Snowbirds munching out (again)

female cardinal at birdfeeder

Mrs. Cardinal flares as she is about to land and join Mr. Cardinal and friends for a bite of lunch during a 2011 February snowstorm. Click on the picture to see our original post with a bunch of cardinal pictures and our normally scintillating prose. You’ll know you are there when you see this picture.

Back to the birds

This week we are sending you back to a post we originally showed to the known world in February of 2011. We had a non-typical covering snow storm in LA (lower Arkansas) which made food sparse for foraging critters. We loaded up the bird feeder and immediately became very popular with the neighborhood feathered residents. I used our house as a blind and shot out the bedroom window. That meant the window was open, and the bedroom door was closed since the cats would immediately hurl themselves through the window and scatter the birds, given the tiniest of chances.

Male cardinal in snow

Click on the bird to see our Corndancer story and pix on these birds.

That also meant that our normally cozy bedroom had a temperature level like a meat locker on steroids and/or the bottom of a Klondike sinkhole, whichever came first. Fortunately I could take a break occasionally and thaw out only to return for another session. It was downright addictive. Click here to see our original February 2011 post. Also be sure and see our new, improved Corndancer Photo of the Week article with three new pix from this shoot. Annnnnd, see our gallery with all of the bird pix, most of which are a hoot, from the February 2011 bird extravaganza.

Thanks for looking.

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Blues for Joe

Blues singer Reba Russell

Legendary Blues maven Reba Russell belts out the Blues in a February 8, 2015 benefit for Joe Powell at Neil’s Music Room in Memphis TN. Russell batted cleanup after six other great bands did their part in the concert.

Great blues for one of the “good guys”

Late in 2010, blues enthusiast Joe Powell of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, hatched up an idea to sponsor a blues concert to benefit a friend who was stricken with cancer. The idea germinated a bit further to become a recurring series of concerts, each one of which would benefit a victim of cancer or another catastrophic illness. Powell and a crew of friends and sponsors, organized “Blues for a Cause, A Helping Hand,” put feet on the idea and held their first concert in March of 2011. The concerts continued and each one benefited another deserving person.

All the while, Powell is the consummate volunteer in the Blues community. He is a member of the Blues Foundation, and participates in volunteer capacities in the Blues Music Awards, The International Blues Challenge and the legendary King Biscuit Blues Festival at Helena, Arkansas.

free range chickens

Click the chicks for the cool pictures and story at Corndancer dot-com.

At this point in Weekly Grist articles, we normally send you to the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com for a related story. This week will be no different with one exception: the story ain’t related. However we believe you will like what you see and read about a one-legged seagull and an up close and personal visit with some free-range chickens.

Back to the Blues

Fast forward to late 2014. Powell was diagnosed with cancer. He started chemo treatments which are no walk in the park. The shoe was now on the other foot. A group of Blues musicians in Memphis took notice and organized a benefit Blues event for Joe Powell, February 8, 2015 at Neil’s Music Room in Memphis. The event lasted from 2:00 p.m. through 8:00 p.m. In that time, seven great bands held forth with their finest. It was a great event with great music and an appreciative and generous crowd.

Blues musician Eric Hughes

Eric Hughes is a multifaceted performer. Here he is playing the original Blues genre. The best way I can describe this sound is that I am sitting on the front steps of an unpainted shotgun house on a gravel road in the Mississippi Delta, listening to Eric play on the porch while sitting on a cane-bottomed chair. He has the sound down to a fine art. He is equally at home with the Blues “harp.”

Amylee Pettis and Lance Pettis

Amylee Pettis has a thousand watt smile to go with her sultry, real-blues voice. She can belt it out while her husband Lance Pettis accompanies her on the guitar. Pettis, a natural musician, puts his heart and soul into every chord he strums and every note he sings. You can “hear the sweat.” The pair make Blues magic together.

Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms and the Wampus Cats

Robert “Nighthawk” Tooms pounds the ivories as part of the Wampus Cats, one of the most experienced Blues bands in Memphis. The musicians in this band have been there done that, and their Blues music speaks volumes for what they’ve done and where they’ve been.

Wampus Cats drummer

The drummer for the Wampus Cats bangs it out!

Drummer, bassist and guitarist in the Wampus Cats

The drummer eyeballs the bass player who eyeballs the guitarist and camera.

