Providence and Provence led us here

Waterfall on Bidville Road

Wide angle distortion deceives you into believing these falls on Bidville Road near Winslow, Arkansas are not tall. The fact is, they are at least 20 feet tall and perhaps a bit more. Ice is forming in the pool and icicles have formed adjacent to the falls. A hike of a quarter mile or so across rocky terrain is necessary to see the falls as you see them here.

The story of these falls started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. To see another picture of the falls and formations close by, click here go to Corndancer dot com, a very cool thing to do.

While exploring the territory where these falls reside, I had the good fortune of running into Eugene Provence, a lifelong resident of the area. His good advice helped me find the way to the falls. Eugene makes his living driving a truck over twisting, precarious gravel roads in this parts, the Boston Range of the Ozark Mountains out of Winslow, Arkansas.

18 wheeler truck on mountain gravel road

Eugene Providence skillfully drives this truck over twisting, turning mountain gravel roads which are far from the ideal venue for large trucks. I was taken aback when I first encountered the truck approaching a one lane bridge I was approaching from the opposite direction. You simply do not expect to meet 18-wheelers this far back in the boondocks.

Eugene Providence

Eugene Provence at the wheel of his big White tractor.

Before the day was over, I met three of the Providence family including Eugene, his father, and a Provence nephew to boot. To the man, they were outgoing, friendly, and helpful. It is not often that one meets strangers out of the clear blue sky who put for such demeanor. Good upbringing I suppose.

As you face the falls, to the right is a steep cliff, probably the height of a five story building. Bidville road runs not far from the drop off. Eugene said at one time a truck and trailer hauling a bulldozer went over the edge. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to see how that could happen.


As you face the falls at the base, this bluff is to your right. The right of way for Bidville Road is not far from the edge. Icicles dangle from the edge. BRRRRRRR it was cold!

View from the top

top of the falls

This is looking down the bluff at the falls from the shoulder of Bidville Road. The white objects at the bottom center left of the picture are the ice formed in the pool below the falls. You can barely see the small cascades of water running down the bluff from the vicinity of the large rock to the right center of the picture. It is a long drop.

As I was setting the tripod up at the edge of the road to get the shot above, Jason Provence, related to Eugene, stopped as he drove by to caution me about the bluff. I thanked him and told him that if he came back by in about 30 minutes or so and the truck was still there, but I wasn’t, to kindly extract what was left of me from the bottom. Fortunately, that was not necessary.

approach to the falls

This terrain is at the approach to the falls as you hike in. It is typically replete with rocks, boulders and fallen timber knocked down by a severe ice storm last January. The low angle to the shot is due to the fact that yours truly is sitting on his back side after losing his footing, taking a dive and unceremoniously assuming that ground-level position. I figured as long as I was there I might as well record the event.

The boondocks around Winslow and anywhere else do not go into hibernation and disappear when the weather turns cold and the leaves drop. It is a good time of the year to see things you won’t see when leaves are on the trees. I’ll have more to say about that in a later diatribe.

Our headquarters for this foray was Sky-Vue cabins, just a mile or so south of Winslow on US Highway 71. A clean, well-lighted place with great breakfasts and gracious hosts.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Bean men

If you’ve arrived here from the Corndancer dot com Photo of the Week, this continues the saga. If you’ve arrived here independently of the original story, and your curiosity is piqued, you can check it out here.

Eight row combine harvesting soybeans north of Gillette, Arkansas. John Cover's college senior nephew is at the wheel.

John Cover had every right to be more than curious about the unknown pickup parked near his field and the stranger with a camera who was photographing his nephew operating a combine, harvesting soy beans in the field. I explained that I was gathering information for a weekly picture-story internet column, and that I had high hopes of finding someone cutting beans. Once he was satisfied, his gentlemanly demeanor  and well-honed conversational skills quickly became evident.

John Cover hitches a ride on the way to pull his mired 18 wheeler to dry ground. He is riding on the back of Scott Place's fully functional, restored '49 International Harvester KB5 Super dooly bob truck.

John showed up at the field driving an 18 wheeler consisting of a tandem axle Mack truck and an empty grain trailer. While trying to negotiate the tight turn from a hard surface highway to a turn-row next to the field, the right drive wheels of the tractor became mired in a mud hole. This sort of thing is to be expected and happens in the best of families. During our conversation, John whipped out his cell phone, called Scott Place, a relative, and asked Scott to come to his rescue.

’49 “binder” to the rescue

Scott arrived shortly in a well restored, fully operational 1949 International Harvester KB 5 Super dooly bob truck, a vehicle you just don’t see every day. The truck was well equipped as a quintessential farm operation support vehicle. Its trappings included a visible cutting torch setup, fuel tank, oil tank and welder. No doubt the tool boxes contain a plethora of tools, chains, cables and every other imaginable device one might require to keep the wheels of agricultural progress turning.

The "binder" makes short work of pulling the Mack free of the mud hole. The term "binder" was a nickname, even a term of endearment for International Harvester trucks. The term has recently fallen to disuse, due to the restructuring of the International Harvester company.

The "binder" makes short work of pulling the Mack out of the mud hole. "Binder" is a nickname, perhaps even a term of endearment, for International Harvester trucks. The term has fallen into disuse since the International Harvester company was restructured.

This was not John and Scott’s first rodeo when it came to pulling a stuck truck from a mud hole. Without a lot of conversation, knowing exactly what needed to be done, they hooked the tow chain in just the right places on both trucks. Seconds later, the deed was done and the Mack was on dry land. The big Mack proceeded down the turn row to receive recently harvested beans from engorged combines.

