Nine months later redux

camel at New Orleans Zoo

We had high hopes that perhaps this camel at the New Orleans Zoo had survived Katrina, if old age had not made its claim first. Click on the camel to see our original post.

Back in April, 2006, nine months after Katrina hit New Orleans with her malevolent pass-through and subsequent flooding, a couple of friends and me, Dick Warriner and the late Dick DeWoody hit the road for New Orleans.

It was a road trip we had made for several years. We would land in the Crescent City, volunteer in the French Quarter Fest for four hours and spend the rest of the stay poking around the French Quarter.

This year was somewhat different but not as much as we expected.  The festival went on.The crowds were more than we expected.

The merriment at the festival did not dim or seem diminished. After what the city had been through, one would suppose a weekend of revelry would be in order to help get things pointed in the right direction.

man eating po' boy sandwich

Click on the sandwich dude for more of this ‘Nawlins trip.

Most of the festival is conducted in the French Quarter which the original settlers in the area found be the highest ground in many a mile. Turns out it still was and despite Katrina’s hammering, the ‘quarter’ took the least lick in the city. Those original folks were on to something that later developers apparently ignored.

On the way out of town, we made a photo swing through the lower ninth ward which took the worst licks from Katrina. It was not pretty, but it is reality. Take a look at our April 2006 trip to see what we saw. Also be sure to check out our Corndancer Photo of the Week page for that trip to see even more of what we saw.

katrina storm damage

Here’s one look at Katrina damage in the Ninth Ward. Click on the picture to see more in our original post.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Let’s hear it for the flugelhorn section

flugelhorn player

This flugelhorn player is belting it out during half-time at a University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff football game.

During half-time while on assignment to photograph a football game between the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and Southern University I benched myself and watched the great big UAPB band march onto the field and make its fine, equally great big sounds.

flugelhorn players

Some music aficionados say that flugelhorns have a sound somewhere between a trumpet and a French horn. What ever it is, it’s a nice sound.

After a few seconds, I naturally picked up the camera and started firing away. Without too much forethought I aimed at the band then reviewed the snaps in the camera monitor. What I saw was a neat flugelhorn section. Flugelwhat you say? Flugel horn. Kind of a big trumpet. In the mid-seventies, Chuck Mangione made a name for himself with the tune Feels so Good, he played on a flugelhorn.

flugelhorn players

These three players were my targets of choice.

flugelhorn player looking around horn

See more of the flugelhorns at Corndancer dot-com

Speaking of which, you can see more of the flugelhorn section and a video of Chuck Mangione tune on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. Take a gander and we’ll wait right here.

Temporary insanity

For reasons unbeknownst to me, I developed a temporary obsession to make images of the flugelhorn section and since these weekly intrusions into life come at my whims, that’s where we go this week. I’m thinking that such a noble instrument deserves some additional exposure since its last blaze of glory was in the seventies. It’s not like Weekly Grist will make the impact that Chuck Mangione did, but then every little bit helps.

Trombone players

Trombonists marching in formation with sousaphones and a flugelhorn and a trumpet in the background.

flugelhorn player

And finally our favorite flugelhorn player. She looks like she means business.

Who’da’ thunk that one would run across a pictorial exploration of flugelhorns for your personal entertainment and edification? Could an ocarina and a wet sponge be next?

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

The underbelly of fall

changing leaves

These trees in my back yard cannot make their minds up. I’m ready for some nice fall colors and these ungrateful giants come forth with pale green and crummy brown. It’s a sign of pseudo-fall.

On this, a severely overcast, muggy pseudo-fall day (November 1, 20115), being stir crazy, I had an uncontrollable urge to photograph something and then whack out a few word to accompany the pictures. On a day like today, there was precious little beauty and a lot of the “underbelly of fall” as I call days like these. Nevertheless, there are only two satisfactory ways to scratch those itches, so away I went. Here’s what I got.

Hummingbird feeder

Another sure sign of psuedo-fall is the hummingbird feeder in the carport awaiting storage, its hungry little friends long gone.

dead tree washed up on riverbank

Click on the tree to see the big picture at Corndancer dot-com

Also, be sure and see the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com where you’ll find some dramatic flotsam, more crummy leaves, an old cemetery, an abandoned old church and a bit more around LA.