Robert "NIghthawk" Tooms

One more of “Nighthawk,” always with the hat. In the spring and summer it magically changes to “Panama.” Think Sharp Dressed Man. Nighthawk is equally at home with the Blues “Harp.”

Joe Powell and Reba Russell

Joe Powell, the honoree, and Reba Russell ham it up for a phone photographer and I steal the setup.

Jack Rowell, Jr,. leader of the Royal Blues Band sings and plays the Blues. He’s been at it a while. A glimpse of his facebook page shows Rowell in his early teens already wailing away in a band.

The Royal Blues Band

Jack Rowell, Jr., and the Royal Blues Band. Jack and this group are always involved in anything worthwhile on the music scene in Memphis. They are an experienced band. A couple of the guys were playing about the same time the Mayflower first made landfall.

Leo Goff

My friend Leo Goff, world-class bass player and blues performer. He plays with a number of bands and is always in demand for his great blues talent,  knowledge and sense of humor.

Don McMinn

Don McMinn a Memphis musical veteran. Many will remember his role as the “house band” at the famous “Rum Boogie” bar on Beale Street. He was great then and better now.

Don McMinn and Leo Goff

Two legends wail the blues. Don McMinn and Leo Goff.

Rebe Russell, Wayne Russel and Lance Pettis

Reba Russell, Wayne Russell, and Lance Pettis are “into it.” Reba’s emotional outpouring of the Blues rattles your bones and shakes your soul.

Reba Russell. Wayne Russell and Lance Pettis Playing

Reba, Wayne and Lance. Their last number and closing piece for the event was a highly respectable version of a Jimmy Thackery favorite.

Folks, this event was living proof that Blues musicians are regular people who just happen to be the genuine messengers of one our nation’s only original art forms. And unless you are a “real person,” you ain’t gonna do the “real blues.” These people got their respective acts together in more ways than one to help a friend. On top of everything else, I can personally attest to Joe Powell being one of the good guys. His children are my grandchildren.

Thanks for looking.

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind






Back to the old Methodist Church in Houston

Houston Methodist Church Houston Arkansas

Click on the old church to see our original 2010 post and more pictures of the old building.

Definitely not the one in Texas

Back in February of 2010, we took a swing through central Arkansas west of Conway.  After snapping some shots of the really fine St. Boniface Church in the Dixie Community, our next stop was Houston, Arkansas where we found this old Methodist Church.

Though the building was included on the National Register of Historic Places and was home to a newer congregation, it still had the appearance of a fine old building that was  suffering some serious lack of attention.

That’s the way it is with a lot of older churches. Churches lend themselves to be reused for little other than another church. Many of these are start-ups or young congregations with few resources to fix things, so the downhill clock ticks on.

On the other hand, take a gander at St. Boniface Church

St Boniface Church near Bigelow AR

Click the church to see pictures of St. Boniface

Be sure and take a look at our St. Boniface pictures. This old church is the polar opposite of Houston Methodist. It is well preserved and considered by many to be one of the premier “things-you-really-oughta-see” here in Arkansas.

See several exterior and interior pictures of the old church on the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com.  You can also read a few pearls of information on the interesting history of the vintage 1906 church. You will definitely be glad you made the trip. Promise!

Thanks for dropping by and sharing our swing through the hinterlands. See you next week.

Thanks for looking.

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Duck luck

Shoveler ducks on Saracen Lake

Sister Shoveler decides it is time just arriving to check on the boys. A second or two later, she completed her landing and was swimming with the gaggle of fellow travelers.

I had an itch to shoot and headed to Saracen Lake which is normally good for a favorable snap or two. My expectations were to stroll around the lake hiking trail and shoot a few grebe and pelican pictures. To my great delight upon arrival at the lake, there were hundreds and hundreds of Northern Shoveler ducks plying the waters in search of food.

Shoveler ducks feeding

Click on the ducks to see even more ducks. Cool stuff at Corndancer.

These ducks get their moniker from their large, spade-like bills. Their diet is aquatic invertebrates  and small plant matter. The shovel bill makes it easy to consist on that diet. When feeding, they swim with the biggest part of their beaks submerged.

Before we go much further we encourage you to take a look at the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com where you will see more shoveler duck pictures and get in on the start of this story. We’ll wait here while you look.

Female shoveler duck bites male shoveler

Ms. Duck sez to Mr. Duck, back off boy. Get out of my face or I will do some serious damage to yours.

