A place to honor an Ace. And his compatriots.

Jenny Hay and Gentry Hanks

Louisiana State University graduate students Jenny Hay (left) and Gentry Hanks smile in front of the overflow crowd they helped draw for the grand opening and dedication of the Captain Fletcher E. Adams 357th Fighter Group Museum in Ida, Louisiana. The 357th Fighter Group had the most Aces and one of the best aerial combat victory records of World War II, one of which still stands.

“They say,” that the population of Ida, Louisiana a northwest Louisiana village, teeters at around 256 souls. On July 23, 2010, more than 220 folks crowded into the Ida Community Center to devour catfish, hushpuppies and the other gastronomical delights which typically accompany this traditional southern meal. Simple math will tell you that the attendance at the fish fry exceeded adult population of the town. Not too shabby. They came as part of the grand opening and dedication of the Fletcher E. Adams 357th Fighter Group Museum. The impressive attendance was a harbinger of things to come.

The next day, Saturday, July 24, some guestimated that a crowd pushing 1,000 crowded into the city’s park for the museum dedication. See how the whole thing started with pictures and story on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com, including a picture of Chuck Yeager, a pilot in the 357th. Click here to go there.

catfish dinner in ida louisiana

Fry it and they will come. The catfish supper for the museum dedication set a new record in attendance. Not just for Ida. For the world. How many towns can attract more than the adult population to a public meeting? Not many. Once again, a small town shows the bigguns how its done. The dessert end of serving line was all home-made. Return trips were common.

The museum is named after a fallen local hero, Captain Fletcher E. Adams who was raised in Ida. His story and the story of the 357th Fighter Group have been chronicled in a book, Bleeding Sky,  by Joey Maddox, author and son of Ida mayor Smokie Maddox. Joey had books available and I scarfed up my autographed copy.

The 357th flew out of Leiston Airfield in Suffolk, merry olde England. In recent years, a friends of Leiston group has formed to preserve the history and what parts of the old aerodrome that have not been returned to agrarian pursuits. Pete Sanders, one of the organizers and spiritual leader of the group was in attendance for the dedication.

Pete Sanders pins Aline Adams

Pete Saunders of London, England adorns Aline Adams, widow of Captain Fletcher E. Adams with a "Friends of Leiston" pin with the emblem of the organization. The Friends of Leiston preserve the airfield from which the 357th sallied forth. Pasqaule Buzzeo, a 357th crew chief watches the pinning. He was at Leiston keeping the planes in the air.

The crowd was about as close to Norman Rockwell America as you will see in the 21st century, at least so far. One group, not so Norman Rockwellish, but none-the-less subscribing to principles of that era, the Patriot Guard motorcycle group, was there in force. They roared into town and planted and manned a ring of flags around the town gazebo where the dedication ceremony was held. They stood rock-steady a long time the hot July sun.

When my son, Doug and the USAR unit of which he is a member were bused from Little Rock to Fort Hood prior to their 2009 deployment to Iraq, these good people provided a motorcycle escort the entire way. On their nickel.

Patriot guard stands by flag

A Patriot Guard motorcyclist stands by his flag during the ceremonies.

The townspeople of Ida took to this project like a duck to water. Volunteers came out of the woodwork and nothing was too much to be asked. Some even coughed up good yankee green to support the effort. One of the results of this impressive volunteer undertaking is the amount of artifacts now available for the museum. Double, maybe triple what you see in the museum is in storage. The mayor and his far-sighted fellow residents of Ida are already envisioning a bigger museum.

Larry Maquire

Larry Maquire,a local custom jewelry maker, formerly operated a wood-working shop in the old post office building which now houses the museum. As the museum progressed, Larry was a willing and able volunteer. In the last hours before the opening he fined tuned the bathroom door which was not swinging like it should. A few trips to a saw horse on the porch and a little planing here and there, and the pesky door worked to perfection. A new museum should definitely not have a cranky bathroom door.

Jenny and Gentry curated the museum collection and display. I have learned that curating, in this case, meant cataloging, hanging, tagging, placing, moving stuff when you didn’t like where it was, sweeping, carrying out the trash and … repeat if necessary. Their stellar efforts were voluntary with  the blessing of the LSU faculty to which the two students were beholden.

inside the Captain Fletcher E. Adams museum

The museum displays artifacts from the WW II era. The large framed objects are maps of Europe printed on silk which were issued to pilots and aircrews for escape and evasion land navigation in case they were shot down. The map on the left was actually successfully used to help a P-51 pilot get to a safe haven after crashing.

A lot of people remember Ida for its now unfortunately closed Carroway’s General Store. The store fell victim to the times, a not unusual set of circumstances in rural America. Fortuitously, across the street from Carroway’s is the Cross-Roads Cafe, a prime example of a good ol’ southern eatery. It knows no strangers and the food is good. The menu reflects the culture and meals are cooked on the spot. I ingested a Cross-Roads catfish plate and a fine cheeseburger with just the perfect amount of tasty grill grease. I can say I was not disappointed. My arteries are still complaining.

cross roads cafe ida louisiana

The dining room of the Cross Roads Cafe in Ida LA. This is the quintessential culinary house of worship for southern cookery. Food served. Coffee drunk. Lies told. Nuff sed.

But wait, there’s more.

Each week we publish a high-resolution gallery of the week’s shootings. There are always pictures we thought were cool enough to include, but did not quite make it to Photo of the Week or Weekly Grist. See ’em here.

July 26, 2010 — I found a few more pix, so now there even more, mainly of Chuck Yeager. Click here.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey


A mud-chinked cabin

log cabin

Finding this cabin was another of those blind hog finds acorn, the Lord takes care of fools and drunks moments. Here was a mud-chinked log cabin with no electric service. Yeah buddy!