The trees are getting a bit scraggly and interspersed not with dazzling fall colors but brownish looking leaves. There are a few flowers left, making their last stand. Bags full of leaves from the roof gutters (which will be quickly replaced). The humming bird feeder is down and in the carport waiting to be squirreled away until next spring.

Indoor plants which have really enjoyed being outside are about to be relegated to their climate-controlled indoor phase which they will barely survive. The grill is covered.

indoor plant outside

Our indoor plants which really dig the back yard can forget it. Back to the den and meager light until late next spring. Hopefully the covered grill behind the plant might get a little winter use (slurp).

Yessir, yessir, three bags full. Fresh leaves from the roof gutters. Soon to be replaced. It's a vicious cycle.

Yessir, yessir, three bags full already. Fresh leaves from the roof gutters. Soon to be replaced. It’s a vicious cycle.

I went to Lake Saracen to see if some of the winter birds have arrived. Just a few. But I did see a couple of good-ol’-boys setting out a trot line with detergent bottle floats.

Fishermen setting out a trot line

Crummy day or not, these good ol’ boys are setting out their trot line in Saracen Lake.

I saw a poor dog chained to a big tree. He seemed to accept his fate. I cursed under my breath at the treatment of the critter and moved on.

Dog chained to tree

This dog can wander only as long as the heavy chain padlocked to the dog and tree will let him go. The dog seems resigned to his fate, I wonder why people do this to an animal who is a loyal companion by nature.

Then I found a rice field that had been harvested before the rains came. Also found a cotton field that had been harvested. Modern cotton harvesting does not get all the lint. That which is left shows as white specks on the fields until they are plowed under or burned. The green, golden, and white unto harvest fields are long gone with the aftermath of harvest “now showing.” Call it anf ugly necessity.

rice field stubble

Next I found rice stubble. The emerald green, then golden ripened fields are long gone until next spring.

harvested cotton field

This once “white unto harvest” cotton field is now stubble. Next spring the cycle will start again.

Cotton stubble closeup

Not all cotton lint is picked up by the mechanical picker. What’s left will nourish the next crop. This is somewhat exaggerated since it is a the end of a row.

Though I did not see much of anything of beauty save a flower in my back yard, taking a look at what goes on around us serves as a reminder that despite our habits and daily pursuits, things good and bad continue without our assistance and/or interference. And now there are pictures and words, which was the whole idea in the first place.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

A grand ol’ time on the Grand Prairie

The 2015 Grand Prairie Rice Festival

Mason Sickel and family in T Model Forfd

Mason Sickel leads the opening antique tractor parade at the 2015 Grand Prairie Rice Festival in his T-Model Ford full of his children and their friends.

If you are in reasonable driving distance of central Arkansas in the middle of October and looking for something fun to do, making tracks to the Grand Prairie Rice Festival in Hazen, Arkansas, is, in my humble opinion, the top of the pecking order. The event kicks-off with a unique parade of for-the-most-part meticulously restored antique tractors led by a dad with his kids and their friends in a T-Model Ford sporting the Stars and Stripes.

Joe Dempsey shaking hands with Mason Sickel at the 2015 Grand Prairie Rice Festival at Hazen, Arkansas

Truly, a people-friendly parade – From left, Mason Sickel shakes hands with yours truly. The picture was shot by my grandson, James Joseph Dempsey.

Joe Dempsey photographing tractor

While Jay was at it, he decided that another picture of his grandfather in action was in order. This big Case is a “rice” tractor with the wide-set front wheel arrangement.

This is a slow-moving, people friendly parade where you are just a few feet from the action with no “authorities” telling you to move your carcass back. Conversations and/or greetings between tractor drivers and/or passengers and spectators is not only tolerated, it seems to be encouraged.

At the conclusion of the parade you can get up close and personal with a Great Horned Owl, a Red Tailed Hawk and other raptors from Raptor Rehab of Arkansas. You can actually kinda get in each other’s face, judiciously of course.

Handler and captive great horned owl

After the parade, take a gander at this Great Horned Owl. The owl and handler are from the Raptor Rehab Center in El Paso, Arkansas

A boat worth seeing

Ray Hightower and his boat

Click the pic to see the boat pictures and story

We also encountered a one-of-a-kind boat and its builder-owner, Ray Hightower. He had an inkling to build a clone boat to mimic the ones his father used back in the day as a fisherman on the White River near Gillette, Arkansas.

