Frozen opportunities

For it is written,

“ … when languishing in front of a roaring fire place in the aftermath of an ice storm, remove thyself from thy duff and go forth to shoot stuff covered with ice.”

The revelation made sense to me. As I departed with this mandate directing me, listening to Little Richard holding forth with Slippin’ and a-slidin’ would have been good background music. Thank goodness for anti-lock brakes and FWD!

Switch engine locomotives parked

Awaiting further orders, these ice crusted switch engines appear unfazed by the light coating of ice they are wearing. I saw them as I was crossing the viaduct barely visible in the right center background. They were saying "shoot us, shoot us .... ." Who could say no? Not I.

bell with ice

Click on the bell and see the big bell picture

Had I not obeyed the aforementioned Divine guidance, I would not have seen my friend Jon Phillipi and he would not have joined me as we toured the frozen underbelly of our environs. The first thing we encountered was not the line of locomotives above, but an icicle encrusted bell. See it where this story started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to go there, a very cool thing to do. We’ll wait while you click.

Open door policy?

Close up of locomotive cab

A closer look reveals an open door (and windows). Perhaps this is a defensive move. After all, miscreants generally will not break an open door. And the temptation is removed. You can also detect the rows of icicles. When you look at the door which will admit a grown man, you begin to get an idea of the size of the locomotive. Ain't a small thing.

One may safely presume the railroad had other things in mind for these switch engines when they placed the order and signed the check. Our good wishes to the railroad that the intended use of these locomotives be fulfilled. It will bode well for us all. When these engines are running, so is our economy. It can’t happen soon enough.

head on photo of locomotive

Under normal circumstances, this is not a healthy place to be. It's not often one of these monsters holds a pose for you.

In the meantime, cameras love trains and people like pictures of trains so there is at least one good outcome.

Those of us who remember the steam whistles silenced long ago by the air horns of today, can also remember the huffing and puffing and magnificent displays of steam and smoke. Several years ago, just a few miles from this forlorn machine, I had the opportunity to shoot Union Pacific’s magnificently restored engine 3985 under a full head of steam.

The big iron horse sped by with little noise and clanking, much quieter than its modern counterparts. An amazing machine. Thanks UP! Send her back again.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Ice had covered one of my front yard camellias. A couple of years ago, about this time, I posted a story on Corndancer dot com, the subject of which was the cussed toughness of a camellia bush. One simply does not normally think of flower plants and the word tough in the same breath. Check it out here, if you missed it on Corndancer.

Camellia with ice

The coating of ice does not deter the hardy camellia from its destiny to bloom and survive.

The shoot was  yesterday and today the ice is melting from the trees. It’s like another storm, except this one is in winter sunshine. The water stored in trees and shrubs as ice is now filling drains, puddles, and ditches. Mother Nature’s seven-fold amen to an ice storm. Or perhaps an encore.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

If you’d like to see a gallery high-resolution versions of our Corndancer and blog photos for this week, click here.


The other shoe … er, mask drops

Dana Mitchell repairing broken mask

Concentrating like a surgeon, Dana Mitchell repairs a broken African mask. The wooden mask was bumped off its wall hanger in the exhibit gallery. Gravity, being no respecter of art, sent the mask to the floor with a resounding crack. A big piece of the neck along with chips and finish fragments were broken from the mask. The fix was on.

Dana Mitchell prefers that you concentrate more on the African art in his collection than you do on him. Considering the passion with which he collects art, it’s an uphill job to separate the man from his art collection and vice-versa. More than 250 pieces from his collection are on public exhibit at The Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas in Pine Bluff.

The story of Dana and his collection started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. To see other pictures on the Photo of the Week page and find out how all of this started, click here, a very cool thing to do.

An exercise in patience

The process of repairing the well over 100 year old mask was an exercise in patience. Job would have been proud. Dana first collected the wood pieces which separated from the mask. The largest piece was probably four inches across. The smallest, well, suffice to say, tiny. Then he collected tiny fragments of the kaolin chipped from the white stripes on the mask you see above.

Original tools preferred, but not this time

Though Dana prefers to use only the tools which were available to the original maker when repairing his objects, this was an exceptional case, thus the zip ties you see as glue clamps. He reground the kaolin, added a bit of mother earth from a flower bed on the premises and proceeded to refinish his repair.

The results were nearly invisible and a couple of people who did not know a crack was there, did not see the repair. The final step was burnishing the repair with his fingers. The mask is now hanging in its place in the gallery, looking as good as new, er, old.

Dana Mitchell and his African art

Dana Mitchell's collection includes tiny pieces, huge pieces and a lot of in-betweens.

Each object in the exhibit has its own unique characteristics. While Dana adamantly denies being an “authority” on primitive African art, you could fool me. Every piece I asked about invoked a litany of interesting information from Dana tantamount to an audible version of Wikipedia.

Although my earlier studies were in art, I’m not certain that I ever understood the functionality of this art in its original environment. I think I do now. The uniqueness of this art is that unique functionality in its society; either utilitarian, spiritual, or as a necessary part of social traditions. It’s a matter of better understanding the world in which we live.

See higher resolution versions of the pictures here.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

The show goes on. What are you missing?

