Going for the green

Water tower at Lake Dick Arkansas with approaching storm

July is a good time to look for afternoon thunderstorms. This one cropped up near Lake Dick, Arkansas in July of 2009. It was a perfect set of lighting conditions, strong late afternoon light and turbulent clouds in the background. The image is a study in Mother Nature’s complementary color distribution: Green, gold and blue talking to us.

Our world, on November 24, 2013, here in LA (lower Arkansas), is bitter cold (for us), blustery, and brown. I am not casting aspersions on these conditions, but am merely observing their presence. There is a bit of sticker shock however, as these are the coldest temperatures we have experienced thus far this year. To top that, as winters go, last winter was puny at best, so our systems are far removed from the last bone-chilling experiences in LA.

Hollow cypress tree near Grider Field Pine Bluff AR

Click on the tree to see the start of the story.

Though my duck hunting friends will likely disagree, I believe this is a really good time to be inside watching a football game (or working on a blog).

For those who bemoan these present conditions, I am offering archival selections of warmer and greener circumstances. You can see where this idea germinated on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com where you will see, among other things, a hollow cypress tree surrounded by, you guessed it, green.

Storm clouds in sunset at Lake Dick Arkansas

A day earlier from the water tower shot above, across the road from the water tower, with the camera pointing away from the tower, the setting sun is painting the clouds in vibrant pinks and pseudo-oranges supported by grayish blues. Corn is silhouetted in the foreground. Just being there was a privilege from on high.

Water tower in rice field

A year later, in July of 2010, the field was planted with rice. This is about the same time of day as the storm pictures above, less the disturbances, but nevertheless, cool.

remote abandoned stairs hear lake dick arkansas

Not far from the water tower, earlier the same day, I found a stairway to nowhere. It was likely the front yard approach to a family farm which succumbed to economics. The land around the stairs was not cultivated at the time of the shot.

lady bug on winter wheat near Pine Bluff Arkansas

Just a few miles from the water tower, in April of 2011, we found a nearly ripe field of winter wheat. Turns out ladybugs think winter wheat as a home site is cool. I am told they are beneficial to the wheat crop, since nasty aphids are their favorite treat.

Since we are just days from the time to be grateful for what we have and the opportunities afforded by our blessings, please know, dear readers, that you are a blessing to me. Stay warm and well.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind



Look often, shoot often

Old building at Fresno Arkansas

Take a long hard look at the old building at Fresno, Arkansas. (For those not familiar, Fresno is the junction of Arkansas highways 11 and 114 in Lincoln County). The old building is no longer there. I first noticed it in the early sixties. It is as if an old friend has departed. I have burned a lot of film and pixels here.

While the title of this post may sound somewhat combative, I can assure you the content is just the opposite. The targets are visual — things that won’t last forever — and the ammunition is a camera card. We are perusing some old stuff that is, for all intents and purposes, in the fourth quarter. The game is over for the old landmark above. Little evidence of its existence remains.

Du Bocage Home Pine Bluff AR

Click the pic to see the fully restored Du Bocage home in Pine Bluff AR

Being one of those people who notices things impulsively, (some call it being easily distracted) as opposed to those who notice little other than what is in front of them (some call that being focused), I believe it is incumbent on me to make revelations of the stuff that I notice (some call this egotistical).

Now you know the inner secret that drives this weekly intrusion to your privacy. That said, may I direct you to the Photo of the Week page at Corncancer dot-com, where you will see a finely restored “Greek Revival” home and some other interesting stuff. We’ll be here when you get back.

Moving out of the pool-table levelness of the Delta to roads west of Hot Springs, Arkansas, we see similar sights in an environment fraught with hills and valleys. The message is the same: notice often and if you are so inclined, shoot often.

Old windmill in orchard

This old wind mill, too young have the appeal of the old Aeromotor and too old to have the glitz of the new wind machines, sits in a fruit orchard on a highway west of Hot Springs. It appears to be inoperative, but then what do I know about windmills but to look and shoot.

