Running the levees

black angus cow

Number 32 in a small herd of cattle grazing on the river side of the levee decided she was the representative and would inquire as to who the interlopers were in the pickup that just pulled up. The interlopers were me and my granddaughter, Madison Dempsey. Madison graciously agreed to accompany me on this running the levees trip.

Commorants in tree

Click on the birds to see more levee pictures and a story.

September 28, 2013 on the way home from shooting Ding Dong Days in Dumas, I approached Arkansas Highway 11 at Grady, Arkansas. I turned north on 11 and headed for my favorite stretch of Arkansas River levee.

I can’t tell you how many times I have driven it, but I can say that despite deeply engrained familiarity with the territory, I see something different every trip. And this trip was no different. I saw critters and Delta scenery not heretofore shot. You can see some of those shots on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. We’ll wait here while you peruse the pictures and story.

Madison Dempsey and Joe Dempsey

Madison Dempsey and yours truly a minute or so before departing for the levees. Credit for this fine image goes to Tracey Dempsey Powell, Madison’s mother.

black angus cow

After the slightest hesitation, Number 32 decided she wanted a closer look. We obliged her with an intimate, suitable for framing portrait. When I reached out the window to adjust the mirror, she left like a fire alarm had sounded.

The aforementioned September 28 trip yielded good images for the Corndancer / Grist combo for one week, just not enough. I needed more. I sent a text to Tracey Dempsey Powell, mother of my two local grandchildren, to the effect that I was going on a Grist trip the next day and that one or more grandchildren would be welcome to make the trip if they so desired. Turns out grandson Jay was doing a sleepover with some buds, but granddaughter Madison was up for the trip.

Madison and I sallied forth, and jumped on the levee at the Highway 11 starting point. The rub is, that when you head southeast from that point, you run into the Arkansas Department of Correction property. At that point you turn around and go back, but you did see levee sights.  Back on 65 to the next jumping off point east of Gould, we saw some roadside posies that needed to be shot. Hollyhocks, some purple posies, and golden rod rounded out the group. A swam of bugs also shared the spotlight.

Hollyhock bloom

On U.S. 65 between Grady and Gould, Arkansas, Hollyhocks make an annual appearance. Shooting said Hollyhocks has been a “beengone” project for yours truly for a long time. (“Beengone,” as in “I been gonna shoot them Hollyhocks for quite a spell.) Today, the spell was over and we shot the Hollyhock(s). The bug appeared at the right time. October, 8, 2013, Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles informs me that I have erred. This is not a Hollyhock. It is a Rose (or Swamp) Mallow. Makes sense to me since it thrives in a ditch.

Golden rod bloom and bug

Swinging the lens just a few inches yielded still yet another bug approaching this stem of golden rod, beautiful in its appearance, but the bane of those allergic to its obnoxious pollen.

Purple flowers

Swing back past the Hollyhock and there are some fine purple posies, the name of which I do not know. However friends Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles and/or Fred Garcia will and I am certain they will graciously share their knowledge. No bug this time. Ebenezer has revealed that the flower is a “Scaly Blazing Star.” Now we know.

Swarm of small insects

Meanwhile, back at the Hollyhock, a swarm of tiny insects appeared. If these varmints are a quarter inch long, it would be a stretch. After I looked around, there were several other swarms. All of the swarms seemed intent on, well, swarming.

Angus cow and her calf

A few miles past Number 32, we ran into her cousin and offspring. After they discovered that our truck had no food for them, their newfound interest in us faded like the last rose of summer.

Cotton picker in cotton field

Not too long after we started the levee run, we found a cotton harvest in full swing. As quickly as the cotton was picked, the operators sent two tractors following in the steps of the picker. One of the tractors was plowing the recently harvested ground followed by another tractor which disked behind the plow. That’s why you see bare ground on the other side of the picker. When this picker makes one round, it disgorges the cotton it picked in a large round bale wrapped in yellow plastic. This technological advance has eliminated still yet another agricultural sub-specialty, job, to wit: cotton trailer tromper. (This is an insider’s joke for Delta denizens, former denizens, and others familiar with the process.)

Old building on river side of Mississippi River Levee in Arlansas

This old structure sits on the edge of the woods off the Mississippi levee. Perhaps it was once (or still may be) a hunting club house. It appears to have 50s era asbestos siding installed.

Old building in Rohwer Arkansas

We dropped off the levee at Rohwer and found this old building in a tamer environment. It has a lot of character and appears to have withstood the elements well.

Later in the day, we decided that if we were this close to the Mississippi River, we might as well take a look at it at ground level. Somehow that has more appeal than catching a fleeting glance at 65 miles per hour as bridge structure zips past.

truck wheel dipped in Mississippi River Water

Believing that we should ceremoniously observe our visit to the Mississippi at ground level, I (not we) decided to dunk the truck wheels up to the front axle to commemorate the visit. After we backed out, we recorded this image as proof of the baptism.

Madison Dempsey and Joe Dempsey

Madison Dempsey and Joe Dempsey with the Mighty Mississippi River providing a background.  We are standing between the truck wheel dunk tracks. Photo courtesy of tripod and self-timer.

While not everyone has a system of levees conveniently by, there are unique details in virtually every environment that will probably cast a slightly different look your way. All you have to do is look.

Parting shot


Right after I descended from the levee on the first trip (September 28), this ass presented himself as if he wanted the moment to be immortalized in pixels. I obliged him.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


5 Responses

  1. Wonderful pictures. Thanks for always sharing. My husband and his family are from the Pine Bluff area – a little area known as Hooker, Arkansas. Actually on the Rand/McNally map. Many of his family still live there and we always visit at Thanksgiving, having the Thanksgiving feast with his family at the Shell Chapel Presbyterian Church at Hooker.

  2. Thanks Mary,
    Glad you enjoyed the post. I know exactly where Hooker is as well as Shell Chapel Presbyterian Church. I remember attending a couple of fundraisers there in the sixties. Their homemade pickles were so good, I still remember them.
    Thanks again,

  3. […] To read Joe Dempsey’s recent blog post about a photographic trip down the Arkansas and Mississippi river levees from Pine Bluff to Arkansas City, click here. […]

  4. […] that trip in its entirety is now not possible, we are revisiting the excursion this week. Click on the cow to see our original October 2013 post. Click here to see our original Corndancer Photo of the Week […]

  5. […] his “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind” post on October 6, 2013, my longtime friend and Ouachita Baptist College buddy Joe Dempsey featured […]

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