Avian academy award redux

Mother Killdeer and eggs

See the picture story of Mom and Dad Killdeer as they protect their progeny. Click on the picture.

During mid-July in 2013, I had an encounter with a Killdeer couple who were determined to lead me away from their nest which happened to be in a flower bed near a well-traveled sidewalk and driveway.

The ground was close to ideal for a Killdeer nest, I’m not too sure about the environment. After a few days of observation, I began shooting the nest and mother.

Dad did not show up until later, but I do believe I was always in his cross-

Killdeer closeup

Click on the bird to see more Killdeer pix and information.

hairs. As the story unfolded, the birds went into their best “draw-the-bad-guy-away-from-the-eggs routine. They had several strategies in case their favored acts did not work.

I bugged ‘em enough that they could have gone through their entire litany of charades, but I doubt it. Click here to see our original July 2013 post where you’ll see a good collection of their thespian deeds. Be sure to see some up close and personal pix of the mamma bird and her eggs on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com.

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.


Purple hulled fun

Roto Tiller Racer

Click the picture and and go to our original 2013 World Championship Roto Tiller race story

Every year on the last weekend in June, the purple hull pea faithful descend on Emerson, Arkansas to enjoy the Annual Purple Hull Pea Festival.

If you are from the south, chances are the thought of a choice piece of smoked pork seasoning a pot of purple hull peas sends your olfactory sensors into system overload.

If you have not consumed this delicacy, take the necessary steps to obviate this sin of omission at your earliest opportunity.

I have attended two Purple Hull Pea Festivals and have had more fun than a litter of lab pups with a can of tennis balls.  See the 2o13 trip also on our Corndancer Photo of the Week Page. Also see our 2010 Corndancer article and pictures.  Also see our 2010 Weekly Grist article and pix.

The World Champion Rotary Tiller Races are a highlight. What you see there is unique in the world of motor sports. You must see it to believe it, so we are giving you a glimpse We are taking you back to the 2013 festival visit. If care to peruse our observations on our initial visit in 2010, click here. You can also check out these galleries of PHPF pictures:

Thanks for looking at this short history lesson of fun on the ground in LA (lower Arkansas). As the song says: “Let it all hang out!”

Thanks for looking.

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Valhalla for Mustangs redux

Restored 68 Mustang

Click on the Mustang to see our original post with a bunch of pictures of Mustang and the “yard.”

Back in November, 2012, I stumbled across what may well be the best and best-kept collection of wrecked Mustangs on the planet. James Matthews, the proprietor thereof was good enough to grant me the privilege of photographing his yard collection.

Then he took me inside his premises to show me his crown jewel, a pristine restored ’66 Mustang which had also been converted to a pick-up configuration. It’s a big-time head-turner where ever it goes.

He did a lot of the work himself. The John Deere green and yellow trim sets everything off just right. Click here and see or our original 2012 post. Get a look at the engine, the interior, the famous “Bullitt” car chase video, and a vintage ’68 Mustang TV Commercial. Also a link to a panorama shot of the yard.

And absolutely, positively see the Corndancer dot-com Photo of the Week page for pix of the cars in the yard plus some more of the Mustang.

Thanks for looking.

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


A different kind of snow day

Yellow Volkswagen bug

One cannot but help to think of the “yellow snow” joke upon seeing this yellow bug in the snow. The car appears to not have been driven lately and sits on the banks of Atkins Lake near Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

It is a rare time in LA (lower Arkansas) when one has sufficient material to write two snow day stories in a row, but the Almighty saw fit to send us snow storms in domino sequence. My normal approach is to do my snow pix during the storm. Since all of the snow fell while I was in the land of nod, I had to activate plan B. Since the internet is rife with idyllic snow scenes, plan B headed on a different track: to capture the underbelly effects of the weather rather than the artistic gifts.

18  wheeler stuck on road side

Click on the “stuck truck” for more snow pictures and stories.

Before we go much further with this epistle, we exhort you to click and go to the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com and see 11 other snow pictures captured on this trip including the “stuck truck” you see in the thumbnail to the left. This is where our story started.

