Ding Dong Days and muddy ways

An old fire truck in a parade

This old Ford fire truck is gussied up to the point of mimicking its former glory in active service. The event is the Ding Dong Days in Dumas parade, a part of a two day festival in Dumas, Arkansas. I could be wrong, but I believe it is a 1946 model.

Bull Mastiff dog

Click on the dog for more Ding Dong Days pix

This week we do not travel to Dumas, Arkansas as planned, to shoot the Ding Dong Days in Dumas festival. In my other life, a requirement to create and have complete a six-panel brochure by Sunday evening trumped the trip.

However, all was not lost. Turns out my son, Ralph Douglas “Doug” Dempsey and his family made the trip. Doug is a photographer, (like his father, among other things) and agreed to furnish images to his dear old dad for this week’s Grist. See more of Doug’s Ding Dong Days pictures on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com where this story started.

Since I could not attend the event, any comments I make regarding the proceedings would fall way shy of satisfactory in the truth and veracity test results. Therefore I am limiting my commentary to remarks in picture captions. This will probably make understanding the gist of the thing easier on my fellow former Infantry officers.

Cars on display

Among other things, Ding Dong Days usually includes a good car show. This year was no exception. I thought this dude had his act together by using a wagon of nearly the same vintage as his car as part of the display.

1960 John Deere 530 tractor

The event draws participants from far and wide. This pristine, restored 1960 John Deere 530 and it’s owner, Jack Abernathy, hail from Bauxite, Arkansas, easily two hours or more from Dumas. The sign on the tractor says 415 of this model were made.

Henna tatoo booth

The young lady to the left is Granddaughter No. 5 (of six). Next to her is Granddaughter No. 4. They are in a henna tattoo booth at Ding Dong Days. No. 5 looks serious in this shot which is uncharacteristic. She normally has a smile on her face in the default mode.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey


Tarry at Tarry for a while

Thomas Grocery, Tarry, Arkansas

Probably knocking on the door of a hundred years old, give or take a few, Thomas Grocery still stands in tiny Tarry, Arkansas. It has a plethora of nostalgia appeal and is a local favorite for old-store-oglers. More than a few look at it with ideas for gentrification.

Clowers Gin, Tarry Arkansas

Click on the old gin to see more of Tarry

Thomas Grocery was one of four fully operational stores in Tarry, a small but once bustling community between Pine Bluff and Star City, Arkansas. One other of the original stores is still standing, West Grocery, about a quarter mile from Thomas Grocery.

See an earlier Weekly Grist story relating to West Grocery here. While you are in the mood to click around, may we suggest that you go to the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com where this story started and see some additional pictures of the store and other Tarry scenes.

For many years, Thomas Grocery housed the U.S. Post Office for the community. It was also a school bus stop. Few if any general stores of  that era were without a bench of some sort on the front porch. And a couple of dogs under the porch.  Thomas Grocery fits nicely into that genre.

The store was an important part of the social and economic fabric of the community, a nice way of saying that probably millions of juicy tidbits of gossip and rumors floated in and around the premises. Especially in election years.

I featured the store with a couple of winter pictures in our June 17 Weekly Grist post. I shot those pictures in 2009, so the old store is holding up nicely. We have high hopes this is a continuing trend.

Gills Barn, Tarry Arkansas

Looking at the hay barn from the east during midday sunlight. There is a chair in the loft at this end of the barn which I suspect is a deer stand.

An old barn and corn crib, off the beaten track, behind the store a few hundred yards offered some unusual photo ops not available without an invitation. The owner and I are friends and he graciously steered me in the right direction. The old barn was built to store hay, tack, and feed. It was completely floored. The floor stands off ground level more than a foot. It does, however, have large overhangs which could offer shelter to livestock.

The hay barn from the west end

The west end of the hay barn in late afternoon light. The angular device under the overhang is a hay feeder for cattle with the munchies. And they always have the munchies.

interior of old hay barn

The barn is tall and gives one the feeling of a rustic open air cathedral. All we need is a boom-box holding forth with “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” and/or some Purcell trumpet voluntaries.

Just a few yards from the old barn is an old corn crib. It is bigger than a lot of barns I have photographed. The north end is reasonably clear of weeds and trees, but the south end is cluttered with interloping trees and saplings. We have visited the subject of the hardy Bois D, Arc tree before on these pages. And now we have seen another one with a penchant for survival. Another reclining Bois D’ Arc.

Old corn crib at Tarry Arkansas

The north end of the corn crib is intact for the most part.