The results of his efforts are singularly impressive. You simply will not find another like it. See the pictures and story of Ray Hightower’s boat on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com.  It’s worth a look.

There are food trailers with good ol’ stuff and more exotic fare that your grandmother did not make. A few local bake sales offer instant relief from sugar depravation. All of this goes on with a good band in the background playing everything from Hank Williams to current favorites. People will also look you in the eye and say “howdy,” or strike up a conversation with perfect strangers.

Three mainstays worth seeing

There are three mainstays you usually see: Randy Skarda with his gigantic, antique Fairbanks-Morse engine used in the early part of the twentieth century to power a rice well. Gigantic, I guess so. Randy moves it around with an 18-wheeler low-boy trailer set up.

Randy Skarda and his giant engine

Randy Skarda regularly brings is fully restored and operational Fairbanks-Morse Type Y Oil Engine to the festival.

In this video, Joe Dempsey and grandson Jay Dempsey visit the 2015 Grand Prairie Rice Festival at Hazen, Arkansas and take a look at Randy Skarda’s 1919 Fairbanks-Morse Type Y Vertical Oil Engine on display at the 35th Grand Prairie Rice Festival at Hazen on Saturday. Randy restored the 23,230-pound monster motor in 1990 and ’91. The video is in four clips: A wide view, a closer view, a closer view with Joe and Jay, and a clip with Jay and another boy being welcomed aboard the engine trailer by Randy Skarda.

Not far away you will find Carl Blackwell of Wynne, Arkansas who brings a tandem-axle trailer full of antique gasoline engines that work. If one happens to be contrary, he will tinker with it until if fires up.

Carl Blackswells antique gasoline engines

Carl Blackwell tinkers with one of the trailer-full of antique small gasoline engines he brings to the Grand Prairie Rice Festival.

In this video – Joe Dempsey and grandson Jay Dempsey see small antique gasoline engines during the 2015 Grand Prairie Rice Festival at Hazen, Arkansas. The video opens with Jay hamming it up for the camera followed by Carl Blackwell tinkering with one of his engines to get it started. In the second segment, Joe and Jay saunter up to the now running engine for a look-see. Joe show Jay how hold his hand over the engine exhaust. He does it gingerly the first time, then comes back for more on this and one other engine.

Go a few more steps down the park and you will find an antique, restored and fully-functional McCormick-Deering rice threshing machine. Back in the day before combines, farmers would swing through their ripened rice fields with mule or tractor drawn equipment to cut the rice. Then they gathered the felled rice and took it to the threshing machine to separate the grain from the stems. In the true vernacular (which I prefer) the device was known as a “thrashin’ mun-sheen.”

Antique McCormick-Deering rice threshing machine

This antique McCormick-Deering threshing machine is fully functional and being operated.

In this video – An antique McCormick Deering Rice thresher is in use during a demonstration at the 2015 Grand Prairie Rice Festival in Hazen, Arkansas. The video is a walk-around with four clips: The first show an antique Oliver 90 tractor in the foreground which provides power to the machine via a long flat belt. The second shows the crew loading from the front, the third shows the crew loading from the back and the final clip shows the machine trash discharge. In the last clip, in the left of the fram, grandson Jay is sitting under a tree watching the proceedings.

And last but not least, a trailer mounted grist mill that grinds out fresh corn meal which is offered to takers at no cost.

Back to the parade

John Deere 820 diesel tractor

This green grunt power on the move, an 820 John Deere diesel rice tractor with a two cylinder four-stroke engine. The bore on the engine is somewhere between a lard can and a water bucket in diameter.

B-Model John Deere

This is B-Model John Deere with a row-crop front wheel setup, pulling a trailer full of happy kids.

H model farmall tractor

This H-model Farmall looks showroom new. It is a row-crop tractor with the narrow front wheel arrangement.

Replica steam locomotive

The Central Arkansas Antique Machinery and Historic Society sent its replica steam locomotive complete with whistle and smoke on demand.

Here is grandson, Jay snapping away.

Here is grandson, Jay, snapping away.

There are also some carnival rides, crafts and other booths of interest. Parking is all within easy walking distance. And it’s hard not to feel welcome. Make your plans for 2016.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Green thoughts during the brown season

Water tower at Lake Dick AR

Click on the tower to see our  original  November 24, 2013 therapeutic post.

