A different kind of snow day

Yellow Volkswagen bug

One cannot but help to think of the “yellow snow” joke upon seeing this yellow bug in the snow. The car appears to not have been driven lately and sits on the banks of Atkins Lake near Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

It is a rare time in LA (lower Arkansas) when one has sufficient material to write two snow day stories in a row, but the Almighty saw fit to send us snow storms in domino sequence. My normal approach is to do my snow pix during the storm. Since all of the snow fell while I was in the land of nod, I had to activate plan B. Since the internet is rife with idyllic snow scenes, plan B headed on a different track: to capture the underbelly effects of the weather rather than the artistic gifts.

18  wheeler stuck on road side

Click on the “stuck truck” for more snow pictures and stories.

Before we go much further with this epistle, we exhort you to click and go to the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com and see 11 other snow pictures captured on this trip including the “stuck truck” you see in the thumbnail to the left. This is where our story started.

On to the levee

After we left the yellow bug, we climbed the levee in four-wheel drive. We weren’t the first, but from the looks of the tracks we were second. We came across one of the small cattle herds one normally finds around LA levees.

Black angus calf at pasture fence

As we approached the herd, this yearling had to check us out since her food normally arrives via truck. She is giving us the eye waiting for the action that did not come.

Herd of cattle on levee

A few yards away, the balance of the herd was in the final throes of decimating a round bale of hay. When I stopped to shoot, they all stopped their munching to look my way. The red calf was the first to break away from the herd and come to the fence. The rest followed quickly. They were looking for “Daddy.”

Old tin bulding on levee

Further down the levee we spotted this old “roofin’ arn” building, probably an old feed bin or corn crib. If you look at the picture closely you’ll see that the galvanized roofing tacks are holding their gleam while the “roofin’ arn” is yielding to ferrous oxide (rust). Further examination reveals a previous firearm attack on the building.

Shot gun holes in tin building

Close examination of the gun shot damage to the building leads us to the conclusion that someone was “aggervated” with whomsoever owned the structure. The holes belie a point-blank series of shotgun blasts. The large hole was punched by the wadding and most of the shot, while the small holes were punched by the peripheral pellets of the main charge. The shots IMHO, indicate malevolent intent well implemented.

Cut over corn stalks in field

We descended from the levee and drove through the remnants of a 2014 vintage cornfield. The harvesting combine cuts the stalks, strips the leaves, and separates the detritus from the corn kernels. It spits the stalk, leaves, and cobs out the back and stores the kernels for later unloading. The bottom foot or so of the stalk is left standing. Soon, farmers will turn this field into a giant seed bed ready for 2015 spring planting.

Tree tunnel

We made tracks for US Highway 65 south of Pine Bluff. Along the way, we drove through the “Goatshed” community, an unincorporated hamlet of a few homes, barns, and tractor sheds. As its main aesthetic points, Goatshed can brag on this neat tree tunnel and a nice body of water. I say body of water because I am torn between lake and pond. Seems to me it’s too small to be a lake and too big to be a pond. I’m not losing any sleep over it. Legend has it that back in the day, bootleggers did a healthy business from Goatshed. There’s one way in and one way out. In those days, when a stranger approached, one would mysteriously hear a bell begin to toll.

Calf looking through fence

We weren’t long on US Highway 65 when, from the southbound lane, I spotted a small herd of cattle munching on hay. Going across four lanes, I switched to the long lens and caught this calf who momentarily abandoned the lunch his mom provides to check me out.

Water tower at Tamo, Arkansas

We went south, past Tamo, Arkansas for a mile or so and turned back. I stopped on the south side of town to shoot this picture of Highway 65. The southbound lane, I’m guessing, was 95% covered with snow and ice. Not much better off, the northbound lane was at least 75% covered.

Arkansas Snow plow

Help was on the way. Just north of Grady, Arkansas, an Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department crew was scraping the ice and snow at a rapid clip.

There you have it, the underbelly of a snow day shoot. Now you can go back to the idyllic scenes.

Thanks for looking.

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind



America’s Birdhouse Capital

Beaver birdhouse in Elaine Arlansas

This beaver birdhouse graces front of Gary Carpenter’s Delta Hardare in Elaine, Arkansas. Mr. Beaver is one of more than 670 birdhouses in pubic view in Elaine, Arkansas, “America’s Birdhouse Capital.”

The difference at Elaine

A small Delta town to whom history has not been kind is an appellation which accurately applies to a legion of miniscule southern municipalities. Elaine, Arkansas is one of those, but there’s a difference there. The folks at Elaine have banded together to make a new name for themselves as “America’s Birdhouse Capital.”

