 135 years in the elements tells us someone did something right when they designed and built the bridge.

The story of  Springfield Bridge started on the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer.com.  Click here see more bridge pictures and find out how this thing started.

The bridge was bolted together. Nuts for the bolts are square shouldered. The bridge rests on native stone masonry supports on each end. The approaches are under gird with what appear to be 12″ x 12″ bridge timbers. These timbers for the most part,  are intact.

During winter months when the trees have dropped their leaves, you can get a glimpse of the old bridge from the road. Not so once the leaves sprout.

Leaves and vines dropping on the floor of the bridge have, over the years, created a layer of humus. No doubt, a good crop of grass will grow on the bridge in warmer months.

This is the east end of the bridge. In he lower right, you can see one of the 12 x 12 bridge timbers which support the bridge approach. Leaves and vines dropping on the floor of the bridge have, over the years, have created a layer of humus or compost. Take your choice. No doubt, a good crop of grass will grow on the bridge in warmer months.

A bit further north, just east of Morrilton AR is another abandoned bridge, Creek Road Bridge. Putting yourself next to Springfield Bridge is a short stroll from the highway. Creek Road Bridge is another story. The road to the bridge dead ends well east of the bridge. The dead end is solid underbrush. Closer inspection reveals a hint of a path, but it is helpful if you are a contortionist when you negotiate it. I’m not and my bones still ache.

Not far from the Creek Road bridge are these remains of an old vehicle. The right fender and the hardware which held the radiator in place are still there, but just barley. How it wound up in a creeks bottoms will remain a mystery.

Not far from the Creek Road bridge are these remains of an old vehicle. The right fender and the hardware which held the radiator in place are still there, but just barley. How it wound up in a creeks bottoms will remain a mystery.

You wind your way through a grave yard of former impromptu dumping sites, now overgrown, but still somewhat crunchy under your feet. While this sounds a bit on the gross side, it is preferrable to being up to your ankles in mud, an all-too-familiar condition in creek beds. I ran across the remnants of a late 30s or mid 40s pickup truck just a few yards from the bridge.

Here it is. Creek Road Bridge, east of Morrilton. Visiting the bridge is appropriate for hardy souls only. It is not far from the road, but the pathway is thick to say the least. I base these comments on late winter conditions before the "wait-a-minute" vines and "sticker" bushes have reached their warm weather potential.

Here it is. Creek Road Bridge, east of Morrilton. Visiting the bridge is appropriate for hardy souls only. It is not far from the road, but the pathway is thick to say the least. I base these comments on late winter conditions before the "wait-a-minute" vines and "sticker" bushes have reached their warm weather potential.

I came back from this trip bloodied, muddied and grinning like a jackass eating sawbriers. It’s a nasty job, but someone’s got to do it. I did observe one nicety at the old Springfield Bridge. As I was leaving the bridge site, a  couple in their twenties drove up to go see the bridge. There is hope.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe

Cypress and relocation


This cypress story got started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer.com. To see another cypress picture and discover these beginnings, click here. Well, in fact, most of this story is there.

These trees showing their massive bases are just inches of water. The normal waterline about 3/4 up the visible trunk from the current water level.

These Lake Enterprise trees showing their massive bases are standing in just inches of water. The normal waterline, barely visible, is  near the top of the picture. Waterlines at the bottom of the trunks show that low water is nothing new to these trees.

Cypress trees are ornery critters. For the most part, (unless the lake goes dry), their feet are never dry and they thrive in non-hospitable environments. That being said, to some of us, they are a thing of beauty.  All of these trees are in Enterprise Lake at Wilmot AR. Wilmot is just a few miles north of the Arkansas-Louisiana state line.

Not far from a lakeside residence, this view gives you an idea of the width of the lake. It is long and skinny. Cypress trees line the shores. In certain parts of the lake, such as what is seen in our Corndancer article, are thickly concenterated.

Not far from a lakeside residence, this view gives you an idea of the width of the lake. It is long and skinny. Cypress trees line the shores. In certain parts of the lake, such as what is seen in our Corndancer article, the trees are are thickly concentrated.

Lake Enterprise is a backward question-mark shaped oxbow lake, a remnant of eons of geological shifts. There are a lot of similar lakes in this part of the country, but none quite as well populated with cypress as this one.

These trees are in just a few inches of water.

These trees are in just a few inches of water. Evidence of previous low water conditions is clearly evident with the pronounced waterlines. Cypress trees have a knack for survival.

What the ??????

A few miles north of Wilmot you see a smoke stack, jutting like an asparagas spear from a plowed field. It is what's left of the Jerome Relocation Center.

A few miles north of Wilmot and Lake Enterprise  you cannot miss a smoke stack, jutting like an asparagus spear from a plowed field. You can see it for miles. It is what’s left of the Jerome Relocation Center.

