A fortuitous inversion

hazy sunset

Sun, smoke, haze and tall weeds came together at the right moment in an inversion.

In Los Angeles, an inversion, though not a four-letter word, is viewed with the same contempt that a four-letter word earns in polite company. Inversions exacerbate smog problems. In LA, (lower Arkansas), on a late August late afternoon, an inversion is a good thing if you are looking for a good shot. Inversions hold hazy layers close to the ground.

It was an overall lucky day. Earlier I found an old home place stand of trees in a “cotton patch.” See what I found on the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to go there. A cool thing to do. We’ll wait here.

Back to the inversion.The sun was setting fast just a half mile or so from the Arkansas River levee east of  Tamo, Arkansas. It was then that I spotted a layer of smoke from a shouldering field burn-off sandwiched between me and the sun. In the foreground were weeds standing tall along the road right of way, well nourished from fertile field runoff. The moment was fleeting.

A visual scan of the scene made me immediately grateful for whatever higher power steered me in this direction. A few moments earlier and the effect would not have been the same. A few minutes later and it would be gone forever.

Weeds, haze, and sun

Sometimes one picture is two. In this case, weeds, haze, and sun make a statement. Any accolades belong to the higher power which steered me in this direction and stuck my nose in it.

The light and layers make for an eye-candy experience which begs to be explored and inexorably proves the theory that a fortuitous amalgamation of visual assets is greater than the parts. Here a common field, a distant treeline, weeds normally scorned, and a layer of smoke accentuated by natural late afternoon haze in front of a setting sun create a “Wow” moment. Beauty is where you find it.


See these pictures and the Corndancer pictures in smashing high resolution in our Weekly Gallery. Click here. The pictures are bigger and better!

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Harmonious use

Harmony on the river

Fishing under the bridge

Fish and fishing enthusiasts alike seem to prefer the shady waters under the US Highway 79 bridge north of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. In the background is a Bunge Corporation grain terminal for barge loading. A lot of corn, wheat, soybeans and other small grains pass through here.

When you stop and think, these scenes are a testimonial of harmonious use: recreation, transportation, and river commerce, plus it ain’t bad to look at either. Watching the river run by is a very relaxing and thought-stimulating activity which requires precious few foot pounds of kinetic energy expenditure.

We began this harmonious exploration on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Most discerning individuals find it illuminating to check out this page for more pictures and information. Join this illustrious group by clicking here and you will be whisked away to the Photo of the Week page. We’ll wait here while you peruse what you find.

Bridge over the Arkansas River

A few feet upstream from the previous picture. You can see the water line on the bridge supports which give you an idea of the river at its angry stage.

I was under the US Highway 79 bridge north of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, sheltering my person from 100 degree plus heat and utterly ridiculous humidity. I was there laying in wait to spring a Nikon ambush on the MV Gerald Majors of which my nephew is a member of the crew. This came at the request of my younger brother who is decent sort and rightly deserved a positive response to his heartfelt askance.

Around the bend

The Gerald Majors has just negotiated a serious bend in the river and is headed west to the bridge where I am lurking. The long lens compresses the background. For local friends, the plume and structure above the treeline to the right is the Evergreen Packaging plant.

It seemed like the boat would never get there, mainly because I arrived at the ambush site way to early. Note that is very convenient and expedient to transfer blame for the long wait to the boat. But the waiting complaint is a moot point now since the soothing waters of the river pointed my little pea brain in the direction of harmonious use … and I desperately needed a subject. The wait was a blessing camouflaged as a pain in the keaster. Nothing new there.

under the bridge

The Gerald Majors is handily heading upstream and is negotiating the channel under the bridge. Just a few miles north, she will negotiate a lock, and then another, and then another. You get the drift. If my guess is right she will pass through 10 locks on her trip to Russellville, Arkansas.

Out the other side

The Gerald Majors on the west side of the bridge with no scrapes or bruises.

The MV Gerald Majors is the newest vessel in the Pine Bluff Sand and Gravel Company fleet which includes other towboats, dredges and other river work vessels. See a video of the Gerald Majors wheel house here. And a loading video here.

Parkdale Baptist Church

Parkdale Baptist Church, Parkdale, Arkansas. Nice.

Meanwhile, meandering around the Delta, I happened across the attractive Parkdale Baptist Church at Parkdale, Arkansas. I’m not certain of the age of the well cared for structure, but it has siding which was popularly applied in the late 40s and early 50s. Yes, it’s the A-word, asbestos. In this case, however, by most expert’s guess, it is benign being encapsulated with several layers of paint on the outside and inner walls on the inside. As long as it is not disturbed, most agree that it’s OK.

Remember, be harmonious!


See all of the Grist and Corndancer pictures larger and better in our weekly high resolution gallery plus more boat pictures and an old Delta store gone to seed. Click here to see the gallery.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Two tigers, two sunsets

tiger at little rock zoo

Thank goodness for long lenses. You can look the tiger in the eye and successfully retain life and limb regardless of how the tiger sizes you up

This week we are looking at critters and scenes from our film archives.  All of these pictures are scanned from 35mm transparencies, AKA slides. We started this adventure on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com with a Jaguar, an African Crowned Crane and a gorilla mother and child. Click here to go there and see the critters.