Americas Bird House Capital

Click the pic for the “rest of the story” and more pictures from Elaine.

Their decision is not an accident. They were looking for a way to engage the young people of their town in a wholesome and fulfilling activity.

During a meeting of volunteers exploring the possibilities for such an activity, the idea came up and initially brought a few laughs including a chuckle or two from the originator, Pat Kienzel, an Elaine volunteer and school counselor from Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Later, laughs aside, after some more thinking, Kienzel and the group decided that was the way to go. Find out more about how the birdhouse idea germinated and came to fruition on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com where this story started. We’ll wait here for your return.

A bunch of birdhouses

Once the program got underway and gained steam, volunteers peppered the landscape with birdhouses. Here are a few of those:

Truck bird houses

At the top of the “I didn’t expect to see this list” are two truck bird houses attached to the walls of an old service station in Elaine.

birdhouses in old service station

Just around the corner from the trucks are these more traditional birdhouses.

orange ceramic birdhouse

One more birdhouse at the old service station.

The next four birdhouses live in shrubs behind the “Elaine Arkansas” sign on the north side of the town on Arkansas State Highway 44. See the sign at Corndancer dot-com.

Pink birdhouse

This birdhouse greets travelers as they come to Elaine from the north on Arkansas Highway 44.

White birdhouse

White birdhouse, ditto location.

Striped birdhouse

Striped chicken-bucket like birdhouse, ditto on the location.

Yellow  and purple birdhouse

A Miami looking birdhouse in Elaine, ditto on the exact location.

Old codger birdhouse

An old-codger birdhouse at Gary Carpenter’s Delta Hardware in Elaine.

Floyd Turbo cap birdhouse.

Another birdhouse from Delta Hardware. This time it’s a Floyd R. Turbo model.

Three birdhouse tree

Three neat birdhouses grace this Elaine tree.

Yellow birdhouse

Dig this yellow high-rise birdhouse with vine decor.

Squirrel and birdhouse in tree

A curious fox squirrel checks out a birdhouse.

birdhouse in obscure corner

The Elaine birdhouse team puts ’em anywhere.

Birdhouse in ugly location

When they find an ugly corner in Elaine, the emergency birdhouse crew installs a remediation birdhouse.

You gotta love what they’re doing in Elaine. We believe it’s going to get even better. It will be fun to watch.

See all 59 pictures we shot on this trip to Elaine in our America’s Bird Capital gallery.

Thanks for looking.

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Yes, it’s a Studebaker

antique Studebaker wagon

This Studebaker wagon is the current star of the show at the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Museum in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The museum is open from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Admission is free and you can see many more historic artifacts including a Civil War battle flag, Victorian furniture, a miniature cotton gin and a lot more

Yes it is a Studebaker. The Studebaker Brothers started making wagons in 1852. Ninety-eight years later, the company, still Studebaker after several permutations, thrust the bullet-nosed sedan for which they are most famous, on the American public. The car is an icon of the fifties, but the subject of our discourse is the Studebaker wagon.

Allegedly one Studebaker brother, a promoter, told his brother, a wagon wright, “I’ll sell all the wagons you can make.” Though the quip sounds good, I can find no historic basis that such an exchange ever occurred between Studebaker brothers.

Studebaker wagon wheel

Click the wheel to see more wagon pictures

This particular Studebaker was made around 1900 and is on display at the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Historical Museum in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. It is for the most part vintage and virtually the same product they produced that became the most widely used wagon used by gold-hungry settlers headed west during the California Gold Rush of the mid 19th century. See more pictures of the wagon and other museum exhibits on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. We’ll wait here while you look.

front of Studebaker wagon

Here’s a second look at the wagon. The quilt on the wagon seat was made with dress scraps and hand-carded cotton. It has been gently used since around 1900. The girl on the swing in the background is “Little Miss Holsum,” a billboard icon in Pine Bluff.

early 20th century rural kitchen items

Just around the corner from the Studebaker wagon, you’ll find this turn-of-the-century rural kitchen exhibit which includes what appears to be an “apartment-size” wood cook stove. For the uninitiated, the upside-down thingy with a stick out the top, in front of the stove is a churn. For the further uninitiated, one made butter with the churn. There are more than a dozen or so other interesting artifacts from kitchens of the era there to see as well. I have absolutely no clue as to the long-handled broom. An airbus for witches maybe?

Antique hunting equipment display

This hunting and trapping display includes a long Kentucky-style muzzle-loading rifle and some accessories necessary to fire it and keep it maintained. There’s also a deer skin and a beaver pelt along with other trapping and hunting accoutrements including a bear trap from Hades. Notice the super-neat original hexagonal floor tiles.

