Looking for a fall

Fall foliage and barn

Since fall has postponed its grand opening here at home, I went north to the Ozarks to find fall. This fine looking barn at the foot of a fall splashed hill helped satisfy my gnawing desire for the third season. I found it on Arkansas Highway 74 east of Snowball.

Fall is dragging its feet in the Delta. Here it is the first of November and most of the trees are still green, our ground is as dry as a powder house, and for the most part, there’s not much of a fall nip in the air. Hungry for fall, I set out to find the elusive season in the mountains of Searcy County, Arkansas. I am a denizen of the Delta by natural selection, but was born at the feet of the Ozarks. I suppose my underlying DNA pushed me north. See the beginnings of this trek on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot Com. See the dog’s sculptured partner and some fine fall color.  Click here to go there. We’ll wait here.

dog statue

On the way to Marshall AR, our starting point in our quest for fall, I found this dog offering a welcome to the Smiley's Blueticks enterprise. For those who do not know, a Bluetick is hunting dog of the hound persuasion. Although the dogs make fine pets, they are highly valued as coon-hunting dogs. Really good ones fetch a high price.

We headed for Snowball AR looking for County Road 12. County Road 12 runs west from Snowball and t-bones a forest service road which will carry you south, provided you turn right which sounds crazy. Logic tells you that if you are traveling west, a left turn should take you south. At this junction, guess again. To go south, turn northwest. In any case, good ol’ County Road 12 runs through some rugged territory and gives you some good higher altitude fall scenery.

country road and fall foliage

Not far from Snowball AR, this country road meandering through the boondocks is a macro show stopper for fall splendor. It may get even better when the rest of the trees start to turn.

County Road 12  runs through valleys and winds its way to the top and back down, around curves, switchbacks, and other temptations of gravity set to swallow you if you do not pay attention to driving. Views from the top remind you of Robert Goulet singing “On a clear day you can see for ever and ever . . .  .” Bumps and road conditions notwithstanding, it is well worth the trip.

View of fall foliage from mountain top

As the road crawls across the top, the view is spectacular, particularly with great fall light and brilliant foliage.

As the sun began to drop in the afternoon, the warm fall tones became warmer and colors intensified. In the fall, the sun does not have as far to drop since it hangs lower in the sky to start with. The result is good broadside light to taller objects and dramatic long shadows.

Overlooking a valley with fall foliage

A parting shot. As we began descending from the mountains, we found this colorful valley showing its fall hues, chromas, lights, and shadows. Some kind of cool!

The dropping sun also signals a time to seriously aim for home before dark, but not before grabbing a few more images. In the words of John Wayne in The Cowboys, ” . . .  we’re burnin’ daylight.” We made our retreat shooting our way out. In addition to these foliage and color shots, we grabbed a cool barn, a bridge and other buildings in the boondocks. You’ll see these next week.

Update, December 6, 2010

The night before I did these shots, I dined at the Sunrise Cafe in Marshall. It was not my first trip. The quality and quantity of good southern comfort food had not diminished.

Sunrise Cafe Marshall, Arkansas

It is always a good sign for out-of-towners when a good crowd of natives are at the feed trough. It portends well for good eating. The crowd at the Sunrise Cafe in Marshall welcomed me. I was served a whopper meal of catfish. Notice the pie safe by the door. Yum!


See all of the Corndancer and Weekly Grist pictures, plus those “keepers” from the shoot that we did not publish. Click here to see this picture-only gallery.

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Ear candy in Memphis

One eyed harmonica player

The harmonica (harp) half of Dr. Dudley and Michael, second place winners in the solo/duo category of the recent Memphis Blues Society battle of the bands, gives his rendition of a one-eyed harmonica player. He also plays in the Blues Berry Jam Band of Jackson TN.

Being in the same room with a group of blues musicians trying to outdo each other is analogous to ear candy for those of us who appreciate this genre. Just being in that room would more than likely push non-believers over the edge to blues addiction like the rest of us. The site was Neil’s Bar and Grill on Madison Avenue in midtown Memphis.