Old deteriorating barn

The old barn will soon bite the dust if it hasn’t already. I photographed it in January of 2009 — so it could currently be a pile of tin roofing and sticks. It was once someone’s pride and joy and now is a curiosity for wandering photographers. Since it is a mid-winter shot, we see more of it.

Old abandoned house on a hill

The real estate ad for this domicile might say, “Charming country fixer-upper. Lots of trees. Security fence installed on premises.” And so on. Every time I see an abandoned home, I wonder what went on there the last day of occupancy.

Look now. It may be too late the next time. Shoot if you are so moved.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


The critters around us

Growling jaguar

Despite the wild appearance, this jaguar is not in the wild. He was (I say was, I shot this image more than twenty years ago on film) a resident of the jaguar enclosure at the Little Rock Zoo. He was expressing his displeasure at the behavior of one of his neighbors. Those of us observing the exchange gained new appreciation for the word “enclosure,” as we admired the art of the Almighty.

tiger at little rock zoo

Click on the tiger to see more critters

For those of us who appreciate critters, viewing just about any critter is always a pleasure. Granted there are some critter people who get off the bus as it transitions to the lands of slinky, scaly, and slimy, but I would submit to you that those three maligned aggregations have their place in the overall scheme of things.

Now, before you say that I sound sanctimonious, I must confess that despite the fact that they are God’s creatures, I have yet to fathom the good reason for “skeeters” and ticks to exist, with chiggers running a tight third.

This story got underway with a look at a tiger and some domesticated beasts on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. Take a look and we will wait here until you return f0rthwith.

picture of donkey

While our dependence on beasts of burden has diminished in the developed world, their affection for us as humans has not faltered. You can generally confirm this by stopping your truck by a pasture fence and watch the hooved critters proceed in your direction. It is not your magnetic personality, it is that most of their food arrives in a pickup. This donkey, a jack, perked up the minute I slowed down. He began to “hee-haw” to the top of his lungs as he trotted from the pasture to the gate where I parked. Later we engaged in a conversation. Even after he figured out that there were no goodies forthcoming, he stuck around for the visit.

squirrel eating acorn

Our front yard is home to several large oak trees as are our neighbor’s yards. As a result, we have a good population of fox and gray squirrels. We have more than our share of these little boogers because my spousal unit regularly provides a front yard smorgasbord for their dining pleasure. In this case, the young gray squirrel has eschewed the corn and other seed for an acorn. She appears to be offering thanks for the largess of the oak before digging in.

rotweiller and cat lying together

Cats and dogs can get along just fine if their human companions let them know it is just fine and perhaps even preferable so to do. Cats getting along with cats is another story when both cats believe they are the Alpha Cat, which continues to be an issue here at the Chez Dempsey. Here in 2006, Cleo, the Rottweiler, at about five months or so has not yet achieved her adult mass, but has learned that it is a good thing to get along with the late Kodak, our yellow tabby. Our cats and dogs get along so well that the cats in taking the most direct route from point A to point B, will walk under Cleo and no one bats an eye.

Our critters (with the notable exception of cat vs: cat) have taught us that we can get along. Perhaps even the cat cataclysm has value in reminding us that we do live in an imperfect world.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


A day across Arkansas

Carl Blackwell with restored gasoline engines

Carl Blackwell of Wynne, Arkansas proudly stands beside some of his stable of restored gasoline engines at the 37th Annual Grand Prairie Rice Festival at Hazen, Arkansas on October 26, 2013. These engines were popular in the first half of the twentieth century in non-electrified rural areas where they were used to power generators, grist mills, pumps, and just about anything else that need rotary power to work. As electric service spread to rural areas, the engines fell from favor. Restoring these engines has become a popular niche avocation and Mr. Blackwell is one of the finest practitioners of the genre.

Carl Blackwell of Wynne, Arkansas is a master tinkerer, machinist, and restorer. I visited with Carl at the Grand Prairie Rice Festival in Hazen, Arkansas where he displayed several of his collection of old gasoline power units he has personally restored to working order.  It comes naturally to Carl. He is a retired machine shop supervisor and has a precision lathe and milling machine at his place in Wynne, Arkansas.