One-man cotton gin

This is a “one-man” cotton gin. The object with the red flywheel beneath the gin is a one cylinder water-cooled gasoline engine of the type which might have been used to power the gin. This particular engine was used to pump water for a rural Jefferson County family back in the day. See another picture of the gin on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com.

antique wood working tools display

This two-sided display shows a nice assortment of wood working tools including a giant wood clamp which appears to be in the hernia-class just to pick it up.

The Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Museum

Here’s a glimpse of the former Missouri-Pacific Depot which houses the museum. You can see one of a two-track arrangement which are part of the main east-west system of Union Pacific. You can feel the rumble when the trains come through.

Thanks for visiting our pages and looking at the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Museum. If you are close enough to visit, the museum is now open Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. If you are not close enough to visit, we wish you were.

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


A U T H O R ‘ S   N O T E :   Though I am a member of the board of directors of the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Historical Museum, I personally am completely responsible for content of this article. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent policies or opinions of the institution, management, or the board of directors, Jefferson County, Arkansas and/or the City of Pine Bluff.
Joe Dempsey

Miss Donkey Congeniality

Donkey with head in pickup truck on levee near Elaine Arkansas

I’ve always considered donkeys a worthy Nikon target since one does not frequently find them. When I spotted this herd, I slowed the truck and grabbed the camera hoping to get some good shots out the window. Little did I know that opening the window was an open invitation for one of the critters to make numerous attempts to become better acquainted. Shortly after I stopped the truck “Miss Congeniality” stuck her nose in the truck window. It was after this first visit I knew I had to do a fast lens change.

Link to Corndancer dot-com

Click the pic to see levee pictures at Corndancer dot-com.

If you’ve never come nearly nose-to-nose with a friendly donkey, I can tell you from experience; it is far from harrowing if you keep your wits about you. I was traveling on a levee west of Elaine, Arkansas when I encountered a small herd of friendly donkeys accompanied an equally friendly Palomino horse.

See more pictures

Before we pursue this epistle too much further, I invite you to take a look at the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com, where the tale had its beginnings. This is part of a levee trip that looks at levee cattle and some nice reflections, all of which are available only from the levee. We’ll wait here while you look.

Back to the donkeys

I made a slow approach and came to a gentle stop. The herd immediately closed on the truck and was ready to socialize. One of the friendly beasts stuck her head in the truck and I realized I had to change lenses if I intended to get any decent pictures. Imagine changing lenses with a donkey nose in close proximity to your own schnozzle.

Horse looking in pickup truck window

After the quick lens change, my first visitor retired and let the horse take a gander.

Donkies and mules looking a pickup truck

Then they all backed off, so I started talking to the group and stuck my head out the window to see if they would return.

Donkies looking a pickup truck on a levee near Elaine Arkansas

The white critter heard my plea and returned.


Donkey putting head in pickup truck window

She was soon joined by her more inquisitive friend who proceeded to give me the donkey welcome-wagon treatment. She continued to poke her head in the window and decided she wanted to see how the turn-signal handle tasted. Fortunately for me, she did not care for it. Then she made a few more gestures. Finally the white donkey retired from the scene and the palomino replaced her and the inquisitive donkey moved in front of the truck. The next seven pictures show that sequence.

Donkey head in driver side window of pickup truck

Hey dude, what’s shakin’?


Driver of pickup truck petting donkey with head in pickup truck window

She looked like she was good for a nose rub. This is a selfie with a the lens at 10mm.

Ummm ... I've always heard these things were tasty!

Ummm … I’ve always heard these things were tasty!

Donkies looking in pickup truck

Oops … that thing was a bit on the bitter side.

Donkies with head in pickup truck window

Boy, you got any other munchies in this ol’ truck ?

Horse and donkey sticking their heads in pickup truck window

Hey dude, meet my good friend, Ms. Horse

Miss Congeniality decided to park in front of the truck. Remembering the legendary stubbornness of a donkey, I decided to offer a treat she could not resist. I rolled the right door window down, asked her she’d like to come around and she immediately took the bait. Within a few seconds a pair of familiar ears showed in the passenger side window. BTW, the cup contained a giant size Barq’s Root Beer.

Then she was at it again, poking her head in the window. I eased on the accelerator to very slowly pull away lest she repair to the front of the truck again. The prospects of waiting for a stubborn donkey did not bode well with the rest of my plans for the day.

Donkey standing in front of trucl

I’m in my stubborn mode.

Donkey looking in passenger side pickup truck window

Hey! This thing has two windows!

Donkey sticking head inside truck window

Hey Dude! It’s me again.