The agony of moisture

The Producers Rice Mill Dixie Dryer north of John Cover's fields is huge/

The Producers Rice Mill Dixie Dryer. It's huge.

At the turn row, the trucks are filled with beans. From here, they will probably to go storage and subsequently to a dryer similar to the Producers Rice Mill Dixie Dryer you see to the left. To give you an idea of the size of this giant facility, take a look a look at the small black dot at the bottom of the orange structure in the center of the picture. That dot is the door to the weigh house. Compare the height of the door to the tallest point of the building. It’s not a stretch to say it’s more than 12 stories tall. Agriculture in this neck of the woods is big. Products are shipped to the world from here.

Moisture content is a big deal with beans. Growers are generally penalized if their beans have too much moisture. After all, water weighs in at 8.34 pounds per gallon. Bean buyers are much more interested in buying beans than water. So you add moisture content to the “when to cut equation.” Cut too soon and the moisture content is too high. Wait too long and a big rain comes which keeps you out of the fields.

Soy beans, up close and personal

On the vine ready to harvest and fresh from the combine.

Soy beans. Left, on the vine ready to harvest; right, fresh from the combine, ready for the next steps in a long trip.

Presuming that not all readers have easy access to soy beans, it is my bounden duty to elucidate those not so privileged. To the left you see a handy soy bean composite. On the left side of the picture, you see some soy beans ready to harvest. To the right, you see what comes out of the combine. Hundreds of products contain soy beans or compounds extracted from soy beans. All of our homes benefit from this tiny legume, thanks to the likes of John Cover, his family and thousands just like them. Thanks folks.

Three rooms and a path

 Primitive house-barn combination

This old barn and house was under one roof. Not a bad idea in days gone by. What it missed in pleasant aromas, it made up in security, one would surmise.

Imagine rounding a curve on a remote gravel road and all of a sudden before your eyes is the skeletal remains of a homesteader place. Of all the places I have found in my wanderings, this is the most primitive. I’d hazard a guess that it dates back to early 1800s, though I have no evidence other than personal opinion on the matter. It is obviously a combination barn and residence. Past that, my humble opinions follow in this story.

If you’ve arrived here from the Corndancer dot com Photo of the Week, this continues the saga. If you’ve arrived here independently of the original story, and your curiosity is piqued, you can check it out here.

Looking at the barn-home from the back. The residence is on the right. Enclosed and pen space for the family critters is on the left.

We do not know who the residents of the barn-home were. I could have probably done a bit of local research in nearby Scotland, Arkansas, and someone might have known who lived there. However, it was Saturday afternoon and there were few signs of life in the town. The store was closed and it was likely that everyone else was glued to their tv sets watching Florida administer a good shellacking to the Razorbacks. Not a good time to interrupt fans with an unsolicited request for a local history update.

The structure shows evidence of maintenance and improvements after the original construction. The framing around the front door shows sawmill rip marks. The frame was attached with more modern looking nails. The doors on the critter side are similarly festooned with commercially prepared strips of lumber. Even the hardiest of souls can appreciate labor saving improvements.

Entrance to primitive cabin

The front door to the residence appears to have been built for midgets. People of average height must stoop to enter the premises. This is not uncommon for primitive residences.

The living quarters had little to offer besides shelter and protection from predators. In that day and time perhaps that's all that was expected.

The living quarters had little to offer besides shelter and protection from predators. In that day and time perhaps that met expectations.

Once you are inside the living room, den, bedroom, kitchen, closet, utility-room combination, you run out of amenities. Four walls, a ceiling, a floor and a door are it. There might have been a window at the back, but it’s hard to tell for sure.

You are nicely sheltered from the elements and there is a wall between you and those critters who consider you a menu item. Past that, there’s not much more to be said for the accommodations.

For these folks, a trip to town was a daylight to dark experience at the very best. Even by today’s standards, the home place is way back in the boondocks. The gravel road from highway 95 is good and well maintained now. It was probably little more than a primitive trail when this place was built.

Some things never change

If you were a husband, and you went to town by yourself, you were leaving your family to the elements and wild critters for an entire day. Who knows, maybe more. If  you were the wife left behind, as soon as husband was out of sight, the concerns mounted. What will befall him on the trip? Will I ever see him again?

Critter closets. Your nearest neighbors were your animals. Right across the breezeway.

Critter closets. Your nearest neighbors were your animals. Right across the breezeway. Hope the breeze was in the right direction.

If you both went, you had to be concerned about what might happen while you were gone. Would your home be plundered by a bear. Would a wandering miscreant knowing that if no one were home, it was likely no one would be home for a while. Long enough to do nefarious deeds.

Today, we complain of modern stresses. (Most of which are self-imposed in one way or another). In 18-whatever, in this neck of the woods, one of your stressful worries was being eaten. We should count our blessings. We don’t need old-fashioned stress. Losing the remote is far preferable to being today’s special for a hungry critter.

This backroad is a handy shortcut for 18-wheelers, an advantage to photographers who need to make a bridge photo interesting.

This backroad is a handy shortcut for 18-wheelers, an advantage to photographers who need to make a bridge photo interesting.

This trip started at Petit Jean State Park and meandered easterly through central Arkansas. On the way, I encountered a steel bridge across Cadron Creek east of Springfield AR. Since there ain’t many of ’em left, I’m including a shot of the bridge. The telephoto lens effect gives the appearance of an imminent run over by the 18-wheeler. Not a chance. Thank goodness for long optics.

Thanks for dropping by,
Joe Dempsey

All photos and content ©2008 Joe Dempsey.

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