Meandering through LA (lower Arkansas)

Old farmhouse at Pickens Arkansas

This old farmhouse at Pickens, Arkansas is the archetypical Delta farmhouse of the early and mid twentieth century. Most did not have indoor plumbing or electricity.


Click on the old house for more pictures

This trip began with the specific purpose of revisiting a site I visited the last of June this year. The subject was this old farmhouse east of Pickens, Arkansas on Desha (pronounced Dee-shay)  County Road 20. Lighting conditions on the first visit were less than stellar, but pixel implantation saved the day.

I resolved to return in more favorable light and today (September 6, 2014) was the day. Milky overcast skies evident on the trip to the site miraculously cleared about the time I started to shoot. You can see more view of the old house and the rural Delta environment where it lives on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com.

Inside and front door of old farm house

If you lived here back in the day, this is more or less how it looked in your front yard and beyond. You did not have to walk to work, You lived in your job. One exception. The white plastic irrigation tubes would not have been there.

Inside front room of old farm house

The two front door configuration might lead one to believe that the house was originally a dog-trot. Taking a look at the inside leads one to believe that what you see is how it started. Take a look at the size of the planks that make the walls. They appear to be more than a foot wide.

This is the archetypical early and mid twentieth century Delta farmhouse. In their latter years, they were used more by farm hand families than the farm owners, but many started as a residence for the owner of the property.

With two front doors, it appears that it might have started life as a dog-trot house, but a glimpse inside one of the windows makes me believe this is the original configuration. I have not been able to find out much about the history of the old house other than the fact that is is constructed of cypress. That is probably a contributing factor that, despite the harsh winds and weather of the Delta, the old structure is still standing. Few woods resist the nasty temper of weather better than cypress.

Combine on rural road west of pickens arkansas

Having satisfied the urge to record the old house, I sallied forth to see more of LA. But before I left, I had to yield to oncoming traffic. There was no argument that this big boy, a John Deere combine, had the right of way. Look at the size of those tires.

Soybeans ready for harvest

Once I was rolling west on Desha County Road 20 I encountered crops ready or close to ready for harvest. If you have never seen soybeans ready for harvest up close and personal, here they are. Next stop margarine (aka “oleo”), oil for your fries or a myriad of other uses for this wonder legume.

Cotton plants blooming

Though cotton is no longer the mainstay of Delta agriculture, you still find areas where farmers successfully raise the white stuff. This healthy growth is showing blooms which will turn to bolls which will eventually produce cotton. The blooms you see here are pink, there may be white cotton blooms on the same plant. If you look closely you can see bolls which have already formed.

When you stay on Desha County Road 20, eventually you cross the county line into Lincoln County and the road becomes Lincoln County 36 which eventually crosses Arkansas Highway 293. It was west of highway 293 that I saw my first open cotton bolls of 2014, a sure sign that fall is just around the corner. While I am no cotton expert, the first week of September is pretty dad-gum early for open cotton.

Cotton plant with open bolls

Well into Lincoln County, east of Tyro on County Road 36, I found the first open cotton for 2014. I freely admit that while other cotton may have opened sooner, this is the first for me. So there!

corn ready for harvest

Corn is probably the “new cotton” here in LA. Where you formerly would see cotton fields that seemed to stretch forever, now you see corn. This field is ready for harvest. Giant combines will cruise through this field and others like it leaving scattered remnants of stalks and cobs — with their bellies full of corn kernels.

Old barn surrounded by weeds

After my sojourn on county road 36, I came back to highway 293 to eventually take a swing through Winchester, Arkansas. I saw little of great interest except for this old barn which looked like a good candidate for exploration. On second thought, since there was a pond in front of it (think cottonmouth habitat), chest high surrounding weeds, and a foreboding fence, I decided  this might the the best and only view.

colorful cotton storage

On the outskirts of Winchester, I saw this cotton storage which appears to have a designer’s touch, perhaps Peter Max? ;o)


Old store

In Winchester, on the main drag through town, you can see this old store with the ubiquitous “No Trespassing” sign.

The Cross Tree

On the way home, I passed by “The Cross Tree” (the name I gave it). It stands as a living memorial by a family for a beloved relative who was murdered in a home that was on the site. Read the Cross Tree story for details.

There you have it. You’ve taken a swing through the Lower Arkansas Delta less mosquito bites, the price of gas, and bumpy gravel roads. That’s the sort of thing I do for my friends. Thanks for being one of those.

