Water woes and meandering through the Delta


Mother Nature has dealt many farmers here in the Delta a lousy hand. Never-ending spring rains delayed planting or drowned what had been planted. Now that the deluge is over the dry spell has begun. We started this story on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here and find out how this all started … and see a couple of additional pictures.

While this center pivot irrigation device has the appearance of a turbocharged praying mantis ready to pounce on you, its purpose is much more kind.

While this center pivot irrigation device has the appearance of a turbocharged praying mantis ready to pounce on you, its purpose is beneficial. It is making certain that the young cotton plants at its feet survive to become your next shirt, sheets or “drawers.”

It’s not as if irrigation is not an expected and  predictable function of the process. It’s just that the requirements for it have started earlier. Most of these fields have been prepared in the non-growing seasons to accommodate irrigation. The landscape is sloped to allow irrigation water to flow where it is needed.

Your future pilaf in the making —  a rice field is being topped off. It is necessary to flood these fields. Nothing new there. The rub is, planting is way off schedule due to the relentless spring rains.

Your future pilaf in the making — a rice field is being topped off. It is necessary to flood these fields. Nothing new there. The rub is, planting is way off schedule due to the relentless spring rains which pummeled us a few weeks back. The well  is powered by electricity. Many other irrigation wells are powered by internal combustion engines.

A non-rigid plastic pipe (below) is attached to the rice well above. The pipe snakes out through the field. Where water is needed, operators punch holes in the pipe to get the results you see above and below.

rice irrigation

Flexible plastic pipe has mostly replaced rigid metal pipe as conduit for irrigation waters. Plastic pipe is less expensive, deploys faster and is reusable and/or recyclable.

The communities in this agricultural area are old. In some cases, not much is left to give evidence of the early inhabitants. The exceptions to that rule are the churches and cemeteries. The grave below is marked with a “Woodmen of the World Memorial” tombstone. It wasn’t long ago that I saw a TV commercial touting the benefits of that organization. The stone almost looks like it could have been an ancestor to R2D2.

wood men

The Methodist Church in the background, has no cornerstone or other evidence of its age, but the graves tell the story. Mr. C.W. Barner lies under this stone. He was born April 15, 1888 and died April 18, 1919.  A number of graves in the cemetery are much older than this one.

Giving you the bird

 I leave you this week by giving you the bird. The redwinged blackbird was perched in a healthy stand of corn near Cornerstone, Arkansas. I stopped to look at the corn and the bird. He staid put until I got the shot and then departed.

I leave you this week by giving you the bird. The redwinged blackbird was perched in a healthy stand of corn near Cornerstone, Arkansas. I stopped to look at the corn and the bird. He stayed put until I got the shot and then departed.

Thanks for dropping by. Pray for rain.

Joe

In the neighborhood of 1876


This opld barn

This old barn is at the corner of Arkansas Highway 366 and Elm Road near Roe, Arkansas.

Those who know about this old barn agree that it is at least 133 years old and probably a bit older than that. The barn is on Arkansas Highway 366 near Roe, Arkansas. The story of this barn started on the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer Dot Com. To see how it started,  with two additional pictures (count ‘em, 2), click here to proceed to the photo of the week page, a very cool thing to do.

The barn fell from use when the farm upon which it stands changed hands in 2004. That it remained in use for more than 128 years is probably why it is in the good, but deteriorating condition we find today. Certainly, at that age, the barn was originally built to provide stall space for the farm mule herd. “Adaptive re-use” by subsequent owners required interior modifications, some of which you see below.

These storage rooms in the barn are a post-mule era addition. The area above the rooms provides a home for a nice sized barn owl.

These storage rooms in the barn are a post-mule era addition. The area above the rooms provides a home for a nice sized barn owl.

Finding the barn was on a whim, which was on a route determined by a previous whim. Sometimes I believe our whims are weighted to our experiences, and I believe this was the case on discovering the old barn. Earlier, a bit to the south in Arkansas County, north of Stuttgart AR, I turned on to Arkansas Highway on the aforementioned “previous whim.” As a result, I ran across the crop duster airstrip below.

The curved top structure you see is at the north end of the runway and not far above waist high to me, at 6'-3."

The curved top structure you see is at the north end of the runway and not far above waist high to me, at 6'-3." You just don't see this sort of thing often. Ever?

There may be a far-fetched explanation. The little building looks a bit governmental, perhaps even somewhat 40’s era military, which gives rise to the explanation. At nearby Stuttgart, Arkansas, there was a US Army Air Corps training facility. I’m betting that in an earlier permutation, this was an ancillary strip to that base. The building, under those circumstances would have held a few spare parts, fuel and oil. Maybe some contraband elixirs as well. In the absence of other explanations, that one will have to do.

