The Look-out tree

the look out tree

The state of Arkansas calls this tree a "Look See" tree. Olin Tucker, owner of the tree, and his neighbors around the Coleman, Arkansas community prefer to call it a "look-out" tree.

When I first made the acquaintance of Olin Tucker of the Coleman, Arkansas, community he had just completed pitching the virtues of a pair of used riding mowers he had for sale to a couple of “ol’ boys,” from nearby Dumas. They left without buying, which did not faze Olin one way or the other. I approached him to ask for some information about a bizarre site I had photographed in the woods not far from his home on Arkansas Highway 83.

Selma Methodist Church Selma Arkansas

Selma Methodist Church Selma, Arkansas

Before we go too much further here, I need to advise you that this story came about as a result of a trip to shoot the 1874 model Selma Methodist Church in Selma, Arkansas not far from Coleman. Having shot it in March of 2009, I was overdue to shoot it again. One cannot overshoot a 136-year-old rural church.

The church suffered some wind damage a year or so back and was in danger of falling. It has been saved and stabilized. The church is being restored to its former glory.

See pictures of the church and read the story on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to go there, a good thing to do.

Back to the “look-out” tree

When I asked Olin about what I had seen in the woods not far from his house, he told me he had not ventured that far and was unaware of what I had seen and shot. However, he immediately said, ” … what you need to shoot is that tree,” as he pointed to a fine old white oak tree on his property.

Look out tree at Coleman Arkansas

Look out tree at Coleman Arkansas. The climbing pegs driven into the tree in the late thirties are still in the tree. There is a remnant of the platform left as well as an insulator for the telephone line used by forest rangers.

It turns out, in the late thirties, the tree was designated by the Arkansas Forestry Department to be a “look-out” tree. A look-out tree was a tall critter, normally strategically located on high ground. Forestry department crews would drive climbing pegs into the tree, similar to what you see in telephone poles.  They also installed a platform and lines for a “hand-crank” telephone. Then during threatening seasons, forest rangers could climb the tree to “look out” for forest fires.

At the time, Olin’s grandfather, owner of the property, farmed it extensively. The land then, unlike today, was cleared for row crops and not covered with trees. So, the location offered a long field of vision, a prime consideration for a look-out tree. Olins uncle was a forest ranger and favorably reported the effectiveness of the look-out tree, ” … my uncle said on a clear day, he could see all the way to Dumas,”

A looming threat

In 2000 after Olin moved to his present home from Pine Bluff,  as he admired his tree, it occurred to him that the tree sits precariously near a state highway and is, in fact, the the state highway right-of-way. That being so, he worried, that should the highway department decide to improve Arkansas Highway 83, the tree would probably be lost in the process.

With the fear of losing his tree as a driving force Olin waded hip-deep into the process of finding a way to save it. After no small amount of legwork, in 2006, Olin’s tree was properly admitted to and registered with the Arkansas Famous and Historic Tree Program. The tree will now be there until if falls of its on accord. Some things just work out well.

Things you don’t expect to see departmment

It never ceases to amaze me what I find with a trip down a country road. Usually the more primitive the better. In this case, Holy Toledo, it looks like a ritual slaughter and display of old truck cabs. Or is it a Southeast Arkansas attempt at Stonehenge? Or Easter Island? Perhaps a ferrous oxide memorial in the making. Or aliens staking out a vacation spot.

old truck cabs in woods

What mysterious force dropped these old truck cabs here. Where is Kirk when you need him?

One of the more nefarious habits we sometimes see are impromptu dumps. Further down the road I encountered one. People drive their junk out into the woods and eject it, knowing it will never be seen by many. It this case, I rounded a curve to see a jettisoned porcelain convenience plopped on the side of the road. In the background was a decimated deer stand, and a pile of detritus including old bed springs and other household goods. Well folks, it ain’t hid no more. The world can see it. So there!

old truck cabs in woods

What some litterbug had hoped would go unseen is now on the world-wide-web.

I suppose you can’t help but snicker a bit when you see a lonely pot in a pile of pine needles. I did. Hope you did too despite the inappropriateness of the whole thing. Laugh while you can.

BUT WAIT, there’s more

Click here to browse through a gallery of 13 high resolution versions of this weeks pictures, including a couple not published.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey


4 Responses

  1. […] the towers there was a network of “Look-see” trees. These were tall trees on high points which afforded rangers a view nearly as good as the […]

  2. […] trip to Selma took me through the Coleman community where you will find the historic “Look-See,”  a historic White Oak on the premises of Olin Tucker. It is an Arkansas Historic […]


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