Down. On the farm.


old gin at Ladd, Arkansas

This old gin at Ladd, Arkansas was built in the late 1800s. The gin machinery was powered by steam. In the 1920s it was removed from service as a gin and has been used for storage since by a plethora of owners. Apparently it was built with the "right stuff."

Most of us enjoy looking at old barns and houses which, despite the ravages of time have managed to remain standing. These structures are monuments to the societal and economic fabric which helped make us what we are, for better or worse. In agricultural communities, there are other remnants of days gone by, to wit: abandoned farm equipment, another part of the living museum one observes in the hinterlands. Before we go much further, may I suggest that you click here and see another view of this old gin and a lilac-covered combine where this epistle started on the Corndancer Photo of the Week page. We’ll wait here.

abandoned tractor and combine

This old tractor and combine, long since abandoned are part and parcel of a farm I found which appeared to have come to a definitive and abrupt stop.

While old rejected tractors and combines don’t have the emotional appeal of old barns and cabins, they still have a story to tell. In March of 2009, I was cruising the roads of northern Lincoln County, Arkansas and happened upon a respectably sized farm through which was scattered a number of farm implements which appeared to have been abandoned in place. From the looks of things, someone said, “OK that’s it,” and everyone dismounted and left. Perhaps it was not quite that dramatic, but the appearance is there.

abandoned combine and grain auger

This abandoned combine and grain auger, are parked in the field where they were probably last used. The opening in the combine behind the cab shows evidence of someone harvesting some parts from the harvester.

Walking off from equipment of this type is no small thing. The combine you see above cost more than most people’s homes. Tractors are not far behind in the pecking order of cost. So while the equipment as it sits now is little more than junk, at one time, it represented a major league investment. We do not know the complete story here, but odds-on, it did not have a happy ending.

Cannabilized tractor

The cultivated fields of the farm were interspersed with patches of pine woods. This old tractor sat near some of those trees. It is older than some of the other equipment I saw. Probably it was cannibalized for parts to keep a similar unit operational.

Lest I give the impression that agriculture in this neck of the woods is all but sunk, hear me say that nothing could be further from the truth. While agriculture is feeling the same economic pinch all of us are experiencing, as an industry it is alive and well. At least in these parts. The face of the industry is different. Like all successful modern pursuits, agriculture takes advantage of cutting edge technology.  Agriculture, however, has one advantage that never changes. To change products, you do not have to rebuild the factory, you plant different seeds.

Combine harvesting soybeans

With the appearance of a horned apparition materializing from a a foreboding fog, this late model combine is harvesting soybeans off Townsend Road near Moscow, Arkansas.

As big as a house and as high-tech as an aircraft, the combine above does its job with great efficiency. However, most combine owners still complain that it is a machine which begins to shake itself apart as soon as you crank it up. But it cuts bean bushes, separates the beans from stalks and hulls and spits the latter out the back while storing the former in its innards. All so you can have margarine, cooking oil, and the gazillion other things that come from soybeans.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.

Each week we put all of our Corndancer and Weekly Grist pictures along with the ones we did not publish anywhere else in a special pictures only gallery. Click here to go there and see for yourself.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

Meandering through the mountains (again)


Roasting Ear Creek Stone County AR

Where Roasting Ear (properly pronounced rohsn'ear and spelled roasn'ear) Creek crosses Mitchell Road in Stone County, Arkansas there is a nice low water bridge downstream from which is this vista of winter-bare-bones-pristine boondocks beauty.

My forays to the mountains are not normally as closely spaced as the one week before last, and this one. However it did lend the opportunity to observe the big difference a couple of weeks can make in the boondocks when winter is closing in. Most of the trees were bare this time. Not a bad thing mind you. Now we can see more of what Mother Nature has to offer. Speaking of which, this adventure started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. Click here to go there and see a closer upper of the tree on the creek you see above and a couple of other wild territory shots.

Old barn near Woodward Arkansas

The election is history, but not the signs. This old barn stands on Arkansas Highway 263 near Woodward in Stone County, Arkansas. Note to candidates. Come get your signs.

On the way to the mountain snippets of coolness, one always passes the omnipresent old barns and commercial structures which stand as silent witnesses to times which were simpler and less cluttered with “conveniences.” I say that with my tongue firmly ensconced in my bewhiskered cheek because were it not for several of these conveniences, namely digital cameras, butt-kicking computers and software, and high-speed internet, I could not send nor could you receive this dispatch. And we would not want that.

fifty six arkansas

Fifty Six Arkansas, population 163. It is the nearest town to Blanchard Springs Caverns, one of the nations premier underground cavern attractions.

My friend, Frank Girolami, creator of  the fine blog A Frank Angle, asked that in my wandering around my home state if I had the opportunity to post something about the town of Fifty-Six, Arkansas, would I?  Well Frank, I was in the neighborhood so here it is.

old store at almond arkansas

This old store and a cross roads are about the crop at Almond, Arkansas. At one time this was probably the epicenter of what was happening in the community.

On the way back to my weekend temporary headquarters at a friend’s lake house on Greers Ferry Lake, I took a wrong turn (imagine that!). As a net result, I happened across the old store above. Methinks that one more time Providence steered me toward a worthy target I would have missed otherwise. And who is one to question Providence. Certainly not I.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE

See our weekly picture only gallery with all of the Corndancer and Weekly Grist pictures plus some that are not published elsewhere. See some big ol’ truck ruts where some poor soul drove a bit to far, a lake cliff and more. Click here go to there.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

Fall arrives in LA (lower Arkansas)


Jefferson County Courthouse Pine Bluff Arkansas

The Jefferson County Courthouse in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The original, in this location, was built prior to the War Between the States. A fire nearly destroyed it in the mid-seventies. After the fire, this part of the courthouse was reconstructed to the previous 19th century specifications. Some but not all of this part of the building is original. In the foreground is a Bradford Pear tree just about to peak out before dropping its leaves.

After a hot, dry and far-too-long summer, most of our trees here in LA have long since thrown in the towel on upholding their long-standing tradition of showing off with their best and brightest fall plumage. The two exceptions to this disappointing vegetative misanthropy are the Hickory trees, the Crepe Myrtles, and Bradford Pears. The former bright yellow and the latter two, screaming red.

Giant honey comb in tree

Giant honey comb

Before we go much further, my original idea to shoot leaves was fortuitously interrupted by my neighbor who advised me of a giant honeycomb in a tree in his former backyard. At first glance, you might have thought you were seeing an apparition in the process of eating the tree. Fortunately, it was benign.

It is a sight to behold, and you may behold it where this adventure started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to go there. We’ll wait here while you look.

Fortunately, a concentration of exceptions to this year’s generally anemic fall colors populates our neighborhood. Several crepe myrtles performed as programmed as well as all of our homeboy hickory trees. The former are screaming red and the latter are brilliant yellow. They rock!

crepe myrtles with fall colors

Spindly crepe myrtles in the spring and summer are almost incognito amongst our giant neighborhood pine and hardwood trees. The tables turn when crepe myrtles blast forth their fall colors. In this picture, you are looking at two. Mine in the foreground, and my neighbor's crepe myrtle across the street in yellow orange in the background.

When it comes to fall leaves, I am the neighborhood pariah. Most of my neighbors boast shiny garden tractors with leaf vacuum attachments. Like busy bees, they religiously suck up their share of the six-gillion cubic feet of leaves which annually fall in our neighborhood almost as they drop.  But not I.

crepe myrtle and hickory tree in fall colors

In the foreground a blazing Crepe Myrtle is backed up by a large Hickory tree. Both are in my neighbor's yard (the one who turned me on to the honeycomb in the tree). I see this every time I pull out of my driveway.