December 17, 2010 – It was recently revealed to me that there were a number of these small strips with these mystery structures scattered around Arkansas County. They were a part of the Air Corps training base. The small buildings held radio direction finder transmitters to which the fledgling pilots navigated. When the installations were in use there was also an antenna about the size of a baseball backstop that was a part of the facility. My friend Don Martin provided this historical tidbit.

By then, my stomach was telling me it was time to take on nourishment. With any kind of luck, a country store with a talented sandwich maker would soon materialize and sho-nuff, in short-order, I wheeled into Cascoe, Arkansas, home of Cloud’s Grocery.

Clouds Grocery at Cascoe, Arkansas is a fine stop for sandwiches.

Clouds Grocery at Cascoe, Arkansas is a fine stop for sandwiches.

I did not bother to read the sign informing the general public that Clouds Grocery was a indeed a purveyor of sandwiches. That’s probably why I garnered the quizzical look from the proprietor when I made the sandwich inquiry. Like most country stores, asking for wheat bread is an exercise in futility. That aside, the two-fisted ham and turkey sandwich I got was running over with the meats,  plus lettuce, onions, pickles and tomatoes. It was a masterpiece. I wolfed it down and now I was well fortified for the next whim, which resulted in discovering the barn.

After the barn, on another whim, I sallied forth up US Highway 79 to Clarendon, Arkansas. The good folks at Clarendon saw fit to keep the old Merchants and Planters Bank building in good condition. It is now their visitor center. Since it was Sunday afternoon late, the doors were locked. A return trip during business hours is a must. Clarendon was like a lot of other small communities with a strongly weighted agricultural economy. They had a “Merchants and Planters Bank.” There must have been a jillion M&Ps  in the south, many of which of which are now decaying wrecks. Not so in Clarendon.

M7P

The nicely preserved and still-in-use Merchants and Planters Bank building in Clarendon AR. Good job folks!

A One-eighty

Less than six weeks ago, we were griping about too much rain.

Less than six weeks ago, we were griping about too much rain.

Those of you who read these epistles on a regular basis will probably remember my laments regarding overkill in our seemingly endless spring rains. Take a look above. The problem has done a 180. The tractor operator is preparing a seed bed for imminent planting. Soybeans are probably what will be planted. The earlier rains prevented many farmers from planting their beans. Now there is a sense of urgency. Not so at the barn.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Btfsplk or Addams?


What was probably a fine home in its time has now taken on the desheveled, creepy, haunted look relished by mystery fans and despised by the squeamish.

What was probably a fine home in its time has now taken on the disheveled, creepy, haunted look relished by mystery fans and despised by the squeamish.

When I saw this old house, now a bit on the mysterious side, I wondered, could this have been occupied by the Li’l Abner character and bad-luck artist,  Joe Btfsplk? Or perhaps by the equally famous champions of dark humor, the Addams Family?  Either would probably feel right at home. Speaking of which, this exploration had its beginnings on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com.  You are looking at the back yard of this house east of Ola, Arkansas on Arkansas Highway 28. To see a couple of front pictures and get in on the start of the story, click here, a very cool thing to do.

This room an addition to the house, is large and had large windows, both conditions unusual for homes of this age.

This room, an addition to the house, is large and had large windows, both conditions unusual for homes of this age.

The right side of the house is an addition and is a large room, unusual by the standards of rural residences of that day and time. I’m guessing it is in the 90-100 year old age, but be advised, “guessing” is the operative word. The room also had large windows, also a bit on the unusual side for a house of this age. The open area to the left of the picture is the back of the breezeway through the middle of the house.

The old "living room" is a repository of evidence.

The old "living room" is a repository of evidence. But who dares to investigate?

Lest you think I have lost what few marbles I have left, I did not enter the house to shoot the picture above. Having a tall tripod, a tall skeletal structure, a short ladder and an open window saved the day for an interior shot. I like to include these when I can because I suspect many people are curious as to what is in the inside of abandoned houses. I suspect that at some time, probably more than once, a transient, not too choosy about accommodations, dragged the bedding into the room and built a small fire. Not at the top of the pecking order, but, any port in a storm I suppose.

Methinks there is some value in almost everything we see or hear. This old house is an example. Most of us should be grateful we do not have a wind tunnel through the middle of our respective residences. We should also be grateful that Al Capp and Charles Addams saw fit to provide us with countless laughs. And in Al Capp’s case, some insights into ourselves and our society.

Thanks for dropping by,
Joe

 

133 years and still counting


If you’ve arrived here from the Corndancer dot com photo of the week page, the story continues. If you haven’t been to the photo of the week page and want to be regaled with a couple of additional photos and the start of the story of a family that has kept it’s reunion going for 133 years, click here.