Ozark mountains near Winslow Arkansas

East of Winslow and West of Combs, Arkansas, in the big middle of the Ozarks we see a pristine winter vista unavailable in warmer months. The well-worn gravel road which meanders past this was, except for yours truly, unpopulated by vehicles. The absent drivers, unfortunately don't know what they missed. The view is south and the setting winter sun is to the right. Soon it will be dark.

In winter months when trees are “nekkid,” Mother Nature reveals some stunning views she conceals during warmer months. Much of what you see is nature’s wild side, camouflaged when the weather is hot and sticky. We started this story on what you might be missing on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. To see two other winter pictures with other prosaic meanderings, click here, a very cool thing to do.

Back in February 2009, we found a similar set of circumstances in the woods of central Arkansas, near the Ouachita River. You can compare seasonal visions of the outdoors to the movements of a Dvorak symphony, or a Bach concerto. Each has its individual signature. Each stands on its own as a vital part of a greater creation. Each has its audience rewards. Missing a season is tantamount to arriving late at the concert or leaving early, both of which deprive one of the full experience.

Ozark mountain bluff

A bit further east, a rocky Ozark mountain bluff says, " ... look at me." Not a bad idea now. In four months, this will not be visible. The brownish spots are leaves shed from the mountain's population of oak trees. The bluff and the road are separated by a deep depression in mother earth, not visible when trees are fully clothed. I looked over the edge and decided to back up.

The mountains are sparsely populated by people with an independent streak. They simply will not or cannot abide city life. Thank goodness. If these stalwarts abandoned the sticks, we would run out of barns to photograph in a few years.

Ozark mountain barn

Now being used as a barn, I suspect this structure began its life as a home. Times got better, and the protagonists constructed new quarters. Sooner or later, the original domicile was recycled to "adaptive re-use" as a storage facility, or for all intents and purposes, a barn.

On this trip, after these shots, the short winter days ushered in darkness at an exponential rate. I rolled back to the cabin satisfied that I had seen things observed only by a fortunate few. Not a bad feeling.

Sometimes, the photos on the blog loose a bit when uploading. Click here to see high resolution versions of all of this week’s pictures including the Corndancer shots which are just fine on that site, but heck, I included them as well. Also I gave the gallery a 2009 name, but that’s my first mistake this year (heh-heh).

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Providence and Provence led us here

Waterfall on Bidville Road

Wide angle distortion deceives you into believing these falls on Bidville Road near Winslow, Arkansas are not tall. The fact is, they are at least 20 feet tall and perhaps a bit more. Ice is forming in the pool and icicles have formed adjacent to the falls. A hike of a quarter mile or so across rocky terrain is necessary to see the falls as you see them here.

The story of these falls started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. To see another picture of the falls and formations close by, click here go to Corndancer dot com, a very cool thing to do.

While exploring the territory where these falls reside, I had the good fortune of running into Eugene Provence, a lifelong resident of the area. His good advice helped me find the way to the falls. Eugene makes his living driving a truck over twisting, precarious gravel roads in this parts, the Boston Range of the Ozark Mountains out of Winslow, Arkansas.

18 wheeler truck on mountain gravel road

Eugene Providence skillfully drives this truck over twisting, turning mountain gravel roads which are far from the ideal venue for large trucks. I was taken aback when I first encountered the truck approaching a one lane bridge I was approaching from the opposite direction. You simply do not expect to meet 18-wheelers this far back in the boondocks.

Eugene Providence

Eugene Provence at the wheel of his big White tractor.

Before the day was over, I met three of the Providence family including Eugene, his father, and a Provence nephew to boot. To the man, they were outgoing, friendly, and helpful. It is not often that one meets strangers out of the clear blue sky who put for such demeanor. Good upbringing I suppose.

As you face the falls, to the right is a steep cliff, probably the height of a five story building. Bidville road runs not far from the drop off. Eugene said at one time a truck and trailer hauling a bulldozer went over the edge. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to see how that could happen.


As you face the falls at the base, this bluff is to your right. The right of way for Bidville Road is not far from the edge. Icicles dangle from the edge. BRRRRRRR it was cold!

View from the top

top of the falls

This is looking down the bluff at the falls from the shoulder of Bidville Road. The white objects at the bottom center left of the picture are the ice formed in the pool below the falls. You can barely see the small cascades of water running down the bluff from the vicinity of the large rock to the right center of the picture. It is a long drop.

As I was setting the tripod up at the edge of the road to get the shot above, Jason Provence, related to Eugene, stopped as he drove by to caution me about the bluff. I thanked him and told him that if he came back by in about 30 minutes or so and the truck was still there, but I wasn’t, to kindly extract what was left of me from the bottom. Fortunately, that was not necessary.

approach to the falls

This terrain is at the approach to the falls as you hike in. It is typically replete with rocks, boulders and fallen timber knocked down by a severe ice storm last January. The low angle to the shot is due to the fact that yours truly is sitting on his back side after losing his footing, taking a dive and unceremoniously assuming that ground-level position. I figured as long as I was there I might as well record the event.

The boondocks around Winslow and anywhere else do not go into hibernation and disappear when the weather turns cold and the leaves drop. It is a good time of the year to see things you won’t see when leaves are on the trees. I’ll have more to say about that in a later diatribe.

Our headquarters for this foray was Sky-Vue cabins, just a mile or so south of Winslow on US Highway 71. A clean, well-lighted place with great breakfasts and gracious hosts.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

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