A really rice festival


antique farm tractor in parade

The 35th Annual Grand Prairie Rice Festival at Hazen, Arkansas, included a parade of finely restored farm tractors. The family-friendly event was well attended by an enthusiastic crowd.

 For 35 years, folks at Hazen, Arkansas have been celebrating a crop that grows well on the Grand Prairie of Arkansas, where they just happen to reside: rice. The Grand Prairie boasts fertile soils, is as flat as a pool table for the most part, and has an underlying clay strata which tends to hold surface moisture in place. If ever there were ideal conditions to cultivate rice, these are it. And cultivate it they do. Since the late 1800s. The good folks at Hazen consider these conditions to be a good foundation for celebration — and celebrate they do at the Grand Prairie Rice Festival. And we are there, so to speak.

Monster motor

fairbanks-morse pump engine

Click on the big engine to see more

Before we go too much further, let us point you to see where this story started at Corndancer dot-com, where you will see a well-restored, giant 92-year-old antique rice well pump engine operating at the festival. You will also meet the gentleman who did the restoration and shows the machine.

Though this neck of the woods was rife with these units at one time, this one is the only one left that we can find. Click here to see seven additional pictures of this unique piece of mechanical history.

Model T Ford sedan

Mason Sickel of Tollville leads the parade in his restored T-model Ford.

The festival is a is an exercise in and a fine example of living history. Eighteen well-restored tractors participated in the parade. Click here to see all 18 tractors. I was originally invited to attend the festival in 2009 by Mason Sickel of Tollville AR. I had photographed his pink 1963 R185 International Harvester tractor and had the good fortune to meet him after the shoot. He showed me some of his antique restored tractors and invited me to the festival. I’m glad I finally made it. (That weekend is when I accompany several of my hoodlum friends on a fishing trip. They fish. I shoot).

antique mecormick-deering rice threshing machine

Seth Skarda of Hazen set up and operated his restored forties-era rice threshing machine and demonstrated its operation. His good friend Mason Sickel is operating the pitchfork to feed the machine.

Seth Skarda’s fully operational forties-era rice threshing machine was a hit. Dozens of onlookers watched the ancient machine shake, rattle and roll as it separated rice from its stalks. The machine has no power source of its own and was driven from a large “flat-belt” running from the power-take off pulley of a 1949 Oliver Model 90 tractor. Click to see 11 pictures from a complete walk-around of the threshing machine operation, including the 1940 International truck full of rice and the Oliver tractor.

Anitque New Holland gasoline power unit

This completely restored New Holland power unit hit the streets in about 1912 according to Bob Sutton, the owner. These units were used wherever one had the need for rotary power. Water pumps, grist mills, and generators were among those uses.

 Not all of the machines on display were large. I found a small 1912 New Holland gasoline power unit with its fly wheel spinning and its cylinder hitting only often enough to keep the machine going. I struck up a conversation with the owner, Bruce Sutton of Mount Ida. About five minutes into the conversation I discovered he originally hailed from McGehee, Arkansas. After further interrogation, he freely admitted that he grew up with my friend and Ouachita Baptist College college classmate Jimmy Dale Peacock, formerly of McGehee. Further, he knew a number of other classmates from that area. Small world.

antique operating grist mill

Alan Sickel smiles as he prepares to hand me one of four bags of freshly ground corn meal. He refused payment from me and any one else who wanted some of his meal.

The antique grist mill above has been in the Sickel family since the 1800s. It is powered by an antique International Harvester gasoline power unit. Click here to see additional pictures of the grist mill.

great horned owl

Great Horned Owl from Raptor Rehab of Central Arkansas. The non-profit organization's home is at El Paso, Arkansas.

 Not all of the attractions were mechanical. Notably some were alive, well, and feathered. Rodney Paul and volunteer Kenley Money of Raptor Rehab of Central Arkansas brought some of their charges including the Great Horned Owl you see above, a barn owl, a barred owl, and a screech owl. They carried some of the birds with them as they strolled through the festival and explained some of the noble work the organization does. They also made a detailed presentation to an attentive and appreciative audience. Click here to see all nine of our owl pictures.

The good folks at Hazen know how to put on a great event. I give it five big ol’ stars. For history buffs, it’s like a trip to a history candy store. For gearheads, it is near Nirvana. For kids it will be an eye-opener. Do yourself a favor and put this one on your calendar.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

133 years and still counting


If you’ve arrived here from the Corndancer dot com photo of the week page, the story continues. If you haven’t been to the photo of the week page and want to be regaled with a couple of additional photos and the start of the story of a family that has kept it’s reunion going for 133 years, click here.

