Still surviving


Thomas Grocery, Tarry, Arkansas

I first saw Thomas Grocery and bought a Baby Ruth and a root-beer there shortly after I arrived in this neck of the woods in the early sixties. To tell the truth, it doesn’t look much different now.

Tarry, Arkansas is tiny. Size in this case h0wever has nothing to to with treasure. And tiny Tarry has a treasure manifested in Thomas Grocery, which has survived nicely and is still standing tall after a lot of  years. Regrettably.  I have not done my research on Thomas Grocery past admiring it for a number of  years.

Old building

Click on the old building to see some that are now gone.

Unfortunately, a lot of older structures have met their demise while Thomas Grocery has survived. We took a look at a downtown building and an old barn that are now history on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com where this story started. And soon.

I did the Thomas Grocery shots in 2009, with the intentions of following up to get more information on the store. Unfortunately, we are all familiar with where the road paved with good intentions heads. That said, now that I have finally published the winter shots which show the front of the store, I will make it a point to go back and get the summer shots and this time get information.

Thomas Grocery, Tarry Arkansas

Looking at Thomas Grocery head-on, an inviting look from days gone by. The bench on the front porch tells us that social pursuits shared importance with merchandise.

Further to the north and east, in the Delta at Hughes, an old store, Zuckerman’s, sits empty along with its neighbors. Hughes, like many small Delta towns at one time was a vibrant community with thriving businesses. Mechanization of agriculture and a whirlwind of cultural and economic changes swept through the Delta like Moses’ plagues on the Pharaoh and when the dust settled, the towns were a shell of their former selves.

Zuckerman's store Hughes ARkansas

The appearance of Zuckerman’s was impressive to me because the lettering and layout of the sign fit well on the structure as if a real designer had a hand in it.

Swinging back closer to home in Cleveland County, Arkansas I happened across this old barn. Turns out the barn is only about 40 years old despite the fact that it looks much older. The owner explained that he built the barn from materials salvaged from an old family home on his property which was built around 1905. About 10 years after he built the barn, he removed himself from raising cattle and the barn was no longer used.

Old barn in Cleveland County, Arkansas

This old barn fooled me. I surmised that it was substantially older than its 40th year. It is however, built with lumber which is about 107 years old.

Though the Arch at St. Louis is alive, well, and non-threatened in the foreseeable future, I was able to grab a good shot of it last week while in St. Louis to watch the Cardinals get creamed by the Chicago White Sox — and since I write the rules here, I’m including the picture. Got the  shot while stalled in traffic, a blessing from a curse.

The St. Louis Arch

Lovers stroll hand-in-hand with the mighty St. Louis Arch in the background. Got lucky. I shot this with a phone camera from through a bus window. Will miracles ever cease?

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

Old barn, young dog


Cardinal in snow storm

A big male cardinal and a lucky snow flake. This is as shot and adjusted for color. No trickery.

This week, we are sending you back in time

Since the nation is in the grips of the heatwave like few others, this week we are sending you back to a February 2011 snow storm. The storm dumped seven inches or so of the white stuff which set up some good shots.

During the storm we replenished our bird feeder on an accelerated basis much to the delight of a phalanx of neighborhood birds. Probably some non-neighborhood interlopers as well.

Using the house as a blind, the birds paid little attention to us as we fired away. While we are now sweltering, take a gander at a cooler experience.

Click here to see the original  February 13, 2011 Weekly Grist post. Also see the original Corndancer Photo of the Week picture and story. Cool places to click. Here’s the Corndancer link to the story of the barn and dog

Dog on Prarie Road in Cleveland County, Arkansas

This friendly little fellow joined me when I was shooting the barn you see below. The learning curve from his initial and natural caution was shortened when I offered him a few month-old Cheetos I salvaged from the back floorboard of my truck.

old falling barn

Click on the barn to see more pix at Corndancer dot-com

Look now before it’s too late

This epistle is actually about an old barn about to drop, but the young dog who interloped on the shoot seemed to deserve top billing. The cute factor outweighed the rustic and historic value offered by the barn. The old barn tells a familiar story to barn observers.