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind








Supper at the lake

Egret with just caught fish

An egret returns to his perch after spearing his supper at Saracen Lake in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Sunset at Saracen Lake

Click on the sunset to see the start of this story

While shooting a sunset at Saracen Lake
I noticed an egret on the dock — farther away than I would have liked. As I quickly snapped on a long lens he swooped down and away from the dock bannister at which time I uttered some rather derogatory utterings regarding his family heritage. To my grateful surprise, he returned to the bannister with a freshly speared fish in his beak. His next issue was unspearing his supper, picking it back up and getting it turned in the right direction to swallow.

Egret with fish on Saracen Landing dock

The egret hops down to the dock to start the ticklish project of getting his supper pointed in the right direction. He can do this over water, but he knows that the probability of success increases precipitously if he engages the process on a solid footing.

Egret misses fish on first try

The egret jettisons his catch. Now he has to grab his supper again head first to facilitate swallowing his catch.

Egret misses "recatching" his fish.

The egret misses the flopping fish on his first try. The fish, though mortally wounded, still has some remaining survival instinct and energy.

Egret "rectatches" his fish

Success at last. Bro. Egret has his fish again, nearly ready for supper.

Egret gets fish turned

Dinner is served. The fish is now in the right direction and is now reclassified as “food.”

Egret eating fish

Even vehicular traffic does not disturb supper.

Egret preening

A bit of after supper preening and cleanup.

Egret on dock bannister

Enjoying the view and relaxing after supper. And on the lookout for dessert.

Before I went to the lake to shoot the sunset and ultimately the bird, I decided to take advantage of the favorable lighting conditions and shoot the Simmons First building here in Pine Bluff. It is the tallest building in town and is home to the Simmons First banking operations. They are good corporate citizens and have been in business for 100 years and some change. Shooting the building under good light has been a long term “gonna” for yours truly and today was the day.

Simmons First Building, Pine Bluff Arkansas

The lighting was perfect and I fulfilled a long simmering desire to photograph the Simmons First building here in Pine Bluff. I would have preferred that the construction equipment not be in the picture, but lighting conditions are out of my hands, so we accept the archival nature of the image.

Today was one of those “unexpected pleasure” days. I trust that you will experience a few of those in the next few days.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind







Tarry at Tarry one more time

Back in the day at Tarry, Arkansas

Thomas Grocery - Tarry Arkansas

Still standing after a lot of years, Thomas Grocery and other scenes around Tarry, Arkansas were our target back in July 2012. Click on the store to see our original post.

Back in July of 2012, I paid a visit to Tarry, Arkansas. I was fortunate on the trip. Trey Gill, a resident of Tarry gave me the proverbial “two-bit” tour including of Tarry, including traipsing through his old barn. We also photographed Thomas Grocery, a still-standing arch-typical southern country store. We were not privy to the inside of the store, but we were able to shoot with reckless abandon on the outside.

See our original July 22, 2012 post and Corndancer story

Thomas Grocery Tarry Arkansas

Click on the store to see two additional store pix plus more at Tarry

See the aforementioned barn in our original July 2012 post. It is huge and more or less skeletal in its current appearance, but there is enough left to give you an idea of what it was in its glory days.

We also show you the old farm corn crib which is as big as some barns we see. A tree is growing just about sideways from under one corner of the crib. To see everything we shot and chronicled on this trip, go the the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. You will see two additional pictures of the store.

To a large segment of our population, what you see in this and our original post — and the original Corndancer story — are three and more generations removed, which in my humble opinion makes it worth the time to take a look.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Seeing the unexpected

Old pickup and roses

Click on the old truck to see our original post.

We go through life seeing what we expect to see and remaining safely in our comfort zone. Occasionally, however, we catch a quick glimpse of the unexpected.

When you stop and think about it, unlike tasting or touching, seeing something new and/or different is, for the most part, out of our control. I mean, er, ah, like … there it is, something totally unexpected, right there in front of your very eyes  just bigger’n Dallas — BAM!

Basset hound looking through gate

Click on Lillie the Basset to see the original story.

In our February 6, 2012 post we explored two such occurrences: One a loveable Basset hound on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com  and the other, a rode-hard-and-put-up-wet pickup framed by a brace of rose bushes at our original Weekly Grist post of Feb. 6, 2012. I believe you will enjoy both of these epistles. If not, you are due a refund.