On to the levee

After we left the yellow bug, we climbed the levee in four-wheel drive. We weren’t the first, but from the looks of the tracks we were second. We came across one of the small cattle herds one normally finds around LA levees.

Black angus calf at pasture fence

As we approached the herd, this yearling had to check us out since her food normally arrives via truck. She is giving us the eye waiting for the action that did not come.

Herd of cattle on levee

A few yards away, the balance of the herd was in the final throes of decimating a round bale of hay. When I stopped to shoot, they all stopped their munching to look my way. The red calf was the first to break away from the herd and come to the fence. The rest followed quickly. They were looking for “Daddy.”

Old tin bulding on levee

Further down the levee we spotted this old “roofin’ arn” building, probably an old feed bin or corn crib. If you look at the picture closely you’ll see that the galvanized roofing tacks are holding their gleam while the “roofin’ arn” is yielding to ferrous oxide (rust). Further examination reveals a previous firearm attack on the building.

Shot gun holes in tin building

Close examination of the gun shot damage to the building leads us to the conclusion that someone was “aggervated” with whomsoever owned the structure. The holes belie a point-blank series of shotgun blasts. The large hole was punched by the wadding and most of the shot, while the small holes were punched by the peripheral pellets of the main charge. The shots IMHO, indicate malevolent intent well implemented.

Cut over corn stalks in field

We descended from the levee and drove through the remnants of a 2014 vintage cornfield. The harvesting combine cuts the stalks, strips the leaves, and separates the detritus from the corn kernels. It spits the stalk, leaves, and cobs out the back and stores the kernels for later unloading. The bottom foot or so of the stalk is left standing. Soon, farmers will turn this field into a giant seed bed ready for 2015 spring planting.

Tree tunnel

We made tracks for US Highway 65 south of Pine Bluff. Along the way, we drove through the “Goatshed” community, an unincorporated hamlet of a few homes, barns, and tractor sheds. As its main aesthetic points, Goatshed can brag on this neat tree tunnel and a nice body of water. I say body of water because I am torn between lake and pond. Seems to me it’s too small to be a lake and too big to be a pond. I’m not losing any sleep over it. Legend has it that back in the day, bootleggers did a healthy business from Goatshed. There’s one way in and one way out. In those days, when a stranger approached, one would mysteriously hear a bell begin to toll.

Calf looking through fence

We weren’t long on US Highway 65 when, from the southbound lane, I spotted a small herd of cattle munching on hay. Going across four lanes, I switched to the long lens and caught this calf who momentarily abandoned the lunch his mom provides to check me out.

Water tower at Tamo, Arkansas

We went south, past Tamo, Arkansas for a mile or so and turned back. I stopped on the south side of town to shoot this picture of Highway 65. The southbound lane, I’m guessing, was 95% covered with snow and ice. Not much better off, the northbound lane was at least 75% covered.

Arkansas Snow plow

Help was on the way. Just north of Grady, Arkansas, an Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department crew was scraping the ice and snow at a rapid clip.

There you have it, the underbelly of a snow day shoot. Now you can go back to the idyllic scenes.

Thanks for looking.

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


It’s snowing in L.A.

Lower Arkansas gets big snow job

Donkeys in a snow storm

Two of these donkeys paid attention. The others mooned me.

While others prefer a recliner in front of a big screen TV with the crackling comfort of a nearby fireplace during a snow storm, I take the opposite tack. For me, it is time to get off one’s duff, grab the “kodak” and head out since L.A. (lower Arkansas) does not often get a snow like the one we had the last week of February 2015. There was about a six to seven inch accumulation. While I realize this is puny compared to what has been experienced in northern climes, around here, “it’s a biggun.” As a result, most folks hunker down after they have participated in the desperate run that empties most store shelves of bread and milk.

Pasture fence posts in a snowstorm

Click on the fence posts for more snow pix and stories.