Here in LA, in 20123, winter arrived just about on time as expected – in late November. The rub was, it arrived in full force with high teens at night and on the 24th of November a high of 32.

That probably sounds like puny, anemic winter performance to our friends a bit further north, but in Lower Arkansas, it’s dang near birth shock after a long spate of balmy fall days. To ameliorate these deplorable conditions as best I could, that week I wrote about more favorable meteorological conditions.

This week we serve up our post of that November 2013 week as a reminder that Jack Frost and his band of villainous icemen are sharpening their teeth in anticipation of their arrival here in the beloved hinterlands of LA. In this post we take a couple of looks at my favorite water tower at Lake Dick, Arkansas, a lady bug in a wheat field and other non-frigid subject matter.

hollow cypress tree

Click on the hollow tree to see more pix and the rest of the story.

That week at our sister on-line publication, the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com, we looked at another old favorite, to wit: a fine old hollow cypress tree and other reminders of warmer days. Be sure and take a look at the pictures there in our “Think Green” epistle as we address the bone-chilling conditions of those days with warmer words and imagery.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

A trip across Arkansas, again

Carl Blackwell with gas engine

Click on the picture to see all the good stuff in our original November 3, 2014 post.

It was November 3, 2013, a Saturday. Prior to retiring for the evening before while on a visit to Morrilton, Arkansas, I hatched up the idea to shoot my way from the foothills of the Ozarks to the flat  lands closer to home, wife, dogs and cats.

I made no plans other than the direction and destination, the Grand Prairie Rice Festival at Hazen AR, depending on finding subject matter along the way. As haphazard as it sounds, the formula normally produces a lot of photo ops. This time was no different.

The trip officially started at Vincent, Arkansas. My target there was St. Mary’s Catholic Church. From there I wandered southeast

St. Mary Church Vincent AR

Click on the church to see pix from first part of the trip.

toward Hazen. I stopped when a good subject popped up and took roads that looked promising. The trip produced a Duke’s mixture of barns, dogs, old gas burner engines and finally a combine harvesting rice before a predicted rain would postpone the harvest.

Click here to see our original post. One caveat, the last picture of our original post did not come from the trip. But given that it is a tree full of tennis shoes it earned its place. And be sure to see the pictures from the first part of the trip on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Oh deer, it’s back

It was a ‘get lucky’ day

White Tail Deer Buck

Click on the deer to see our original October 27, 2013 post, and see another picture of him.

October 25, 2013 was one of those always welcome “get-lucky” days. While exploring a new road that turned out to be shorter than I would have liked I found a cooperative young White Tail Deer buck. The luck before the good luck was not so good. I took a tumble and had to visit a doctor to get a nasty scrape looked after.

Fortunately, I had time to make the trip to the subject road. Click here, or on the deer to see the original post with another picture of the deer and a neat mountain top vista.

Old barn roof on the ground

Click on the grounded barn roof for our best explanation of why

On the same road, I also found an old barn minus its bottom-most components but with its roof still intact, on the ground.

How it got there sparked a few conversations, the most popular of which was that a storm blew it there. That’s probably as likely as any, because when most building collapse, it is a lop-sided affair and this one appears to have dropped intact. See the old barn on the Photo of the Week Page at

Order prints

Click here to order prints of this week’s Weekly Grist and Corndancer pictures of the deer and the barn.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Back to the big choo-choo

Cotton Belt Engine 819

Click on me or my grandson, Jay, or anywhere else in the picture to see our original October 2013 post.

Of all things that could enter your mind as having been manufactured in LA (lower Arkansas), steam locomotives would probably wallow at the bottom of your list. That guess would be wrong. The former Cotton Belt Route railroad built a lot of steam locomotives here.

Among the last ones built were ten “800”series 4-8-4 steam locomotives in the early forties. Ten kissing cousin locomotives were built about the same time in the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone, Pennsylvania.

Of those twenty iron horses just one still survives – and it lives in the Arkansas Railroad Museum here in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. You can see and touch it there.

Antique railroad snow plow

Click on the monster machine above to see more railroad museum pictures.

In October of 2013, my grandson and I visited the museum and drooled over the locomotive along with a few of the hundreds of other railroad artifacts in the museum. These objects run the gamut from a single railroad spike to a some additional locomotives.The museum is a treasure trove of railroad history.