This particular tiger was a resident of the Little Rock Zoo. I say “was” because this shot is from ’94 archives. Tigers in captivity make shooting easy. They develop a routine for sauntering around their enclosure, so you know pretty well where they are going to be and when they will arrive.  In one case, I put the camera on a tripod, focused on a blade of Johnson grass in the enlosure which the tiger always passed and then concentrated in starting the motor drive when he came even with the grass. Worked like a charm.

tiger at little rock zoon

Same tiger, a bit farther back. Look at the markings over the eyes. They are the same, but are different on every tiger. The tiger is wet, having just taken a dip in the handy pool in the tiger enclosure. Unlike most cats, tigers dig dipping.

The picture below shows Lake Pine Bluff which has since been renamed Saracen Lake (Google still calls it Lake Pine Bluff).  Even though no two sunsets are every exactly the same, the probability of this sunset view and the one below repeating are even more remote since a structure has been built on the west side of the fishing pier. That is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a good thing. The structure is Saracen Landing, a first class over-the-water public pavilion. The shot below was my first serious shot of a sunset on this lake, I have since shot dozens, some recently. This is one of the best locations on the planet for great sunsets, free for the looking.

sunset over lake

I chased these clouds for about 30 miles and finally wound up at what was then called Lake Pine Bluff. This was my first serious shot of a sunset on this lake, I have since shot dozens, some recently. This is one of the best locations on the planet for great sunsets.

As a part of downtown Pine Bluff, the lake is a popular fishing spot and a great place to take a lunch if you happen to work down town.

lake sunset

Turns out, money can't buy one of the best parts of my home town, to wit: a sunset at Saracen Lake. Almost every time I go to the lake to shoot a sunset, I run into people who are witnessing the phenomenon for the first time. "I never knew ... " are normally the first thing out of their wondering mouths. A great place to fish at sunset. If your catching luck is down, the scenery will help you forget it.

Isn’t amazing what we find in our own back yards. The first requirement is you have to go look. My I be presumptuous and suggest that you do just that.


See all of the Corndancer and Weekly Grist pictures plus a couple of surprises in our weekly high resolution gallery. Click here to go there. Takes just a couple of minutes and well worth the click.

Thanks for dropping by!

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Behind the felled trees

Old house on weekly grist

It's not often you see a two story house in a south Arkansas rural setting. Someone was serious about building a nice family residence. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, the dream crashed and sputtered to the ground. Built in the early forties, the home was abandoned years ago.

Until the surrounding forest was harvested, this old home place escaped detection by yours truly despite my having driven past it on more than one occasion. Even if I had stumbled onto it, the probability of grabbing meaningful images was slim to none since trees were standing in the way of all possible camera angles. The war zone appearance bares all now. The story is out.

I started this adventure on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com with late afternoon pictures of what’s left of a fine old barn and another view of the house on the place. Click here to see these pictures and get in on the start of the story. We’ll wait here.

old home place near cornerville

The logging contractor was supposed to have left 300 feet of timber standing around the home and other structures. He failed miserably to meet this requirement, leaving a bare, war-zone landscape conducive to shooting pictures of the place. The old barn featured with details on Corndancer dot com is to the right center. It was a long walk from the house to the barn.

While I was shooting, Phillip Tucker, the lessee of the property, drove up and we conversed. Once he was satisfied with my benign intent for the property, we became friends. He advised me that the logging contractor was supposed to have left an area of 300 feet around the house and other structures standing. The fact that the logging contractor failed miserably in leaving everything standing for 300 feet a is the only reason we can get the images you see here and on the Corndancer photo of the week page.

small out building

Despite the fact that this structure bears a striking resemblance to a southeast Asian hooch, it is in southeast Arkansas, behind the house. I have tried to figure out the former use of the structure, but thus far have come up blank. Suggestions accepted. Comment below.

Mr. Tucker also advised me that the area was rife with rattlesnakes and had the harvested rattlers to prove it. Snakes don’t make me panic, but the fact that I saw no rattlers was comforting. There is also an old dug well on the property into which one would prefer not to plunge. Duly warned, I watched my step and escaped harm. This time.

collapsing out building

There is another outbuilding on the property which will probably cease to defy gravity soon. Even the apparently sympathetic tree behind the building is leaning in the same direction.

Fret not. The nude landscape on the property is a temporary condition. Since the pine needles on the ground are brown, I’m guessing it was probably before spring when the timber was harvested. Already new growth is popping up all over the place. This time next year, new growth will be at least knee high (to me) in most places, higher in others.

grapevine and small tree

A grapevine and a small tree have proven they are tougher than a bulldozer. There is similar growth all over the property. Regeneration has begun. Left unchecked, the new growth will eventually place the old home place in defilade one more time.You can mess with Mother Nature, but not for long.

Having collected a sufficient amount of pixels and having avoided the fetid depths of an abandoned well, and remaining un-snakebit, I gathered my stuff and proceeded north. By the time I was less than a long 30.06 shot from home, the Almighty rendered a spectacular cloud formation. Being an appreciative soul, I recorded it so that other mortals might enjoy His handiwork.

cloud formation

A gift from the Master Painter.