The event was the first night of the two-night 2010 battle of the bands sponsored by the Memphis Blues Society. Winners of the solo/duo category and the band category go on to represent the Memphis Blues Society in the International Blues Challenge, also held in Memphis. See the winners of this competition on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to go there. We’ll wait here.

Redd Velvet and the Big Daddy Bad Ass Band

Redd Velvet and the Big Daddy Bad Ass Band took second place in the band category. Redd has the verve and showmanship of Gladys Knight and Mahalia Jackson rolled into one.

Second and third place winners were:

This is one competition where the difference between first, second, and third is a thin line. All of these were fine performers and practitioners of blues music. A lot of feet were tapping and the atmosphere in Neil’s is appropriate and conducive. It is nice and well taken care of, the food is good, and the service is excellent. It is not fancy and that is a good and appropriate thing.  The combination is just right. Fancy and blues don’t play well together.

The lead guy for the Ghost Town Blues Band

The lead guy for the Ghost Town Blues Band, third place winner in the competition.

Blues musicians, though they follow the cachet and panache that makes blues music what it is and what it means, are as different as a Fedora and Rastafarian locks, as was clearly demonstrated in this competition. It is this difference which makes this competition so much fun. You kinda know what to expect. And then, you kinda don’t. And being bored is not in the tea leaves.

Brandon Bailey

Brandon Bailey, second place winner in the solo/duo category puts on a fine one-man show.

I had a yummy and crunchy chicken-fried chicken sandwich and an order of hand-made onion rings so the rest of my body could be in tune with what I was seeing and hearing. Bean sprouts and tofu won’t hack it in a blues venu.


We shot morBlues musicianse than 900 exposures of these bands and narrowed the picture collection down to 42. See pictures of all the competing bands and acts in our picture-only gallery, click here to go there.

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Change of plans, hello Yancopin Bridge

The Arkansas River Bridge at Yancopin, Arkansas

The Arkansas River Bridge at Yancopin, Arkansas. The water is very low now. You can see the waterlines on the supports. You can also see the rip-rap I had to descend to capture this image. If you happen to slip, there is no soft spot for your landing. Fortunately I remained upright.

Given that plans are made for changing, I found the bridge at Yancopin you see above. Through a convoluted set of circumstances, I wound up in Bonnie’s Cafe at Watson, Arkansas to look at a painting of a building I was planning to shoot . . . because of a change in plans. While I was perusing the painting, the proprietress pointed out a poster, the subject of which is the bridge above. My plans were about to change again.

Yancopin bridge

Click on the bridge for more pix and info.

Prior to digging into the change of plans, may I suggest that if you did not arrive at this site from the Corndancer dot com photo of the Week page that you afford yourself the opportunity to change your plans and temporarily detour to that page where this story started. You will see additional bridge pictures and learn a bit about the area and not-so-usual name. Click here to go there.

Bonnie's Cafe, Watson, Arkansas

It was in Bonnie’s Cafe, that I stumbled across my knowledge of the bridge. This image was shot in October, 2008 on a Sunday when Bonnie’s was closed. Otherwise, there would be a plethora of pickups parked here. Bonnie’s cuisine is legendary and her fans are legion.

The prospect of shooting that bridge, which I discovered was not far,  was far more appealing than what was currently residing in the plans department. These sentiments precipitated my third successive change of plans for the day, and a good thing. In fact, there was far more to shoot than the time allotted. “I shall return.”

The bridge rotator control house

Nestled high in the superstructure of the bridge center span is the control house to rotate that bridge span to allow river traffic to pass. There is also a span with counterweights and towers which house what appears to be a lift span. One ordinarily does not see both mechanisms in one bridge. You have to climb metal stairs to reach the control house which has zero, count ’em, zero, amenities for human comfort.

The bridge, now out of service was opened by the Missouri-Pacific Railroad in 1903 and stayed in continuous service until 1992. The bridge and 73 miles of railroad in the same section of were subsequently handed over to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism who are developing the Delta Heritage Trail Park in the property.