What you see here is southern potluck at it's finest. And you are seeing just a fraction of it. There are five more tables just like this one, brimming with mouthwatering cuisine from home kitchens. It's chow-time at the 133rd  Marks-Barnett Family Reunion in Cleveland County, Arkansas.

What you see here is southern potluck at it's finest. And you are seeing just a fraction of it. There are five more tables just like this one, brimming with mouthwatering cuisine from home kitchens. It's chow-time at the 133rd Marks-Barnett Family Reunion in Cleveland County, Arkansas, June 7, 2009. The total caloric value might power an aircraft carrier a respectable distance.

Remarkable people

The Marks family is truly a remarkable group in many ways. Their cemetery is the most visible evidence of their dogged determination to “do-right.” . In the early fifties, several of the family shook their heads in disgust and mused that their family cemetery, a horrible mess at best, deserved better. And that’s about all it took to spark a cemetery renaissance via no small amount of sweat equity.

Today the well kept cemetery not only is the final resting place for beloved relatives and ancestors, it is an evolving showplace of history and southern rural culture. The grounds around the cemetery are laced with nature trails, some of which follow small streams. While negotiating the trails, one will find several small, but sturdy foot bridges over gullies, and creeks where a stumble or splash might ruin an otherwise pleasant stroll through the woods.

 

Marks Cemetery, the site of the Marks Family Reunion is close enough to the site of the War Between the States Battle of Marks Mill, the creeks were red with blood during the battle. It was reported that “ ... so many horses and soldiers were killed or wounded that Salty Branch (above) ran red with blood.” Today, Salty Branch is a clear placid stream, a far cry from the violence of April 25, 1864. One of the hiking trails around the cemetery follows the trace of the stream.

Marks Cemetery, the site of the Marks Family Reunion is close enough to the site of the War Between the States Battle of Marks Mill, the creeks were red with blood during the battle. It was reported that “ ... so many horses and soldiers were killed or wounded that Salty Branch (above) ran red with blood.” Today, Salty Branch is a clear placid stream, a far cry from the violence of April 25, 1864. One of the hiking trails around the cemetery follows the trace of the stream.

A large number antique farm implements place around the grounds are visible evidence of the agrarian nature of the areas economy in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Plaques at every piece of equipment give evidence of  it use. This horse-drawn planter is a good example. The planter was donated to the cemetery collection in memory of  Tate “Uncle Bud” McGehee “Miss Vaughn” McGehee. Family member Edgar Colvin installed the planter at the cemetery, The plaque information, typical of the collection reveals a story. The planter was bought by Mr. McGehee in 1920. He always said, “ ... this planter is so accurate that if it drops two seeds in a hill, it will reach back and pick up one of them.”

A large number antique farm implements placed around the grounds are visible evidence of the agrarian nature of the areas economy in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Plaques at every piece of equipment give evidence of it use. This horse-drawn planter is a good example. The planter was donated to the cemetery collection in memory of Tate “Uncle Bud” McGehee “Miss Vaughn” McGehee. Family member Edgar Colvin installed the planter at the cemetery, The plaque information, typical of the collection, reveals a story. The planter was bought by Mr. McGehee in 1920. He always said, “ ... this planter is so accurate that if it drops two seeds in a hill, it will reach back and pick up one of them.”

James and James Boney, of New Edinburg bring their extensive collection of Civil War relics to the annual reunion. The elder James Boney found most of the collection on the battlefields of The Battle of Marks Mill. Younger James is a well-spring of Civil War information and Elder Boney is a respected source of information on the Battle of Marks Mill.

 

Left to right, (and vice-versa) James Stoney and James Stoney and their Civil War relic collection.

Left to right, (and vice-versa) James Boney and James Boney and their Civil War relic collection

I would be remiss if I did not make mention Spears Country Store, not far from Marks Cemetery. Not having been to the cemetery site before, I decided that a reconnaissance trip on Saturday before the reunion on Sunday would be a good idea. After my visit to and a few shots on the grounds, I meandered to nearby New Edinburg and dropped into Spears Country Store for what is known in southern parlance as a “cole drank.” (It is my understanding that some misguided souls call the refreshment a “soda.”) I was delighted to discover that the store offered sandwiches. I ordered a ham and turkey sandwich. It was so fine! And a hand full. Jerry Clowers would have probably said you could “ … eat one of those suckers and work all day at the saw mill.”

Spears Country Store

Spears Country Store, New Edinburg, Arkansas

Folks, there is a lot of goodness left in our world. From families to stores and sandwiches, this ol’ boy found ‘em this weekend.

Thanks for dropping by,
Joe Dempsey

 

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