This week, we are sending you back to our report of that trip. Click here to see our original October 23, 2015 story and pictures. To see more of the same story and other railroad pictures go to the Corndancer Photo of the Week page and dig-in.

Thanks for looking,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

The old birds are still at it

 Old WWII airplanes

Four of a kind, more or less. From right Stearman trainer, Ryan PT-19, Vultee BT-13 and a North American AT-6, all on display at the 2015 Annual Razorback Chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association on Grider Field at the Pine Bluff Regional Airport. All of these old birds fly. Some more than others.

It’s always fun to attend an airshow where you can not only see, but also walk around the old WWII era birds and play touchy-feely. This is also the one time that non-aviation folks are allowed to come and go as they please off and on the normally hallowed and verboten grounds of an airport.

Old Stearman Biplane

This old PT-17, AKA Stearman, Boeing Model 75 is in perfect flying order. I always recognize the distinct war cry of its radial engine. I have high hopes of being a passenger in the aircraft ‘one of these days.’

Cockpit of Lockwood Air Cam II

Click on the cockpit to see more Air Cam II pictures and read the story.

Air shows also attract unusual aircraft, and this one was no different. Pilot and aircraft enthusiast Presley Melton of North Little Rock AR flew in his Lockwood Air Cam II plane.

The forerunner of this aircraft was made famous during as it plied the skies of Africa during  a long aerial photography shoot for National Graphic. See pictures and read more about this amazing bird on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer We’ll wait here while you look.

Ryan PT 19

During WWII, Grider Field, now Pine Bluff Regional Airport was home to a US Army Air Corps basic pilot training school. The primary aircraft used to train these pilots was a Ryan Navion, AKA PT-19. More than 70 years ago, dozens of aircraft just like this gave fledgling pilots their first experience at the controls of a flying airplane. Notice the crank between the aircraft number and wing. That’s how one starts the engine on this bird. Can you spell knuckle-buster?

Vultee BT-13

This is the Vultee BT-13, another WWII trainer. It flies regularly. I have been a passenger in this aircraft doing an aerial photography shoot. See the story about that experience here. While I was at it, I shot a picture of how it looks as a passenger in the rear seat of the aircraft. Click here and see what I saw.

AT-6 cranking up

This North American AT-6 is belching the smoke and clatter of its mighty radial engine cranking up. Pilot Clarence Rittelmyer is about to take off as he gives a friend a ride.

Clarence Rittlemyer

Heeeeeeeeere’s Clarence. Clarence Rittelmyer at the controls of his AR-6.

AT-6 Flying

And here’s Clarence and the AT-6 from the ground as it roars by skyward.

BT-16 Engine

The Pratt and Whitney 9-cylinder Wasp engine as the business end of the Vultee BT-13

RV aircraft landing

The show always features formation flying and/or aerobatics. Gerald Lloyd and Bulldog Formation Flights did the honors this year with a fine display of precision flying. Unfortunately, the haze in the area and distance from the camera prevented me from recording any decent pictures, so you’ll have to be satisfied with a few of the birds as they landed.

1955 Oldsmobile Holiday Coupe

A 1955 Oldsmobile Holiday Coupe. These cars had big engines and out on Highway 67 between El Dorado and Calion AR back in the day, they ruled the roost in a quarter mile. Ud’n, ud’n!

Ibadee, ibadee, ibadee, that’s all folks. No mind challenging observations. Just gool ol’ fun.

Thanks for looking,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Swan Song for the levee trip

Angus Heifer

Click on the cow to see our original October 2013 post.

I recently discovered that the first leg of my favorite levee trip, starting east of Moscow, Arkansas is now no longer available. The last time I topped the levee a few weeks ago and prepared to turn southeast I saw a locked gate barring my entrance.

I was bitterly disappointed since the now-barred section is the first leg of my favorite run of the levees for the last 25 years or so. The disappointment brought to mind my levee run of October 2013 when I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by my granddaughter, Madison Dempsey. It was a bit longer than usual. We left the levee at Arkansas City, Arkansas. Along the way, we paid a visit to the banks of Big Muddy, the mighty Mississippi River.

comorants in tree

Click on the cormorants to see the original Corndancer story

Since that trip in its entirety is now not possible, we are revisiting the said former 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 story on the trip.

This trip is a good reminder that those things put off may never come to fruition.

As in never.

Thanks for looking,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

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