Find out the details and see another picture of the dog and the barn by going to the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com. We will wait here while you peruse those details.

Old falling barn

The camera is level. The barn is not. Get a good look while you can.

See more of the barn and dog on our Weekly Grist Gallery

The old barn is southeast of U.S. Highway 79 on Prairie Road in Cleveland County, Arkansas. There is an occupied home on the property, but no one was there when I did the shot, so details are sketchy at best. What’s obvious from the size of the barn is that it was the likely epicenter of a large and prosperous agricultural operation which marketed cash crops and concurrently produced subsistence crops to support family, farm hands and their families, and livestock. You did not commute to work at this farm.

old crumbling barn

You can see the patchwork applied to the barn over the years. Perhaps it delayed the inevitable, but not for long. Wonder if the generous hay loft was ever the site of a "romp in the hay?"

There would have been a number of mules which called the barn home.  A few chickens roosted somewhere inside and there was no doubt a nearby hog pen, corn crib, smoke house and an “out-house.”  Also on the property, cattle probably found shelter in a cow-barn. A trip to the store took a day or more.

At the time, the folks who lived and worked there, I’m thinking, were happy to be there and could not have imagined in their wildest dreams the ultimate fate of their farm and their barn. They worked hard, enjoyed the fruits of their labors, dealt with the underhanded blows delivered by Mother Nature and sometimes their fellow man. And they survived.

Gives one pause to wonder how happiness is defined. Their happy is not our happy. Hmmm. I’m wondering what the next happy will be. And what will be the format of survival?

See more of the barn and dog on our Weekly Grist Gallery

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

Prairie Road barn and thereabouts


old barn on prairie road

The camera is level, the barn is not. Someday soon, an ill wind, a rotting structural member losing its final strength, a termite banquet, or other untoward circumstances will spell the endgame for this fine old barn. There will probably be no human witnesses. And passers-by may not notice the collapse until weeks later. What was once pride and joy will be a pile of rubble.

large catalpa tree

See the start of the story at Corndancer dot-com

At a sharp bend in Prairie Road in Cleveland County, Arkansas I spied this old barn coming close to losing its extended battle with gravity and age. Had the builders done less of their jobs, we might be looking at a pile of barn boards instead of a precariously surviving structure. There’s still enough left for an impromptu glimpse of rural history in an agricultural community.

Before we pursue this tale further, may I suggest that you take a look at the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com where the story started. You’ll see an old home place with some interesting trees less than a mile from this barn.

The old barn was no doubt built in stages. The idea was basic utility first, add on as soon as you have a good year and then expand your capabilities to support a growing family. A family’s barn was the epicenter of subsistence and production for income. There are probably a few remnants of a home nearby that did not grab my attention. At the time of this structure, absentee farm ownership was not yet in vogue.

detail of old barn

This is a horse or mule barn with a door tall enough to accommodate a man on a horse or mule. The loft stored hay for the winter and according to legend, was a place for some friendly encounters. They say.

The rough-hewn looks of the lumber means the owner operated or hired someone to run  a temporary sawmill close by  to produce lumber from trees felled close by. It was a common practice since trips to town for lumber took days not hours.

I was not far from New Edinburg, Arkansas, home of the McClellan’s Country Store, the proprietors of which will build you a fine sandwich. It was early afternoon and my Cheerios and yogurt breakfast was a long time back. Stephen McClellan did the honors. The ham-turkey sandwich laced with home-grown tomatoes plus the other traditional sandwich decorations met my wildest dreams in size and palate-pleasing yumminess. I washed it down with a Barq’s Root Beer in a long-neck bottle. Before I left, I bought a few home-grown tomatoes as well.

See more pictures from Prairie Road and thereabouts at our Weekly Grist Gallery.

sandwich and Barq's Root Beer

A Barq's and a great sandwich with a bite missing are the signs of a great lunch in progress. In the backgound, (left to right) Kristin Skelton and Stephen McClellan are looking at a previous Weekly Grist post while I am munching out.