By then it was 4:30 p.m. and home was two hours away. If I departed then I would be home after dark, but would arrive in time to see the Arkansas Razorbacks wallop the LSU Tigers 17-0. It was a very good day.

Abandoned farm house

This house was a “been-gone,” meaning that I “been-gone” shoot it. This was the day. The old house is on Arkansas Highway 1, north of DeWitt.

I made one additional stop. I have passed this old farm house on Arkansas Highway 1 north of DeWitt a jillion times. On each occasion I make a resolution to shoot it on the next trip. I pulled up beside it and decided that today was the “next trip.” That made it an even better day.

Thanks for looking.

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Church in Houston

Old Methodist Church in Houston Arkansas

This place of worship, formerly Houston Methodist Church, as of February, 2010,  Jesus Name Community Church of Faith, Hope & Love, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.

Akansas, that is

(Author note: This is an edited and updated version of our February 28, 2010 post. All photos were shot that week).

From the looks of things, when Houston Methodist Church of Houston, Arkansas, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places it was not a minute too soon. The national register listing says the “period of historic significance” was 1900-1924 and the architectural style is listed as “Colonial Revival.” A plaque (the dark square right of the door) says Houston Methodist Church was established in 1890, but does not reveal a construction date for this building.

St. Boniface Catholic Church, New Dixie community Arkansas

St. Boniface Catholic Church

The building date for St. Boniface Catholic Church, just a few miles to the east is not a mystery. This story started with St. Boniface on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to go there and see pictures of St. Boniface and get in on the start of the story.

While we have better information on St. Boniface than we do on Houston Methodist, what we do know is that both congregations had their beginnings within just a few years of each other. Undoubtedly, members and parishioners knew each other, did business with each other, and their sons and daughters probably had eyes for each other. The latter with callous disregard of parental leanings.

This peaceful coexistence was then and is now an on-the-ground manifestation of the religious freedom which is at the core of our American culture. I believe I can say this with reasonable authority since I find no historical records of the Methodists and Catholics of Perry County attempting to obliterate each other. Would that we could say the same thing for other cultures not so inclined that are now impacting ours.

Houston Methodist Church Houston Arkansas

The church bell seems suspended in time. Corrosion and a few too many coats of paint are the probable culprits for this tonal paralysis. But I suppose, it’s the thought that counts.

Houston Methodist Church Houston Arkansas 2010

There’s not much else to say about this fine old structure except “good luck.” It is a fine example of community churches of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in these parts — which has obviously seen better times. The condition of the building, however, does not diminish the spiritual importance of its message to believers who frequent its halls. Pray for paint and labor.

Down the road and into the sun

You can see golden evidence of a setting sun in the last picture of the old church.  This condition prompted me to observe to my friend Joh Phillipi who joined the fray on this trip, ” … we’re burnin’ daylight,” the favorite quote of “The Duke,” hisself, John Wayne in The Cowboys. That being said, we lit a shuck and headed toward Bigelow. Shortly after our arrival, we noticed the crooked house below. We had to stop and shoot.

Crooked house in Bigelow

Should it be: ” … there was a crooked house … ,” or “The leaning store of Bigelow?”

The Bigelow visit was indeed a fortuitous stop. We got a great shot of an old building with the visual panache available only with low- in-the-horizon, late-winter-setting-sun-illumination. Stopping for this target of opportunity caused a delay which enhanced the next shot, albeit unbeknown to us at the time.

Crooked House at Bigelow 2

A few frames later, here’s a glance at the swayback roof line.

Heading south to Arkansas Highway 10, our route would take us past Lake Maumelle, a large impoundment which is the potable water supply for Little Rock. That is not its only claim to fame. Lake Maumelle is also home to the Grande Maumelle Sailing Club, an organization, the members of which for the most part are rabidly dedicated to the sport of racing sailboats. In a former life, I helmed many a race on the face of that lake.

Moonrise on Lake Maumelle

The moon is rising in the east as the sun sets in the west at Lake Maumelle, Arkansas. Shot from the centerboard launch ramp on the Grande Maumelle Sailing Club premises, a racing organization. I launched my former Thistle a bunch of times from this dock.

Knowing the layout, as I noticed the moon rising in the east, I knew where the would lunar lake look would be just too cool. That place is the centerboard launch ramp on the sailing club premises. We made a beeline to the lake and arrived in the nick of time.

A great ending to a great day.

But wait, there’s more

See more pictures from this trip plus larger versions of the ones we have posted on Corndancer Photo of the Week and Weekly Grist. It’s our Weekly Grist Gallery. Low-carb, low fat, low-sodium, but slightly addictive. Some things we just can’t help.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey,

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

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