These ducks were closer to the shore than usual, so dismounting from the venerable almost-nearly-300,000-mile-pickup was inadvisable. Critters will accept the truck well as long as you stay inside. They spook in a heartbeat when the door opens. This means balancing the long lens on a partially opened window, sometimes a contortionist practice. One can hear the snap, crackle and pop of aging joints in the process.

Gull on Saracen Lake shore

When the Arkansas River opened for navigation in the sixties, gulls followed towboats up river from south Louisiana. A few decided to stay so we have a year-round gull population. This one is Wilbur T. Gull, long-lost brother-in-law to Jonathan. While I was maneuvering on the parking lot for a better duck angle, Wilbur presented himself to be photographed. Far be it from me to refuse his request.

pelican flying with kingfisher in tree

When I finished the maneuver, I noticed a big pelican taking wing. I swung the lens around and got lucky. I realized I was even luckier after opening the file and seeing the kingfisher in the tree to the upper left.

Egret scratching

Once I was in place, increasing park traffic spooked the ducks. I went to nearby Lake Langhofer where I spotted this egret who seemed to say, “Well, a body just has to scratch every now and then. OK?

diving duck

I returned to Saracen Lake for more shovelers, but they had scattered like a covey of quail. But, there were a few of these little ducks near the shore diving, surfacing, diving surfacing – repeat if necessary. I’m not sure of their species, but on the cute scale, they well qualify for inclusion in this epistle. You have to shoot fast. It almost looks like they stay below water longer on it. 01-19-15 update: My friend David Brown has identified this critter as a female Ruddy Duck. Thanks David!

Thanks for dropping by and sharing the ducky-get-lucky trip to the lake. See you next week.

Thanks for looking.

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Revealing all, there’s nothing left to hide

The Cherry Street Drug Store plaster chipping crew

From left: Kelly Murphy, Skip Tucker, Mike Webb, Ringleader Paul Perdue, and Alan Smithey, the volunteer plaster-chippers are joined by Tommie Wright, son of the late Arthur Wright, the artist who painted the sign in October of 1947

Last week, we left you in an alley between 11th and 12th Avenues on Cherry Street in Pine Bluff, Arkansas taking a gander at a partially uncovered plastered-over Coca-Cola sign on the side of a long-since vacant building once known as Cherry Street Drugs. This week, we are dragging you back to the same spot to observe completion of the job.

Paul Perdue, a certifiable history aficionado, discovered the old sign and put out a call for volunteers January 2, 2015 to join him the next day to remove the rest of the plaster. The volunteers came and in southern parlance, “got shed of ‘bout sixty – sebbenty-pucent” of the plaster.

Tommie Wright

See a full size picture of Tommie Wright, son of the artist who painted the sign. Click the pic and go.

At the conclusion of those efforts, the group agreed to reassemble — same time, same station — the following week, to complete their noble task. At this point, we steer you to the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com to see nine other pictures and other information from the activities of the day. We’ll wait here while you look.

We join the volunteer plaster chipping crew for this, the one-week anniversary of their original get-together. The original group was ringleader Perdue, joined by Alan Smithey, Kelly Murphy, and Mike Webb. They were joined the second Saturday by Skip Tucker, another gracious volunteer, and Tommie Wright, son of the artist who painted the sign in 1947.

Chip Tucker and Alan Smithey

Front to back: Skip Tucker and Alan Smithey happily chip away the the plaster covering the bottom of the sign, despite bone-chilling conditions.

Teeth-chattering temp

The weather was 32° F with a substantially lower wind chill factor. Despite these less-than-ideal, teeth-chattering conditions for outdoor volunteer work, they “licked in” to the job and completed the task of uncovering the sign in a couple of hours.

Volunteers chipping plaster

Left to right, Alan Smithey and Kelly Murphy are chilly chippers as they bang away at the covering plaster.

Volunteers chipping plaster

A second view of Kelly and Alan at work with a better view of the sign.

A look inside the old drug store

As the chippers chipped away, the siren call of the inside of the long vacant drug store was too much to resist and I entered the premises through a broken out front door. Somehow, you just don’t expect to find a piano in a vacant drug store, but there it was, just bigger’n’ Dallas. Perchance some souls established a church in the old structure after the drug store egress.