Restored and operating Star gasoline power unit

When Carl Blackwell starts an engine restoration project and can’t find the parts he needs, he goes to work and makes the parts. This restored Star engine is a prime example of Carl’s expertise. After he started the restoration process, he could not find parts for the cylinder head valve mechanism, (the round thing in front of the silver thing, and most of the parts around it), so he went to work and made the parts. As you can see the engine is fully functional.

St. Mary's Church at St. Vincent Arkansas

Click on the church to see how the story started.

We are chronicling a one-day trip through the heart of Arkansas. The story started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com at St. Vincent, Arkansas, where we took a look at fine country church. Take a look to get in on the start of the story.

This was our second visit to St. Vincent. On the first visit, we showed you a barn with an ecclesiastical message, which was down the road from LBJ’s Beer and Groceries. There is a nice distribution of cultural icons in St. Vincent where everyone seems to get along just fine, thank you very much,

Back to the trip

Carl Blackwell was toward the end of the trip, but he was so interesting, I decided to start this epistle with him. After we left St. Vincent, we saw barns and other sights and scenes as we headed toward the Grand Prairie Rice Festival at Hazen where we visited with Carl. Here’s what we saw on the way:

entrance to field with overhead flags

Here, we were trying to figure out if we arrived too early or too late. Those, it seems, were the only choices given that sense of abandonment.

Old horse barn

Not far from the flags, we saw this old barn, which we presume was a horse/mule barn due to the height. Normally the big doors on a horse barn were tall enough to accommodate a human on a horse. Note the abandoned disc harrow in the foreground.

Old rural utility building

After turning down a likely-looking gravel road we found this old utility building. It was probably a small barn that had something to do with livestock. We conjecture that due to the fencing on the property.

old rural utility bulding with blue sky background

More of the same with a different look. The still standing night-watcher light is disconnected.

old school bus with curtains

Here in the mid-south, it is not unusual to see old school busses converted to deer camp shelters or other use. This one has been curtained, and not moved for a while. The lettering on the bus says: “Licking Heights Local School District.” I Googled that name and discovered that Licking Heights Local School District is in Ohio. Folks, it’s quite a stretch between Mid-Ohio and Springfield, Arkansas. No telling how the bus arrived here.


As I was shooting the bus, one of the neighbor’s pups dropped by for a look. Looks like he has some greyhound in his background. He was friendly, but suspicious.

restored 1938 C Model Case Tractor

After the bus and dog, we transitioned to Hazen, Arkansas to barely arrive at the 37th Grand Prairie Rice Festival with a little time to spare before the event closed. We’ve been there before and it was fun. There were a lot of antique tractors including this 1938 Case C Model.

back side of case 1938 c model tractor

This is the back side of the Case C model. In the background, you can catch a glimpse of a gigantic 24-ton antique, fully operational 1919 Fairbanks-Morse Type Y Vertical Oil Engine. You can see the engine in operation at Corndancer dot-com.

case combine harvesting rice

Exhibitors were folding their tents as we left the festival. South of Hazen we found a rice harvest underway. There were three combines in this field. They were trying to beat an incoming storm. If you are into four-wheel drive vehicles, this is the ultimate high-horsepower get-in-the-big-middle-of-it-vehicle. Entry level exceeds 800 grand and you need a lot of level muddy ground.

We digress from the trip

After the combine we made it safely to the carport. We will fast forward from this trip of October 26, 2013 to November 1, 2013 when we saw a tree full of shoes at Sardis, Arkansas. While this is out of the purview of our original trip, due to the shock value of a tree full of shoes, we include the picture below. If you want to see more details, see our Sardis Shoe Tree gallery.

Somehow you simply do not expect to find a tree full of shoes. Except if you are in Sardis, Arkansas. Then, it is an everyday occurrence.

Somehow you simply do not expect to find a tree full of shoes. Except if you are in Sardis, Arkansas. Then, it is an everyday occurrence.

Thanks for joining the trip. We have observed scenes seen by few — and seen by many — but probably not in the same day. That’s the beauty of cyber traveling.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


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