Personally, it is my belief that falling leaves belong where they fall. I like how they look. I like how they crunch under your feet. Our cats love to play and frolic in the leaves. Our dogs love the same. So I am always the last hold out with the leaves. Last year, I set a new record. The leaves stayed in place until after the new year before they were ground to smithereens by my good friends who provide us with lawn service. Some will say that being a pariah comes naturally to me. Perhaps it is true.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE

See larger versions of all the the Weekly Grist and Corndancer pictures for this week including the view from my office/studio on our weekly picture only gallery. Click here to go there.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

Meandering through the mountains


Finding fading man-made edifices

Red barn near Marshall Arkansas

Late afternoon sun, low on the horizon, lights this old barn and its environment to the best advantage. It is a favorite sight for travelers and a popular target for photographers.

The fine old barn you see here is south of Marshall, Arkansas on US Highway 65 in plain sight. You can’t miss it. Not that you would want to. When you see the barn from the side, like many other old barns on well traveled highways, it is embellished with a large sign. To see the sign and get in on the start of this story of old barns and man-made edifices in the mountains, click here, and go to the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot com.

Home made political sign

Marshall was in the final throes of a heated election for mayor. One candidate used some real imagination in mounting a hand-lettered sign in a small wagon. The candidate who created this display gets my nod of approval for innovation and "remembering it" factors.

Marshall was my jumping off point to find some fall color, which was cool when I found it, but sparse in general due to some less than perfect climatic conditions the past summer. See what I saw here. What I found more of was old man-made structures begging to be photographed and chronicled.

Old store at Snowball AR

This fine old store in Snowball, Arkansas has seen better days, but remains in presentable condition. Too bad it was closed. It was time for an RC and a Moon-Pie.

West of Marshall on my trek is the town of Snowball. Like many once bustling rural communities, Snowball, Arkansas is a mere shadow of its former self. The Masonic Lodge survived, but the two stores didn’t. Their schools were consolidated. My bet is that the latter came first. Two old stores, and the remnants of a high school stand as testimony to a former life.

former high school Snowball Arkansas

What's left of Snowball High School. Several years ago, some civic-minded hunting club members built the attached pavilion for community use.

The area northwest of Snowball is sprinkled with a lot of wide-spread residences, some old, some new. I happened across one older unused home in this area which had a dug well in the front yard that had a stone structure around it. After a discreet inquiry, I discovered it was ok to open the gate to shoot the old house. The capstone on the well structure is a work of art.

old well in from of vacant house

The capstone on this old well was hand-hewn from one solid piece of rock. I wonder how long that took? Certainly past my patience level.

Thirty miles or so south of Snowball, Big Piney Creek, a popular canoeing and kayaking stream crosses Arkansas Highway 123 southwest of Pelsor. The bridge over the creek is one lane and as old as dirt. It is a popular spot for tourists, bridge gawkers and motorcyclists. They cross and recross the bridge, smiling as they go. From what I can see, it’s an uphill job not to like an old bridge. At least this one.

highway 123 bridge over big piney creek

The Arkansas Highway 123 bridge over big Piney Creek looks peaceful now. During heavy spring rains, the water level can get to just a few feet below the roadway.

The sun was setting and my time on target was waning if I wanted to be in my den by dark. And I did. That permitted one more shot in the hamlet of Hagarville, Arkansas. In that small town a surviving old store and duplex next door to each other are reasonably well preserved, but unused. A neighbor across from the two buildings said, “please use my yard, you will get a better angle,” after I explained what I was doing. She was right.

old duplex and store in Hagarville Arkansas

The old store and duplex still standing in Hagarville, are good examples of a long-gone rural lifestyle that enriched our cultural heritage.

I am discovering more and more that rural America is a living museum of cultural history. It is a museum which bears frequent visits because the displays are crumbling more and more every day. It’s a nasty job, but someone has to do it.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

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.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html


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