The coupons for this refund are conveniently available for pickup at the top of Mount Ranier.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

A look inside a Byrd house


Click the picture to see our original January 2012 post

The Byrds have been busy

The opportunity to have a free photo pass in a well-restored dog-trot house does not come often.

Hobart “Sonny” Byrd and his wife Betty afforded me that opportunity in January of 2012 in the old family home on the same property as the more modern digs where they reside. The Byrds put a lot of sweat into the old


Click the old house to see the original and more

house to restore it and continue their labors to maintain it. They have placed the artifacts of daily living throughout the structure, giving it an air of authenticity. It is as if you walked in one door as the residents walked out another.

We posted five interior pictures in our original Weekly Grist of January 16, 2012 with along with a link to a gallery with more pictures. We also posted three exterior pictures of the old home on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. Take a look.

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Tarnished panache

Saenger Theater Pine Bluff AR

Click on the old Saenger to see our original story.

Back in September of 2011, we gave some space to a worthy local campaign to save our largest old down town movie theater, The Saenger. Like many others, “progress” ate The Saenger’s economic lunch and the doors closed after the owners stripped it.

Local theater and historic enthusiasts and some professional volunteers mounted a campaign to save the old girl. The organization collected some money and wound up with more than 2,000 friends on its facebook page. After the dust settled, the theater was finally deeded to to city which is stabilizing it to slow down the inevitable. The appearance now is virtually the same as then.

The Lunchery in Pine Bluff AR

Click on “The Lunchery” to see more pix and info.

I shot the old theater as part of a swing through the oldest part of our downtown which is home to a plethora of interesting old buildings, some of which if not attended to are not long for this world.

Click here to see our original September 4, 2011 post. Also see the Corndancer dot-com Photo of the Week page where the story started.

Click here to see 31 pictures of the old buildings, most of which you will not see anywhere else.

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Down on the corner

Yellow flower and seed pod

Flower siblings: This yellow flower and its sibling are thriving on an entrance ramp at the junction of I-530 and South Hazel Street in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The bloom is advertising for pollination. The seed pod in the lower right, formerly adorned as its colorful sibling, has completed that mission. The next trick is to allow Mother Nature to distribute the seeds to precipitate a repeat performance. Neighbors to these posies include a colony of American Lotus plants in an adjacent pond.

American Lotus bloom

Click on the lotus for a bigger picture and the start of this story

At the southeast corner of the junction of I-530 and South Hazel Street in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, there’s a neighborhood uninhabited with homo sapiens. People are a little further south. The neighborhood I reference includes a perennial colony of American Lotus (AKA water lily) plants. I have watched the colony for a few years. I decided last year to photograph it.

When I did, I discovered that in that small macro environment, there were a number of small blooming plants growing in the hard pan of the interstate entrance ramp. See more about this corner including a picture of the big lotus on the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com. We’ll wait here while you look.

I’ll have to hand it to the plants that seem to thrive on the interstate entrance ramp. The ground is hard pan and sloped, conditions not good for retaining moisture. What water they do get is fouled by runoff from the on-ramp which falls way short on the purity index. Here’s a glance at two more of these hardy specimens.

Burred plant

My love of going barefooted began as far back as I can remember. In fact, my feet are bare as I write this missive. One of the hazards of going barefooted was stepping on a cockleburr (our mispronunciation of the pest was “cucklebur”). This resident of the on-ramp is not a “cuckleburr,” but it looked enough like one to make my foot twinge. It is in all likelihood a clover head.

Small daisies

A kind reader once informed me as to the correct identification of these micro-daisies. Unfortunately, that information escapes me, so they are once again “little bitty daisies.” The real thing is about a half-inch across the beam. The top one is at full glory. The rest are going into the “gone to seed” mode.

Crepe myrtle blooms

My friend Dick Warriner advised me earlier this week that his crepe myrtle was resplendent following a rain and a good time to shoot. Unfortunately, the alligators at my ankles prevented the wet shoot. Even dry, they still look good.

crepe myrtle close up

Here are more blooms from the same tree up close and personal.

Suspicions confirmed:

Given the name of this post, one would expect this video to be included. The picture quality is lacking, but it is the original guys. Bring your nickel, tap your feet.

I believe I can say without reservation, there are millions of these special little communities similar to the one we explored today. Perhaps I’ll discover a few more. Better yet, perhaps you will.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


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