The Jerome Relocation Center was a camp where 16,000 Japanese Americans (most were US Citizens) were incarcerated from October 1942 until June 1944. Named for the now virtually depleted town of Jerome, Arkansas, the relocation center was established as a result of executive order 9066, signed in February 1942 by then President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

As a result of that order more than 120,000 persons of Japanese descent were relocated from the west coast and Hawaii to similar camps. There was another relocation camp in Arkansas 27 miles north at Rowher. There is a memorial to Japanese American WWII veterans and a cemetery holding the remains of internees who died while residents of that camp.

In the mid-70s, I had the privilege of meeting a man about my age who had spent part of his childhood in the Rowher Camp. He was in the nearby town of McGehee AR helping make arrangements for a memorial service to be held at the Rowher site. Also in the 70s, I talked to several residents of the Rowher area who were adults at the time. They told me that, for the most part, local residents sympathized with the internees. The internees also gave a good accounting of themselves and were polite, responsible people.

A quarter mile or so north of the smoke stack, is a memorial to the Jerome Relocation Camp internees. Being in the Delta, in a farm area, no space is wasted. An irrigation pump sits close by. In the background, you can see a cropduster winging his way home.

A quarter mile or so north of the smoke stack, is a memorial to the Jerome Relocation Camp internees. Being in the Delta, in a farm area, no space is wasted. An irrigation pump sits close by. In the background, you can see a crop duster winging his way home.

I talked to a woman whose family operated a store adjacent to the Rowher Camp. She was very complimentary of the internees and admired their ability to create outstanding vegetable gardens, a skill universally admired here in the south. She also said that after the initial settlement, some of the internees could come and go as they pleased and became customers of her store. She fondly remembered some individuals by name.

Down the road at Wilmot, the trees were there all the time, not paying attention to the personal dramas unfolding to the north. While we humans scurry about learning from our mistakes, the trees await our visit. If we never see them they, the ornery cypress,  don’t care. If we do happen to set foot on their turf, their quiet dignity and infinite resilience give us pause to marvel at inexplicable wonders.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe

More Jerome Relocation Center links: Click here and/or here

Winchester, no cathedral


This sign is the last vestige of fomer retail activity at Winchester, Arkansas. Winchester is not by itself. Thousands of other small towns have suffered a similar fate. Others, not yet so afflicted will follow. It is the way of our times.

This sign is the last vestige of fomer retail activity at Winchester, Arkansas. Winchester is not by itself. Thousands of other small towns have suffered a similar fate. Others, not yet so afflicted will follow. It is the way of our times.

If you breeze through the intersection of US Highway 65 and Arkansas Highway 138 and think you’ve just passed through Winchester, guess again. What you’ve passed through is the eastern most suburb of Winchester. Had you made a right turn on 138, in a quarter mile or so, you’d see Winchester.  Winchester has a post office, a fire station and a city hall. And a still standing Sinclair sign. And folks.  And their domiciles.

A good place to click

A lot of folks wind up here as a result of visiting the Photo of the Week page on Corndancer dot com. Now that you know about Winchester, click here to find out about Chester and Lester as well, at the photo of the week page.

The best laid plans …

Winchester was not a part of the plan for this post. Some magnificent cypress trees about another 45 minutes south were the intended target. However, at about Winchester, the pickup engine began some obnoxious behavior and I decided to do a 180. The guages were all happy, so one presumes, it’s a sullen microchip somewhere. So I figured a whirl through Winchester (the western part) would be OK. I was rewarded with the Sinclair sign. Probably, the former station had a social function as well as its utilitarian destiny. Most small town filling stations did.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Blooming Bradford Pear trees frame the Jefferson County Courthouse on Main Street in Pine Bluff, Arkansdas.

Blooming Bradford Pear trees frame the Jefferson County Courthouse on Main Street in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. These trees line both sides of the street.

Now returned back to minutes from home, there’s a fast-fading opportunity, to wit: blooming Bradford Pear trees. Our home-town downtown is lined with those suckers. They are peaking out now. In 24 to 36 hours, the trees will transform from white to green as the new leaves take hold. The time to shoot is now.

Bradford Pear Blooms at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas on Main Street in Pine Bluff AR.

Bradford Pear blooms at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas on Main Street in Pine Bluff AR. It's late Sunday. The parking lot is usually not empty.


Last, but certainly not least

Old Glory and Bradford Pear blooms greet visitors to this drive-in branch bank just off Main Street in Pine Bluff AR. The tree is not actually as high as the flag. The view is from a service lane looking up. “Forced perspective” makes you think the tree is taller than the flag.

Three cheers for the red white, white, and blue.

Three cheers for the red white, white, and blue.


Update on the pickup

March 4, 2009 — Nothing serious. Some ignition components showing signs of age. Joe Webb, 12th degree master mechanic,  diagnosed the issues and did the fix. Well, after 210,000 miles, what can one expect. It is now hauling booty again!

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

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