That leaves the streets and most photographic snow covered target areas more or less abandoned, a desirable set of conditions for my purposes. It appeared that the storm would last around four hours or so which afforded plenty of time to run the best visual traps.

Our pictures are in two on-line locations. You can see the other pictures from this trip on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. Take a look and we’ll still be here when you return.

Long horn cattle

These Texas Longnorn cattle live in the same pasture as the donkeys. I shot this later after the snow stopped.

Long horn at hay station

Here’s big-daddy Longhorn giving us his opinion of this invasion of privacy.

Pine trees covered with snow

Not far from the donkeys and longhorns, these Pine trees hang slightly over the road. The snow was falling hard when I shot this.

snow covered trees

These snow covered trees on the road to the donkeys are shall we say “bleak beauty?”

UP locomotive in snow
This locomotive pulls its load through the city during the snow. It takes more than a few snowflakes to stop a train.

Preferred squirrel

In the next five pictures a fox squirrel with whom we share residential space descends from his tree, retrieves an acorn and munches out. He repeated the munch-out procedure on a number of acorns.  My spousal unit provides our squirrels and birds with seed on a regular basis and this particular squirrel has become friendly in the process. He has achieved “preferred squirrel” status.

Squirrel descending tree

OK, the coast is clear

Squirrel in snow

He’s on the trail of an acorn.

Squirrel with acorn

The boy finds his acorn.

Squirrel looking for food

“Dear Lord please let me find another acorn.”

Squirrel looking for food

“My prayers are answered.”

There you have it. You have ventured forth into the bowels of a snowstorm without leaving the comfort of your home or office. It’s a cold, wet job that I will gladly do for you again when afforded the opportunity.

See all 30 pictures from our Snow Day in LA shoot in our Snow in LA Gallery.

Thanks for looking.

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind





Snowbirds munching out (again)

female cardinal at birdfeeder

Mrs. Cardinal flares as she is about to land and join Mr. Cardinal and friends for a bite of lunch during a 2011 February snowstorm. Click on the picture to see our original post with a bunch of cardinal pictures and our normally scintillating prose. You’ll know you are there when you see this picture.

Back to the birds

This week we are sending you back to a post we originally showed to the known world in February of 2011. We had a non-typical covering snow storm in LA (lower Arkansas) which made food sparse for foraging critters. We loaded up the bird feeder and immediately became very popular with the neighborhood feathered residents. I used our house as a blind and shot out the bedroom window. That meant the window was open, and the bedroom door was closed since the cats would immediately hurl themselves through the window and scatter the birds, given the tiniest of chances.

Male cardinal in snow

Click on the bird to see our Corndancer story and pix on these birds.

That also meant that our normally cozy bedroom had a temperature level like a meat locker on steroids and/or the bottom of a Klondike sinkhole, whichever came first. Fortunately I could take a break occasionally and thaw out only to return for another session. It was downright addictive. Click here to see our original February 2011 post. Also be sure and see our new, improved Corndancer Photo of the Week article with three new pix from this shoot. Annnnnd, see our gallery with all of the bird pix, most of which are a hoot, from the February 2011 bird extravaganza.

Thanks for looking.

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Blues for Joe

Blues singer Reba Russell

Legendary Blues maven Reba Russell belts out the Blues in a February 8, 2015 benefit for Joe Powell at Neil’s Music Room in Memphis TN. Russell batted cleanup after six other great bands did their part in the concert.

Great blues for one of the “good guys”

Late in 2010, blues enthusiast Joe Powell of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, hatched up an idea to sponsor a blues concert to benefit a friend who was stricken with cancer. The idea germinated a bit further to become a recurring series of concerts, each one of which would benefit a victim of cancer or another catastrophic illness. Powell and a crew of friends and sponsors, organized “Blues for a Cause, A Helping Hand,” put feet on the idea and held their first concert in March of 2011. The concerts continued and each one benefited another deserving person.

All the while, Powell is the consummate volunteer in the Blues community. He is a member of the Blues Foundation, and participates in volunteer capacities in the Blues Music Awards, The International Blues Challenge and the legendary King Biscuit Blues Festival at Helena, Arkansas.

free range chickens

Click the chicks for the cool pictures and story at Corndancer dot-com.