August 1, 2010 – UPDATE – “Killin’ House”

While shooting another story in the general vicinity, a couple local guys stopped by to chat. Eventually the conversation got around to the cabin you see above. One of my visitors said he knew of the cabin near Grapevine and that it was on “Killin’ House Road.” Further conversation revealed that some years back, a person was killed at the cabin. After that untoward event, the cabin became known as the “Killin’ House” and the road became known as, you guessed it, “Killin’ House Road.”

Had I blinked at the wrong time or had less peripheral vision, I would have missed this fine log cabin in the boondocks near Grapevine, Arkansas. In fact, the glimpse was so fleeting, I had to back up and confirm the sighting.

I happened on the cabin after shooting an old and decrepit country store in nearby Grapevine. See the store and read the store story on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to go there.  We’ll wait here.


back of cabin

The windowless cabin is showing some signs of wear, but for the most part, is in good condition. The tin roof is pulling loose in a couple of places and there's a bit of rot here and there along the bottom logs, but judging by the "any port in a storm," standard, the old structure would be a welcome respite in untoward weather conditions. And four walls between you and hungry critters.

The cabin is receiving some attention since the encroaching woods have not completely devoured it. Trees and underbrush have a voracious appetite for real estate, so someone is keeping the clearing, well, clear. Would that I could meet this soul and learn the rest of the story. And oh yes, the front door, about shoulder height to me is also the emergency exit.


Mud chinked

Mud chinked logs are a traditional and effective method of keeping the weather outside where it should be kept. It also has the benefit of offering dirt daubers a condo location. The wasps are generally benevolent in their deportment toward mankind. Even better, they look on Black Widow Spiders as their preferred snack. What a friend we have in dirt daubers.

If you are not familiar with the term, “chinking,” it is the process of filling the horizontal gaps between logs with some sort of material to seal the wall. Mud was the traditional medium for this process. Modern versions of log cabins, use more sophisticated materials. While I suspect this is a twentieth century structure, the building methods were traditional, including chinking with good ol’ mud. And the dirt daubers love it.

tree falls on roof

While we have determined that the cabin does get some attention, it hasn't been lately, or the attention giver was not up to moving this small tree across the roof. Bet that tree made a hair-raising retort when it crashed onto that tin roof. The gravel road is in the background.

The cabin was a great discovery, but only if you think finding an intact log cabin in the boondocks is a good thing. If you don’t, get counseling.

Been there, shot that

Mean time, to add a bit of spice to life, I have included probably one of  the most well-shot locations in the lower 48, to wit: St. Louis Cathedral on Chartres Street off Jackson Square in NOLA, New Orleans, Louisiana. This was snapped in April 2009 while the city was still stretching and yawning.

St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans

Andy Jackson and St. Louis Cathedral are one of the most familiar visual combinations of modern times. This setup is a favorite of newsmen and politicians.


But wait, there’s more.

See all of the Corndancer and Weekly Grist pictures in glorious high resolution, including a black and white version of each picture. Click here to go there!

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey

Cornerstone and thereabouts

Cornerstone store

The business district of Cornerstone, Arkansas. That is unless you count thousands of acres of corn and rice, which is major business. Food and fuel is growing in a big way.

At first blush, pickings in downtown Cornerstone, Arkansas look pretty slim. You are looking at it. That’s it. Lock stock and barrel. But as an agricultural community deep in the rich Delta soil, there’s more to Cornerstone than meets the eye, at least on first blush. See two more Cornerstone pictures and learn about what makes it tick on the Photo of the Week. Click here to go there, a very cool thing to do.

In the mid-sixties, when I first darkened the door of the store to satisfy a gnawing hunger, I found the staple RC Cola and Moon Pie, a satisfactory gastronomical adventure by any measure. I eschewed the ubiquitous Vienna sausages, more popularly pronounced, ” … vi-eenurs,” in favor of Cheetos. I never could figure out in which end of Vienna those abominable protein and fat conglomerations originated. And I have a deep-seated appreciation of the legendary Cheetos crunchiness.

On the way to Cornerstone, before the rain, tooling down Rob Roy Road at not much more than a crawl, I noticed a set of stairs to my right. I had driven past the same place no telling how many times and never noticed the steps before. There may be something to say for being less than lead-footed occasionally.

Stairway to nowhere

Stairway to nowhere. This stairway is just a few feet from the road. The stairs lead to a former fence entry point. The post and fence top at the head of the stairs are painted former telephone poles. There was little evidence as to what was there before and there was no one to ask.

The sun was right, the rain had abated and everything in sight was a glowing green or gold, the ideal conditions to again photograph one of my favorite targets, the water tower at Lake Dick, Arkansas. The last time I shot it, about a year ago, it was surrounded by corn. This year, it is surrounded by rice.

Lake Dick water tower

Standing tall since 1936, the water tower at Lake Dick is a navigational landmark. The tallest structure for miles, when you see it, you immediately know where you are (just in case you didn't).

From the tower, expend a foot ounce of energy. Turn your head to the right and you’ll witness a dramatic vista. Layers of green, gold, and blue that will be different in five minutes. Look quick. The admission cost is low. The reward is huge.

Rice and corn fields

Not far from Cornerstone, Lake Dick shares the rich agricultural assets of the Delta. These wide open spaces green and gold with crops are real eye candy. Particularly when capped with dramatic cloud formations. It's a form of brain-cleaning entertainment which requires a bit of gas and a little time. It is simply a matter of moving from one's duff to the viewing area.

BUT WAIT, there’s more. See all of our weekly pictures in glorious high resolution. There are always a few shots in this weekly gallery not seen anywhere else. Click here to go there.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey,

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

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