Bois D' Arc tree under corn crib

The hardy Bois D’ Arc tree, I believe, is genetically programmed with a superior survivability gene. The Bois D’ Arc is the Dick Butkus of trees. This one decided to take root in the moist, fertile soil under the corn crib, then stretch its branches to the sun to turbocharge its photosynthesis. While laying on its back. This is the south end of the corn crib which is in the process of collapsing. The corrugated metal roofing (aka “roofin’ arn”), leaning on the tree was deposited where it is by a tornado which whistled through a few years back.

While age and the elements have beaten away the the Tarry infrastructure, the great spring-fed fishing pond which has been in its back yard for no-tellin’ how long is alive well and producing “slab crappies” in the spring. Looks like the really good part is holding up well.

fishing pond at Tarry Arkansas

The pond is like it was decades ago, except for the cypress elegantly aging. While I was on this shoot, something big broke water in the pond. A good sign.

SEE MORE PICTURES OF TARRY  Visit our Weekly Grist Galley to see more of Thomas Grocery, the tree, the corn crib, and the barn, plus a couple of others. Guaranteed enjoyment.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey

Red, White and Blues

Brian Austin with flag in background

Brian Austin, lead singer for the band that bears his name belts out the last tune in the band’s set at “Red, White, and Blues,” a benefit concert at Pine Bluff, Arkansas on July 4, 2012. The freshening breeze flying the flag was the precursor of a thunderstorm which swept through the area about ten minutes later.

 Hadden Sayers playing guitar

Click the pic for the start of the story.

Despite relentlessly attacking heat, sloppy humidity, and an untoward thunderstorm, the performers and attendees at Red, White, and Blues, left with a smile on their faces. The music was great and the following fireworks show was spectacular. Furthermore,  given that it’s July in LA (lower Arkansas), expectations of anything less than wet heat and plenty of it are far removed from the realm of reasonable anticipation.

While you will enjoy this story and collection of pictures, you may enjoy it more by visiting the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com where it all started. We’ll wait here.

The concert featured three bands, The Brian Austin Blues Band and The Saints of Yesterday, both hailing from Arkansas; and The Hadden Sayers band from Houston, Texas. Sayers, a talented composer and guitarist was a performer at the Blues Music Awards. The audience makeup reflected the storied demographics of blues fans — a duke’s mixture — they come from all corners. Blues slices well through demographic strata.

Man with large head of hair wearing cap

If there had been a coiffure contest for the event, this blues fan would have won it hands down. Others need not apply. He sat on the front row.

As the night wore on the crowd increased exponentially, mostly coming for the fireworks. Once the latecomers were on the scene, the spirited performers drew them close to the amphitheater. Call it the blues magnet. They’ll probably come earlier next time.

Blues for a Cause, a Helping Hand, a non profit organization which produces blues concerts and festivals to benefit cancer and other catastrophic illness victims produced the event in cooperation with the Pine Bluff Festival Association and the Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Department. Our hats are off to them for their good work.

band members in the saints of yesterday

Saints of Yesterday rhythm guitarist Dennis South, and bass player Robert Lamb do their part to light up this end of the planet with rollicking blues while drummer Mike Parrish bangs out the rhythmic foundation for the tune. They enjoy their work despite dripping with sweat.

Hadden Sayers Band

Keyboardist Dave DeWitt, Hadden Sayers, and drummer Tony McClung made more music than one would expect from three people. Who’s to argue with greatness.

Robert Lamb

Click on the dude to see more pictures.

All in all, it was a great July the Fourth celebration. There were lots of folks, lots of music, lots of fire works and lots of photo ops. Speaking of which, I have posted 40 pictures of the event in a special gallery.

You will see the shots on this page in a larger format plus 36 other pictures. In some of those you can feel the sweat. In any case, you can enjoy the sights and imagine the sounds in the air conditioned comfort of your own space.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey

Family tree redux

Bois d' arc tree

Despite what you may think, you are looking at the trunk of a healthy Bois d’ Arc tree. The tree is more than 140 years old and looking forward to more.

A bodacious Bois d’ Arc

We’re going to archives this week, returning to a fine fall day in 2009 near Greenwood, Arkansas. On that day, the paths of me and Gerald Ware crossed. The results of this fortuitous encounter were mutually beneficial.

Had either of us deviated from what we were doing that morning by more than a few minutes, we would probably have never met. Which would be a pity for me since I would have never seen his remarkable Bois d’ Arc tree. Gerald sees it every day.

See the original story and more pictures of the remarkable tree in our original October 4, 2009 post, a guaranteed good read. See the start of the story on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com,

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey

%d bloggers like this: