A day across Arkansas


Carl Blackwell with restored gasoline engines

Carl Blackwell of Wynne, Arkansas proudly stands beside some of his stable of restored gasoline engines at the 37th Annual Grand Prairie Rice Festival at Hazen, Arkansas on October 26, 2013. These engines were popular in the first half of the twentieth century in non-electrified rural areas where they were used to power generators, grist mills, pumps, and just about anything else that need rotary power to work. As electric service spread to rural areas, the engines fell from favor. Restoring these engines has become a popular niche avocation and Mr. Blackwell is one of the finest practitioners of the genre.

Carl Blackwell of Wynne, Arkansas is a master tinkerer, machinist, and restorer. I visited with Carl at the Grand Prairie Rice Festival in Hazen, Arkansas where he displayed several of his collection of old gasoline power units he has personally restored to working order.  It comes naturally to Carl. He is a retired machine shop supervisor and has a precision lathe and milling machine at his place in Wynne, Arkansas.

Restored and operating Star gasoline power unit

When Carl Blackwell starts an engine restoration project and can’t find the parts he needs, he goes to work and makes the parts. This restored Star engine is a prime example of Carl’s expertise. After he started the restoration process, he could not find parts for the cylinder head valve mechanism, (the round thing in front of the silver thing, and most of the parts around it), so he went to work and made the parts. As you can see the engine is fully functional.

St. Mary's Church at St. Vincent Arkansas

Click on the church to see how the story started.

We are chronicling a one-day trip through the heart of Arkansas. The story started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com at St. Vincent, Arkansas, where we took a look at fine country church. Take a look to get in on the start of the story.

This was our second visit to St. Vincent. On the first visit, we showed you a barn with an ecclesiastical message, which was down the road from LBJ’s Beer and Groceries. There is a nice distribution of cultural icons in St. Vincent where everyone seems to get along just fine, thank you very much,

Back to the trip

Carl Blackwell was toward the end of the trip, but he was so interesting, I decided to start this epistle with him. After we left St. Vincent, we saw barns and other sights and scenes as we headed toward the Grand Prairie Rice Festival at Hazen where we visited with Carl. Here’s what we saw on the way:

entrance to field with overhead flags

Here, we were trying to figure out if we arrived too early or too late. Those, it seems, were the only choices given that sense of abandonment.

Old horse barn

Not far from the flags, we saw this old barn, which we presume was a horse/mule barn due to the height. Normally the big doors on a horse barn were tall enough to accommodate a human on a horse. Note the abandoned disc harrow in the foreground.

Old rural utility building

After turning down a likely-looking gravel road we found this old utility building. It was probably a small barn that had something to do with livestock. We conjecture that due to the fencing on the property.

old rural utility bulding with blue sky background

More of the same with a different look. The still standing night-watcher light is disconnected.

old school bus with curtains

Here in the mid-south, it is not unusual to see old school busses converted to deer camp shelters or other use. This one has been curtained, and not moved for a while. The lettering on the bus says: “Licking Heights Local School District.” I Googled that name and discovered that Licking Heights Local School District is in Ohio. Folks, it’s quite a stretch between Mid-Ohio and Springfield, Arkansas. No telling how the bus arrived here.

dog

As I was shooting the bus, one of the neighbor’s pups dropped by for a look. Looks like he has some greyhound in his background. He was friendly, but suspicious.

restored 1938 C Model Case Tractor

After the bus and dog, we transitioned to Hazen, Arkansas to barely arrive at the 37th Grand Prairie Rice Festival with a little time to spare before the event closed. We’ve been there before and it was fun. There were a lot of antique tractors including this 1938 Case C Model.

back side of case 1938 c model tractor

This is the back side of the Case C model. In the background, you can catch a glimpse of a gigantic 24-ton antique, fully operational 1919 Fairbanks-Morse Type Y Vertical Oil Engine. You can see the engine in operation at Corndancer dot-com.

case combine harvesting rice

Exhibitors were folding their tents as we left the festival. South of Hazen we found a rice harvest underway. There were three combines in this field. They were trying to beat an incoming storm. If you are into four-wheel drive vehicles, this is the ultimate high-horsepower get-in-the-big-middle-of-it-vehicle. Entry level exceeds 800 grand and you need a lot of level muddy ground.

We digress from the trip

After the combine we made it safely to the carport. We will fast forward from this trip of October 26, 2013 to November 1, 2013 when we saw a tree full of shoes at Sardis, Arkansas. While this is out of the purview of our original trip, due to the shock value of a tree full of shoes, we include the picture below. If you want to see more details, see our Sardis Shoe Tree gallery.

Somehow you simply do not expect to find a tree full of shoes. Except if you are in Sardis, Arkansas. Then, it is an everyday occurrence.

Somehow you simply do not expect to find a tree full of shoes. Except if you are in Sardis, Arkansas. Then, it is an everyday occurrence.

Thanks for joining the trip. We have observed scenes seen by few — and seen by many — but probably not in the same day. That’s the beauty of cyber traveling.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

I’m not making this up


old school bus converted to deer camp

You are looking at a rededicated school bus now serving as a cabin at a deer camp in LA (lower Arkansas). The veranda is floored with a blue tarp. Though the bus is showing its age, the members of the club keep the place clean. From the looks of it, they’ve been working on the project for a while.

old school bus at deer camp

Click on the bus for more pictures and a story.

Returning from seeing my oldest granddaughter graduate from high school in May, 2009 at Bossier City, Louisiana, I meandered through north Louisiana and eventually entered L.A. (lower Arkansas) where you can’t get much lower.

After a short map recon, I found a likely gravel road which led to the inner sanctum of the boondocks, a desirable place. All of what I saw was unexpected, even for LA, beginning with this field-expedient deer camp. See how the story started with more pictures of the deer camp bus on the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com.

The deer camp has been there a while. They have a well-established camp fire location, an unwritten but well understood requirement of any self-respecting deer camp. Otherwise there would be no fire to sit around while spinning tall tales and “tellin’ lies.” There is also a weathered but sturdy station for dressing the kill; Dressing being the nice words for stringing up, gutting, skinning, and butchering the kill into palatable venison.

dressing station at deer camp

The well used and weathered dressing station at the deer camp is sturdy and is a respectable distance from the living quarters.

old school bus at deer camp in south arkansas

The bus from the back. If you look carefully at the sign on the side of the bus, you can see that it had several lives before it wound up as a shelter for good ol’ boys in the LA boondocks.

Not far from the deer camp, I spotted some “grave-yard chickens,” my late Uncle Ralph’s term for buzzards. All but one scattered as I brought my camera to bear. He was not spooked by my actions and posed nicely. They will not win any beauty contests on the ground but they serve a noble purpose and do it well.

buzzard on the ground

This buzzard looked up from his munching after his comrades had taken wings. I was grateful that he stuck around. As mother nature’s clean-up crew, they do an admirable job.

Deeper into the boondocks, I happened across what appears to be redneck voodoo, if there is such a thing. At the end of a bridge over a small stream, (AKA “brainch” in LA), I saw the head and some connecting body parts of a large fish nailed to a tree. Birds, critters, and bugs have picked it clean. I am not making this up. You can see it with your own eyes.

dead fish nailed to tree

I am more or less flabbergasted by the fish head and body parts nailed to a tree. This is a first. It could be redneck voodoo. Who knows? It is on the same road as the school bus deer camp.

The fish appears to have been a largemouth bass. Maybe the ol’ boy caught it cleaned it and could not afford the taxidermist so he nailed it where he could see it. Alternatively, it could be some sort of nefarious curse. If it is, so far I have avoided any untoward vengeance it may spawn. Unless you count occasional indigestion and moderate dandruff.

See higher resolution pictures of all of this week’s Corndancer and Weekly Grist pictures in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

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