Old piano in abandoned drug store

The last things you expect to see in an abandoned drug store are a makeshift pulpit and an old piano. It makes one suspect that someone may have declared his or her self a preacher and attempted to start a church in the old building. The next picture confirms our suspicions.

Inside of old drug store

Looks like a church pew under some of the overturned shelving. Either the last service got a bit out of hand or ransacking hobbyists came later and made the old drug store/church the object of their affection.

Inside of old drug store

If indeed the secondary use of the building was as a church, it looks like the back room did double duty as the parsonage. In the words of the legendary Fats Waller, “one never knows, do one.”

Back to the sign

Paul Perdue

Paul Perdue, instigator of the project and ringleader of the crew makes a healthy swing at the plaster with a smile.

Mike Webb on ladder

Mike Webb takes a swing at the last remaining plaster contamination.

Mike Webb on ladder

Mike Webb, a congenial volunteer gives the camera his best smile in bone-chilling weather.

These volunteers are not clamoring for attention, pay, or praise. They did what they did because they believe it is the right thing to do. Granted they appear to have some historic appreciation genetic materials circulating in their persons, but that is a good thing. Few will argue that lessons from the past are well-placed in civilized society. Most will agree that these lessons make society more civil — and Lord knows we need more civility — even if it comes from an old sign.

Thanks for looking.

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Seeing the light of day, one more time

Watch for our newest post coming around 9:30 p.m. CST tonight. We’ll show you how the crew completes uncovering the old sign.

Old Coca Cola sign on vacant drug store wall
Volunteers have partially removed cement plaster covering this 1947 Coca-Cola building sign on a vacant store in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Long enough is too long

For Paul Perdue of Dallas TX, a Pine Bluff, Arkansas native and a near-rabid history buff, the thought of ugly concrete plaster covering a hand-painted Coca-Cola wall sign completed in the late forties in his home town was absolutely, positively too much to bear any longer. He took matters in his own hands. Literally.

Go to Corndancer dot-com

Click on the sign to see more pictures including the artists signature.

January 2, 2015, he wheeled up to the site and started chipping chunks of plaster from the underlying sign with his hot little hands. To his delight, the plaster, for the most part, did not pull the paint away from the bricks upon which the artist plied his brush. A corner of the sign was showing nicely.

Satisfied that it was possible to remove the plaster and let the sign see the light of day one more time, Perdue went to Facebook (he’s a Facebook aficionado extraordinaire) and explained what he wanted to do and asked for volunteers to help in the task. You can see more of the wall and a close-up of the sign artist’s signature emblazoned on his work on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. We’ll wait while you look.

The next day, volunteers showed up with scrapers and flat blade screwdrivers in hand. In a tad more than fours hours, in very cold weather, they had removed 60% or so of the offending plaster. They tell us they will return next weekend and complete their scraping and chipping. Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, we plan to be there and record a bit of the work.

New Yeller

Not far from the old drug store wall is a building I have meant to shoot for a long time. The old structure in its new permutation looks like it would be more at home in South Louisiana or on one of the Caribbean Islands.

Old yellow building

In a former life, this old building in Pine Bluff, Arkansas was a family residence and later, home to an architectural group, and then to a real estate company. Now it is a day care center and does a bang-up job of brightening its corner of the world.

We are a bit short on content this week, which means you waste less time reading this offering. Be thankful for this and other blessings.

Thanks for looking.

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

A Cross tree


This is our annual Christmas post. It was our first, and we’ve never found one better. To get the whole story be sure and follow the link to the Corndancer dot-com story which is “the meat of the coconut.”

Originally posted on Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind:

This lone tree stands as a memorial to Frank Cross who was murdered in the mid-eignties. This lone tree stands as a memorial to Frank Cross who was murdered in the mid-eighties.

This story started on the Photo of the Week Page at Click on the link to see the first part of the story, a very cool thing to do.

Frank Cross, an invalid confined to his bed,  was murdered in the mid-eighties at his home which formerly stood behind the tree. The family had the house demolished, but left the fine cedar tree standing as a memorial to Frank, who was an admired member of his community in southeast Arkansas.

Close inspection of the tree base reveals some artifacts which were probably part and parcel of the old home.

historical artifacts under old tree Apparently, some items and materials which were not removed during the house demolition were left under the tree.This also included a wire wreath holder.

old farm artifacts under tree Items left under the tree appear to include part…

View original 361 more words


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