The Missouri-Pacific Delta Eagle

The Missouri-Pacific Delta Eagle regularly hauled passengers across the Yancopin Bridge starting in the late thirties. My good friend Jimmy Dale Peacock recalls riding on the Delta Eagle for the short hop to Snow Lake, Arkansas for a hunting trip in the fifties. You took the train to Snow Lake because the only roads available amounted to about a trip of more than 80 miles for a destination not far away. You had to detour around the vast White and Arkansas River bottoms, which are classic wetlands. Those conditions have not changed, except that now, there is  no rail service. (Archive photo, not shot by me).

I am told that painting the bridge was a never-ending  job. Two painters were assigned to the job permanently. Given weather conditions, to paint the entire bridge was probably measured in years, not months with two guys and two paint brushes doing the work.

Archive photo of Yancopin Bridge

The bridge was a popular spot for sight-seers. Here a family poses under the west end of the bridge. Note the height of the water in what appears to be cold weather. From the looks of the women’s clothing styles, the picture is probably from the twenties. (Archive Photo).

As many of you know, the Arkansas River is part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System which provides navigable waters for commercial river traffic from the Mississippi River northwest to the Port of Catoosa, near Tusla, Oklahoma. Just about three miles north of Yancopin Bridge, the navigation system, turns east and makes its way into the White River which empties into the Mississippi somewhat north of where the Arkansas empties into the big river.  This section of the river is legendary for producing lunker bass for sports anglers. It also supports commercial fishermen who ply the waters for buffalo, carp, and catfish. It is wild, wooly, and a great place to observe the rich natural heritage of Delta wetlands.

Old river structural remains

Just up river from the bridge are these remains from a previous river construction project. The jagged man-made patterns stand in stark contrast to the serene and well organized lines by Mother Nature. It is a designer’s dream.

Yancopin Bridge towers

Click on the bridge to see more pictues of it.


Every week we shoot more than we can post on Corndancer Photo of  the Week and Weekly Grist, so we post every thing on the two sites PLUS all of the “keepers” we did not post. This week, we have 20 new pictures in our all-photo gallery including more bridge shots and a couple of shots of the old McKennon Gin in Watson, Arkansas. Click here to see these pictures. You won’t see them anywhere else.

For bridge aficionados

Here are some other bridge posts:

A tale of two bridges, A tale of two bridges IITwo old Saline river bridges, and The bridge that nearly wasn’t.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

The Pine Bluff Symphony Orchestra

Jessica Lee finishes with a flourish.

Widely acclaimed concert violinist Jessica Lee finishes a passage with a flourish. She was playing the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor Opus 26, by Max Bruch, a haunting and emotional composition for violin and orchestra. Her performance was flawless and the audience let her know it in a big way.

The Pine Bluff Symphony of Pine Bluff, Arkansas kicked off its 2010-11 season with a concert celebrating the German musical heritage. After a soul-stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, the orchestra got down to business with the Overture from Music for the Royal Fireworks by George Fredric Handel of Messiah fame. Before we venture further, this epistle had its beginnings on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to go there. See more pictures and read more revelations regarding these fine music makers.

The first chair violaist in the Pine Bluff Symphony

The first chair violist in the Pine Bluff Symphony casts a glance at conductor Charles Evans, something she is "supposed to do." Symphony musicians need four eyes and an extra hand or two. They have to watch the conductor, read the music, play their instruments and turn pages. If that sounds confusing, it is. These people are the original multi-taskers.

Most of the 65 or so musicians comprising the orchestra hail from Arkansas, with a few arriving from surrounding states. Most of these performers are professional musicians in that they accept good Yankee green for their services on a regular basis, including this performance and other Pine Bluff Symphony concerts. A number of these make their living as full-time musicians, still more have day jobs, and then there are those, who, while accepting pay for their services, would probably do it for free because they love it so much.

Oboe reed knife

Most serious oboists make their own reeds for their instrument mouthpiece. This oboist brought the whole kit and kaboodle to make and/or repair reeds on the spot. It appears from the white specs that some reed work has been recently done. I have no explanation for the additional appurtenances. The felt-lined tray clamped to the music stand is a nice touch.