 One cannot help but snicker occasionally as you travel about. Just south of Pine Bluff, Arkansas on U.S. Highway 63 is a store at which the proprietors display some of the merchandise in the front yard 24/7 /365. If I ever pass it when it is open, I will probably satisfy my curiosity and peruse the innards of the establishment, but for the time being, external observation is my limit.

See more pictures from Prairie Road and thereabouts at our Weekly Grist Gallery.

country junk store

The sign says "Just country junk and more." I can see the junk, but not the more.

The way home from Prairie Road takes me north on U.S. Highway 79. As of this writing, for more than a week, a couch has been sitting on the shoulder of the highway south of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, my home town. I posted a picture of the couch on Facebook and of course it has drawn the wit expected on such a post. Here for your viewing pleasure is the couch on the side of the road. Or should I call it a divan?

couch on the roadside

This old sofa just barely off the shoulder and in the right-of-way on the north-bound side of U.S. Highway 79 south of Pine Bluff, Arkansas has been sitting there now for more than a week. Wonder how the highway department people have missed it? It's not camouflaged.

red barn

See this barn and more in our Weekly Grist gallery

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

See more pictures from Prairie Road and our recent meanderings through the hinterlands in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

See an old store, another view of the big catalpa tree, a big woodpile and more.

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

Marks Family Reunion number 135


Entrance to Marks Cemetery area

You can tell when you see the first vestiges of Marks Cemetery that it's not going to be an average country last resting place.

Marks Cemetery in Cleveland County, Arkansas is worth the trip. If you are a history nut, put it on your bucket list. If you simply want to see something you won’t see anywhere else, it fills the bill. It’s kind of a park and kind of an outdoor museum carved out the southeast Arkansas boondocks.

pit barbeque

See the pork barbeque pit at Corndancer dot-com

If you can wangle an invitation, the best time to visit the site is for a few hours on the first Sunday morning in June when the Marks descendants gather for their annual family reunion an event dating back to 1877. More than one of these family members can regale you with historic tidbits, which others will corroborate with a reasonable degree of accuracy. You will also eat well. Very well. Speaking of eating, before we go too much further, may I direct you the start of this story on the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com. We’ll wait here until you return.

Salt Branch memorial

As you enter the cemetery grounds you run up on this historical marker at Salt Branch, a lazy little stream which meanders around the grounds. The marker bears a quote from the Cleveland County Herald, in a story on the Battle of Marks Mill: "So many horses and soldiers were killed that Salt Branch ran red with blood." In the battle Confederate forces ambushed a Union Supply train and captured more than 1,000 prisoners.

Most of the acreage around the well-tended cemetery is unique. It was smack-dab in the middle of the legendary battleground of the Battle of Marks Mill site during the War Between the States. The Marks family had called the area home for 28 years when the battle took place on April 25, 1862.

By the 1950s, the family cemetery had gone the way of many other rural places of final rest after family members moved “to town” or out of the state. It showed evidence of overgrowth and neglect. Some family members imbued with a good case of well placed righteous indignation decided enough was enough and got the group organized to clean it up and maintain that status.

See more reunion and ground pictures in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

horse drawn tobacco planter

This is a horse-drawn tobacco planter. The plaque reads, "Purchased in Nashville, Tenessee. Used in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Brought to AR by Knowlton Broach to plant sweet potato slips. Edgar Colvin 4-2002."

Along the way, some brilliant Marks descendant minds decided that since this place was of historic value, why not sprinkle the landscape with historic artifacts, memorials, and informational plaques. Once the idea took wings, it engaged a ratchet and placement of historic accoutrements and thingamajigs continues. The latest entries are a couple of unknown soldier monuments standing side-by-side on the entrance road to the cemetery placed in September 2010 by Edgar and Sue Colvin (she’s a Marks, he married in). Appropriately, one monument memorializes Confederate Soldiers and the other reverently remembers Union Soldiers. Nobody is taking sides now, just respecting history.

horse drawn stalk cutter

This old horse drawn stalk cutter is near the cemetery entrance. The blade and mechanical setup is similar to a reel type lawnmower.