In the hackneyed words of the old radio personalities, ” … and now as the sun sets slowly in the west … ,” I bid you adieu.

But wait, there’s more!

Thirty-nine, that’s right, 39 pictures in color and black and white await your review on our weekly high resolution gallery. It costs you nothing to click here and there’s never any obligation. You may oooo and ahhh  as you like. You’ll see all the Corndancer and Weekly Grist pictures plus the ones we shot that were not published.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey

In hot pursuit of Mt. Zion Methodist Church

roadside tombstone and american flag

After choosing the wrong road fork to find Mt. Zion Methodist Church, I happened across a nearly hidden family cemetery. Graves included two Confederate veterans. Two families were represented, the Hardcastles and the Yergans. Some of the stones were hand lettered with paint.

I was in hot pursuit of Mount Zion Methodist Church on Dallas County Arkansas Road 407.  The church would probably be a good photo opportunity since it dated back to 1881.  I say hot pursuit because the heat index at the time, according to weather sources, was in the 105 to 110° mark.  Further, when traveling with cameras in hot steamy weather, I leave the windows open and eschew the chilling north winds of the air conditioner, which causes the lens to fog immediately when you exit to shoot.  And we can’t have that.

See the family that wades together stays together on Corndancer dot Com

See the family that wades together stays together on Corndancer dot Com

Before we go too much further, I must confess that I had actually been in pursuit of some good swimming hole pictures and perhaps a line or two of verbiage. What I ran into was a great family story, “the family that wades together stays together.” See this story at the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer do com. Click here to go there.

All of a sudden the road forked. I selected left and was on Dallas County Road 408.  Who knows why.  Not finding the church, after a few miles I decided it was time to do a 180 when the next opportunity presented itself on the gravel road.  I happened on such a place, stopped, backed in, and dismounted the trusty pickup to stretch my legs and grab a cold drink.

Hark!  Across the road I spy what appears to be a tombstone.  Someone has recently placed an American flag in front of it.  Curiosity getting the best of me, which it always does, I saunter across the road to check it out.  Sure enough, it is a tombstone.  And someone has gone to the trouble of painting the name on the cement monument.  The best I can tell, the lettering reads “GRANDMA YERGAN LENUEN Mother.”

I looked further in the woods and discovered that I had happened across a small family cemetery.  I came back out and was setting up to shoot the roadside grave when I heard the telltale gravel crunching retort of an approaching vehicle.  It was late model Ford pickup with a couple of good ol’ boys on board.

hardcastle-yergen cemetery

Hardcastle graves with hand painted tombstones. Painting letters in this environment was not an easy task, but some stalwart person was equal to the job.

They stopped and I walked over to start the de rigueur conversation I initiate when I am discovered, as in caught in the act.  I explained what I was doing.  The explanation was graciously accepted with an offer of a cold beer. Those of you who know me best know why I politely declined the offer. Turns out, living in the vicinity, they had passed the location no telling how many times but had never stopped to explore the site.  I invited them to take a look.  One of them did and he was amazed at what was there.

The predominant family name on the tombstones is Hardcastle. “Makes sense,” the guy said.  “This is Hardcastle Road.”  Returning to his truck, he revealed what he had found to his companion.  As the conversation progressed, we discussed the old cabin near Grapevine I had photographed and chronicled a couple of weeks back.  He told me it was the “Killin’ House” on “Killin’ House Road.”

confederate veteran grave

The date of Corporal Yergan's death indicates that he was probably a casualty of war.

There are two Confederate veterans buried in the cemetery. One is a Hardcastle and the other is a Yergan —  Corporal Thomas Yergan, Company D, 12th Regiment, Arkansas Infantry.  He died on April 30, 1864. Though he is a Confederate veteran, there is a United States flag on his grave. Finding this is another case of the Lord taking care of fools and drunks and/or, blind hog finds acorn.

Mount Zion Methodist Church – 1881

Mount Zion Methodist Church est 1881

Mount Zion Methodist Church, Dallas County, Arkansas County Road 407, established 1881

Mount Zion Methodist Church is a well-preserved example of rural Arkansas churches of the late 19th century.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Parishioners have seen fit to replace the old roof with a metal one.  Perhaps that improvement will help the old church last another 129 years.

The old church has two front doors, originally one for men and one for women. Church real estate in those days almost always included a cemetery and Mount Zion is no different.  The cemetery is well tended, reflecting the prevailing mentality of Mount Zion parishioners who have kept the faith since 1881.

wild flower at Saline River Farindale access

Wild poesy captured at Farindale Access to the Saline River on US Highway 167.

I noticed there was a hummingbird busy with this flower. That is until I whirled the lens around to capture his cantankerous little likeness at which time he fled the scene. All in all some cool experiences on one of our hottest days this year. Why not!


Every week, we post all of the “keepers” in the weekly shoot in glorious, larger, really cool larger high-resolution. This includes pictures that are not published anywhere else. This week, see several more of the fishing and wading adventure on Corndancer’s photo of the week. Click here to go there.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey

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