Now in it’s twenty-fourth year, the symphony operates efficiently with a two person full-time staff, Bill Fox and his lovely bride Cheryl. The organization thrives on dedicated volunteers and a board of directors who take their jobs seriously. As a result, the orchestra continues to thrive in a town of about 50,000 or so souls. Someone forgot to tell these stalwart folks that the town is too small for a symphony orchestra. Or if someone did tell them, they did not listen.

woodwind section

A tympanist, a couple of clarinetists, and bassoonists and their respective "axes." I have always heard that the bassoon is one of the most difficult instruments to play. Think about it, a long wooden pipe with valves and a reed mouthpiece smaller than a respectable wad of bubble gum. And it is supposed to make music. You gotta admire the bassoonists.

It’s not often that an entire symphony orchestra plays for you during the entire shoot. Such luck. But then it is always substantially better to be lucky than good any day of the week.


Every week, we shoot more than we have room for on Corndancer Photo of  the Week and Weekly Grist, sooooooo, we post those pictures along with the ones we did run on a larger, hi-res picture only gallery. Click here to go there and see what you won’t see any where else.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Lucille turns 100


Nina Hunt and Lucille Montgomery cut the cake

Nina Hunt, (left) administrator of Whispering Knoll Assisted Living where Lucille Montgomery (second from left), is a resident, provides a helping hand to Lucille as she cuts the ceremonial first piece of her 100th birthday cake. Onlookers are all smiles. Montgomery was born October 3, 1910 in Roe, Arkansas, the third of five children. A legion of friends, family, fellow residents, staff, and media attended the event. It was the hottest ticket in town.


At 100 years old, Lucille Montgomery does not look the part. And, according to her daughter, Wilma Mitchell, ” . . . she (Lucille) is sharp as a tack.” Lucille’s family abounds. She has four children, nine grandchildren, 20 great-grand children, and as of September 30, one brand new great-great granddaughter, Lucy Lynn Houston. I found Wilma Mitchell’s observations regarding her mother’s acuity to be correct. Lucille must eat razor soup on a regular basis. She accepted stardom well Friday, October 1, 2010 during her 100th birthday party at Whispering Knoll Assisted Living in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where she is a resident.

This story had a bang-up beginning on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer. Click here to go there and see more pictures of Lucille and her family. We’ll patiently wait here.


Norma Reeves and Lucille Montgomery enjoy a laugh

Norma Reeves and Lucille Montgomery enjoy a laugh after the presentation phase of Lucille's birthday party. Residents of Whispering Knoll Assisted Living consider themselves family and it shows here. Norma is the president of the facility resident council. She propels herself around the premises in a power chair and has been tagged with the nickname, "Mustang Sally."


There was no small list of well wishers and/or their designated representatives, including the president and first lady of the United States who sent their best wishes to Lucille. Other congratulatory proclamations and messages were send by Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor; Congressman Mike Ross; Jefferson County Judge, Mike Holcomb; Carl Redus, Mayor of Pine Bluff, and last but not least, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California. Lucille’s granddaughter, Tammy Greer from Moore Park California pulled that one off with aplomb.


Harriet Montgomery and her mother-in-law, Lucille Montgomery

Harriet Montgomery and her mother-in-law, Lucille Montgomery. Lucille's daughter, Wilma is in the background. Lucille's family came from Arkansas, Texas and California to be with her.


With all of the attendant hoopla and fuss of a 100th birthday, Lucille Montgomery remained her demure and dignified self. She obviously enjoyed the company, particularly the presence of her family. She kept her cool and gave us all a good lesson on how to be 100 years old with grace and dignity. Chances are good that not many of us will use this lesson in actuality, so we have this rare opportunity to see how it is done properly. In parlance not of her times, she is way cool.


Each week, we shoot more “keeper” pictures than we can use, so we create a special pictures gallery with all of  the shots we use plus those keepers we didn’t publish. The pictures are bigger and look cool. Click here to go there!

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and MInd


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