At this point in Weekly Grist articles, we normally send you to the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com for a related story. This week will be no different with one exception: the story ain’t related. However we believe you will like what you see and read about a one-legged seagull and an up close and personal visit with some free-range chickens.

Back to the Blues

Fast forward to late 2014. Powell was diagnosed with cancer. He started chemo treatments which are no walk in the park. The shoe was now on the other foot. A group of Blues musicians in Memphis took notice and organized a benefit Blues event for Joe Powell, February 8, 2015 at Neil’s Music Room in Memphis. The event lasted from 2:00 p.m. through 8:00 p.m. In that time, seven great bands held forth with their finest. It was a great event with great music and an appreciative and generous crowd.

Blues musician Eric Hughes

Eric Hughes is a multifaceted performer. Here he is playing the original Blues genre. The best way I can describe this sound is that I am sitting on the front steps of an unpainted shotgun house on a gravel road in the Mississippi Delta, listening to Eric play on the porch while sitting on a cane-bottomed chair. He has the sound down to a fine art. He is equally at home with the Blues “harp.”

Amylee Pettis and Lance Pettis

Amylee Pettis has a thousand watt smile to go with her sultry, real-blues voice. She can belt it out while her husband Lance Pettis accompanies her on the guitar. Pettis, a natural musician, puts his heart and soul into every chord he strums and every note he sings. You can “hear the sweat.” The pair make Blues magic together.

Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms and the Wampus Cats

Robert “Nighthawk” Tooms pounds the ivories as part of the Wampus Cats, one of the most experienced Blues bands in Memphis. The musicians in this band have been there done that, and their Blues music speaks volumes for what they’ve done and where they’ve been.

Wampus Cats drummer

The drummer for the Wampus Cats bangs it out!

Drummer, bassist and guitarist in the Wampus Cats

The drummer eyeballs the bass player who eyeballs the guitarist and camera.

Robert "NIghthawk" Tooms

One more of “Nighthawk,” always with the hat. In the spring and summer it magically changes to “Panama.” Think Sharp Dressed Man. Nighthawk is equally at home with the Blues “Harp.”

Joe Powell and Reba Russell

Joe Powell, the honoree, and Reba Russell ham it up for a phone photographer and I steal the setup.


Jack Rowell, Jr,. leader of the Royal Blues Band sings and plays the Blues. He’s been at it a while. A glimpse of his facebook page shows Rowell in his early teens already wailing away in a band.

The Royal Blues Band

Jack Rowell, Jr., and the Royal Blues Band. Jack and this group are always involved in anything worthwhile on the music scene in Memphis. They are an experienced band. A couple of the guys were playing about the same time the Mayflower first made landfall.

Leo Goff

My friend Leo Goff, world-class bass player and blues performer. He plays with a number of bands and is always in demand for his great blues talent,  knowledge and sense of humor.

Don McMinn

Don McMinn a Memphis musical veteran. Many will remember his role as the “house band” at the famous “Rum Boogie” bar on Beale Street. He was great then and better now.

Don McMinn and Leo Goff

Two legends wail the blues. Don McMinn and Leo Goff.

Rebe Russell, Wayne Russel and Lance Pettis

Reba Russell, Wayne Russell, and Lance Pettis are “into it.” Reba’s emotional outpouring of the Blues rattles your bones and shakes your soul.

Reba Russell. Wayne Russell and Lance Pettis Playing

Reba, Wayne and Lance. Their last number and closing piece for the event was a highly respectable version of a Jimmy Thackery favorite.

Folks, this event was living proof that Blues musicians are regular people who just happen to be the genuine messengers of one our nation’s only original art forms. And unless you are a “real person,” you ain’t gonna do the “real blues.” These people got their respective acts together in more ways than one to help a friend. On top of everything else, I can personally attest to Joe Powell being one of the good guys. His children are my grandchildren.

Thanks for looking.

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind








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