What you see here is southern potluck at it's finest. And you are seeing just a fraction of it. There are five more tables just like this one, brimming with mouthwatering cuisine from home kitchens. It's chow-time at the 133rd  Marks-Barnett Family Reunion in Cleveland County, Arkansas.

What you see here is southern potluck at it's finest. And you are seeing just a fraction of it. There are five more tables just like this one, brimming with mouthwatering cuisine from home kitchens. It's chow-time at the 133rd Marks-Barnett Family Reunion in Cleveland County, Arkansas, June 7, 2009. The total caloric value might power an aircraft carrier a respectable distance.

Remarkable people

The Marks family is truly a remarkable group in many ways. Their cemetery is the most visible evidence of their dogged determination to “do-right.” . In the early fifties, several of the family shook their heads in disgust and mused that their family cemetery, a horrible mess at best, deserved better. And that’s about all it took to spark a cemetery renaissance via no small amount of sweat equity.

Today the well kept cemetery not only is the final resting place for beloved relatives and ancestors, it is an evolving showplace of history and southern rural culture. The grounds around the cemetery are laced with nature trails, some of which follow small streams. While negotiating the trails, one will find several small, but sturdy foot bridges over gullies, and creeks where a stumble or splash might ruin an otherwise pleasant stroll through the woods.

 

Marks Cemetery, the site of the Marks Family Reunion is close enough to the site of the War Between the States Battle of Marks Mill, the creeks were red with blood during the battle. It was reported that “ ... so many horses and soldiers were killed or wounded that Salty Branch (above) ran red with blood.” Today, Salty Branch is a clear placid stream, a far cry from the violence of April 25, 1864. One of the hiking trails around the cemetery follows the trace of the stream.

Marks Cemetery, the site of the Marks Family Reunion is close enough to the site of the War Between the States Battle of Marks Mill, the creeks were red with blood during the battle. It was reported that “ ... so many horses and soldiers were killed or wounded that Salty Branch (above) ran red with blood.” Today, Salty Branch is a clear placid stream, a far cry from the violence of April 25, 1864. One of the hiking trails around the cemetery follows the trace of the stream.

A large number antique farm implements place around the grounds are visible evidence of the agrarian nature of the areas economy in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Plaques at every piece of equipment give evidence of  it use. This horse-drawn planter is a good example. The planter was donated to the cemetery collection in memory of  Tate “Uncle Bud” McGehee “Miss Vaughn” McGehee. Family member Edgar Colvin installed the planter at the cemetery, The plaque information, typical of the collection reveals a story. The planter was bought by Mr. McGehee in 1920. He always said, “ ... this planter is so accurate that if it drops two seeds in a hill, it will reach back and pick up one of them.”

A large number antique farm implements placed around the grounds are visible evidence of the agrarian nature of the areas economy in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Plaques at every piece of equipment give evidence of it use. This horse-drawn planter is a good example. The planter was donated to the cemetery collection in memory of Tate “Uncle Bud” McGehee “Miss Vaughn” McGehee. Family member Edgar Colvin installed the planter at the cemetery, The plaque information, typical of the collection, reveals a story. The planter was bought by Mr. McGehee in 1920. He always said, “ ... this planter is so accurate that if it drops two seeds in a hill, it will reach back and pick up one of them.”

James and James Boney, of New Edinburg bring their extensive collection of Civil War relics to the annual reunion. The elder James Boney found most of the collection on the battlefields of The Battle of Marks Mill. Younger James is a well-spring of Civil War information and Elder Boney is a respected source of information on the Battle of Marks Mill.

 

Left to right, (and vice-versa) James Stoney and James Stoney and their Civil War relic collection.

Left to right, (and vice-versa) James Boney and James Boney and their Civil War relic collection

I would be remiss if I did not make mention Spears Country Store, not far from Marks Cemetery. Not having been to the cemetery site before, I decided that a reconnaissance trip on Saturday before the reunion on Sunday would be a good idea. After my visit to and a few shots on the grounds, I meandered to nearby New Edinburg and dropped into Spears Country Store for what is known in southern parlance as a “cole drank.” (It is my understanding that some misguided souls call the refreshment a “soda.”) I was delighted to discover that the store offered sandwiches. I ordered a ham and turkey sandwich. It was so fine! And a hand full. Jerry Clowers would have probably said you could “ … eat one of those suckers and work all day at the saw mill.”

Spears Country Store

Spears Country Store, New Edinburg, Arkansas

Folks, there is a lot of goodness left in our world. From families to stores and sandwiches, this ol’ boy found ‘em this weekend.

Thanks for dropping by,
Joe Dempsey

 

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