A cool country barn


old barn

This is the back side of the old barn. The front side is in substantially better condition.

This old barn in rural Arkansas is well over 100 years old. The man who built it was not yet ten years old when the War Between the States came to an end. See more pictures of the barn and get in on some of the family background where this story started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot Com, a very cool thing to do. Click here to go there.

To honor the privacy concerns of the barn owners, we are not disclosing their names or the location of the barn past “a barn in rural Arkansas.”

The barn has some unusual characteristics we haven’t encountered on our previous barn adventures. It has a walkway around the outside of the stable side of the barn. Shirley (a pseudonym) whose grandfather built the barn had no explanation of this feature. There had to be a good reason, because in a day when sweat provided power for construction tools instead of electricity, a lot of extra effort was required to build the walkway.

barn walkway

The barn has a walkway around the stable side of the barn. We have yet to figure out what the benefit was to justify this extra effort. Although the room you see is floored, horse and mule stalls are next to it. The barn was still in use in the early fifties.

In one of the rooms on the corn crib side, I spotted some sort of device with a crank and a couple of pulleys connected with a flat belt. Turns out it is a hand-cranked pea-sheller, or as Shirley called it in correct local vernacular, ” … a pea thrasher.”

pea sheller in barn room

The device you see is a hand-cranked pea-sheller more popularly known as a  “pea-thrasher.” Oddly enough, the machine is about the same size as a modern electric version I observed last week at the Purple Hull Pea Festival in Emerson, Arkansas. Some things change slowly.

Under the shed in the back of the barn, near the walkway, there is a feeding trough crafted from a hollowed log, not an easy task. Perhaps it is a reflection Shirley’s of grandfather’s and father’s mindset. Traditional men, they never bought or used a tractor, always depending on mule power to do their farming. She said they quit the farming business in the early fifties when lighting struck and killed their mules. They apparently decided that was a sign to quit. Good thinking.

feeding trough

This feeding trough is built from a hollowed log. Unless the builder got lucky and found a hollow log, this was not a short job. Note the rough-sawed board above the trough. Chances are good that the planks used in this barn were ripped from logs  right on the site.

On Arkansas Highway 9 near the Dallas-Hot Springs county line you will find the pristine Hunter Chapel Methodist Church, built in 1852. The church has regular services and they still accept the deceased in their cemetery. That my friends is what you call staying power.

Hunter Chapel Methodist Church

Hunter Chapel Methodist Church. Members find it ironic that the only liquor store for miles in any direction is directly across the highway from the 158 year old church.

Taking the long way home on Dallas County Road 74 (a long, long, long, and winding gravel road),  a bunch of miles south of Hunters Chapel, you will find Old Cypress Methodist Church, founded in 1886, it is younger than Hunter Chapel by 36 years. The 1800s were good for John Wesley’s folks in these parts it seems.

Old Cypress Methodist Church

Old Cypress Methodist Church, founded in 1886, can be found on Dallas County Road 72. On that road, the church is probably outnumbered by 20 to 1 or better by deer camps.

A few miles from Highway 9 on the aforementioned County Road 74, I ran into a real ass. She had some friends, but they were all camera shy. So look at my beautiful ass.

my beautiful ass

My beautiful Arkansas ass.

Inside of old barn

Click on the picture to see the inside of the barn

But wait, there’s more! More barn pictures, inside and out

Each week, we shoot more than we have room to show, so we post them on our handy high-resolution picture galleries. In these galleries you will see more views of the barn inside and out.

The pictures are bigger and they are better. See everything we shot for this story in color and glorious black and white in gallery one: Click here to go there (This is a flash gallery, so MACs don’t like it). Click here for gallery two which MACs will like. There are 42 pictures in gallery one and 20 in gallery two.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/index.html

Margaret, Maggie, John and some mules


Margaret Phillips holding down the fort in her store, L.M. Phillips General Merchandise in Fountain Hill, Arkansas.

Margaret Phillips in her store, L.M. Phillips General Merchandise in Fountain Hill, Arkansas.

Margaret Phillips of Fountain Hill, Arkansas is the proprietress of L. M. Phillips General Merchandise, a store founded by her late husband and brother-in-law in 1925 in Fountain Hill. Maggie, a precocious Border Collie (a given), is Margaret’s keeper. This story started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. To see more pictures and get in on the start of the story, click here, a very cool thing to do.

Maggie

Click on Maggie for more pix of her and Margaret — and a great story.

When I first set foot in Maggie’s territory she gave me a welcome like I was Attila the Hun with my band of merry barbarians in trail. Fortunately, Maggie and I set a new indoor record settling our differences and I was able to converse with Margaret Phillips and her assistant, Denise Musgrove.

Equally fortuitous, for both of us, Maggie discovered that I was a willing scratchor and pettor and she already knew she was a willing scratchee and petee.

store

L. M. Phillips General Merchandise occupies the former premises of the Bank of Fountain Hill which, like a lot of small banks of its era, gasped its last breath in 1933.

old safe

The old bank safe is still in place at L. M. Phillips. A great place to hang a calendar.

Occupying a former bank premises, the store is typical of a lot of country stores, with the exception fresh foods. What they miss on that, they more than make up for with a variety of hardware, plumbing supplies, and other stuff they’ve discovered folks want. It is said that marketing is: “finding out what folks want, and giving them more of it … and finding out what folks don’t want, and giving them less of it.” Apparently the Phillips store is working that theory better than most.

The store was doing a brisk business on the Saturday afternoon of my visit. The prevailing mentality of customers I observed was one of not merely a trip to “the store,” but  the manifestations of one visiting with a cherished friend. Now ain’t that something in this day and time of fast food and the cattle-herding mentality demonstrated by far too many retailers. Maybe that’s why they’re still in business while others are long gone.

My business concluded in Fountain Hill, I sallied forth on the long way back home, hoping for at least one more photo opportunity. My search did not take long to become fruitful. Near the Prairie Grove community northeast of Fountain Hill I encountered John Cruce, driving two mules and a wagon.

John Cruce, his wagon and team pull up for a visit in the side yard of the Prairie Grove Community Center, northeast of Fountain Hill, Arkansas.

John Cruce, his wagon and team pull up for a visit in the side yard of the Prairie Grove Community Center, northeast of Fountain Hill, Arkansas.

For his day job, John Cruce is the proprietor of a prosperous saw-mill business. For fun, John has nine mules and keeps them because that’s what he wants to do so. The nearby city of Crossett puts on a fine PRCA rodeo the first week of August. John will drive his team and wagon from the Prairie Grove Community to Crossett and participate in the parade and a performance of the rodeo and return home.

John Cruce fixes a twisted bridle, which made for a nervous mule.

John Cruce fixes a twisted bridle, which made for a nervous mule.

The trip to Crossett by vehicle takes 45-minutes to an hour or so depending on the lead in your foot. In a mule drawn wagon, it’s a three-day trip. John loads his wagon with feed for the team and heads out. They overnight at several friend’s deer camps between Prairie Grove and Crossett.

The east view of a west bound mule team. Riding shotgun in a mule wagon.

The east view of a west bound mule team. Riding shotgun in a mule wagon.

While I was visiting with John, the white mule began to act a bit nervous. John didn’t seem to be deeply concerned, but we both agreed that she might be a bit more at ease if I was in the wagon instead of standing beside it. In the process, John noticed that her bridle was twisted. He fixed that and the problem was solved. In the meantime, I had the opportunity to see how it was to ride shotgun on a mule drawn wagon. There’s a first time for everything.

Earlier in the day, I saw Drew Presbyterian Church, just north of the Drew-Lincoln County line. At the time, the sun was not in the right place for a decent shot. The good news is the front of the church faces due west, so the sun angle was predictable later on.

Drew Presbyterian Church, US Hwy 425, north of Monticello, Arkansas.

Drew Presbyterian Church, US Hwy 425, north of Monticello, Arkansas. The church was organized in 1859. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The timing was right. My seven-fold amen for the day was at the church about 1730 (Mickey’s little hand is on the five and his big hand is on the six) or there about. The start of the golden hour this time of year. Actually in July, the golden hour lasts about three hours or so depending on what’s in or out of a shadow. Ain’t life grand!

Thanks for dropping by,
Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

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!

Steve Harvey’s barn


This is the rest of the story about Steve Harvey’s barn started on Corndancer dot com’s photo of the week. If you missed the first part and want to see it (a cool thing to do), click here. Steve’s barn is part and parcel of his grandfather’s home place, across the highway from where Steve lives.

The barn is

Steve's grandfather's home and barn. The shot is from more than a football field away, courtesy of a long Nikon lens.The golden grass in the foreground was too good to resist.

The barn with its typical breezeway construction appears to provide lockable stalls for six mules (or other large livestock one would presume). Barns of this nature were an essential part of any credible farming operation, providing shelter for farm animals and dry storage for their feed.

The barn breezeway and one-room mule apartments.

The barn breezeway and one-room mule apartments.

Mr. Harvey rested the structure on cement blocks designed as foundation pieces. This gets the wooden structure off the ground and away from termites. From the looks of things, it was a good idea and seems to be working so far. While wind, rain and other untoward elements have torn away the the exterior, the interior is reasonably well preserved.

When this barn finally collapses, the world will hardly feel the tremor, but a piece of history will be lost. Like the tree falling in the woods, did it make a sound?

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey

All images and content ©2008, Joe Dempsey

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