You won’t find a lot of Civil War cannons and other war left-overs at the site, but you will find a treasure trove of  old horse-drawn farm implements including, a row-crop planter, a couple of mowers, a hay rake, a bulbous tobacco planter, and a bunch more. You’ll also see an old railroad switch doo-dad with a nearby short section of track festooned with a cattle guard that looks like a medieval torture device.

See more reunion and ground pictures in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

Young whitetail deer buck

This young buck gives me a curious look. I had just completed shooting a huge Catalpa tree which will see in a future post, when I looked up and saw him. By the time I grabbed the camera with the long lens, he was long gone. The location was Prairie Road in Cleveland County, Arkansas.

Though the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, all of the improvements, artifacts, additions, maintenance and use of the land are placed, privately funded and supported by like minded individuals who believe there is great value to the site. The gallons of sweat equity that have and continue to fuel this hallowed place are astronomical. It’s a testimonial to a family that places a premium on being who they are and knowing where they came from.

flag in woods

Click the flag for more reunion pictures

See more pictures in our Weekly Grist gallery.  More reunion. More grounds. 28 high resolution pictures in all.

We shot more reunion pictures than we had room for in this article, so we’ve put all of the keeper pictures, with captions, in our weekly on-line gallery.

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

The Crain Loop calamities


Old yellow house on Crain Loop Road in Cleveland County, Arkanas

A collapsed storage building in the front yard of this home is a harbinger of things to come. This one has been abandoned for a while. The particle board on the left window is already grayed.

Old house on Crain Loop in Cleveland County Arkansas

Click for more Crain Loop pictures

Crain Loop in Cleveland County, Arkansas is a pristine country road. You can almost hear the music. Gentle curves and an idyllic environment make the drive worth the trip regardless of the season.

Along the way, we encountered four old homes in stages of disrepair from nearly at the point of no return to near collapse. Before we continue, check out the beginning of this story on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. Click here to go there. We’ll wait here while you peruse that content.

The old home in the top picture shows signs that someone still has a sentimental attachment and cares about the old place. The grass has been cut and there is no litter or trash in the yard. The other three former homes we found on Crain Loop do not enjoy a fan club like this one does.

Tar paper cabin

A structure like this is frequently the butt of the colloquial moniker, "tar-paper shack." There is a ladder barely visible next to the tree. It provides access to a platform wedged between the lower branches of the tree.

The next of four abandoned home places, an old tar-paper covered structure was where I encountered the only other human being on the shoot. As I was banging around on the truck while loading my ladder this individual appeared out of the woods with a curious look on his face. I came forth with “Howdy,” the most disarming rejoinder that immediately came to mind. He returned the gesture and said my noise peaked his curiosity. During deer season, I normally like to make lots of non-deer noise. We mutually explained each others presence. He said he was camping with his son and I told him I was photographing the house. I know the truth and veracity of my end of the conversation and I presume his was as well. But I don’t know for sure.

old crumbling house on Crain Road in Cleveland County Arkansas

This is the back of this house. The underbrush was thick around the front. You can catch a glimpse of Crain Loop through the doors.

From the number of jettisoned glass containers in the trash pile behind the crumbling house above, the place may have briefly enjoyed the lofty status of  “deer club” after it ceased to be a family residence. If not, the last residents had a terrible thirst.

I suppose there are more pleasant pursuits than puttering around old houses. The redeeming value, one would presume, of such structure stalking is that we gain or increase appreciation for what we have. Or did not formerly have. Or formerly had and no longer do.

 

Old house on Crain Loop

Click for the Weekly Grist Gallery

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Every week, we publish our Weekly Grist Gallery with larger pictures of all of our weekly “keepers,” some of which are not published in Corndancer or Weekly Grist. If you missed the other two links to the gallery, it’s not too late: Click here.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

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



The Eternal Question for Arkies in 2009


“How high’s the water mama?”

Johnny Cash birthplace sign at Kingsland AR

Not far from the birthplace of legendary singer Johnny Cash is this sign with its feet in water. The sign, on US Highway 79 just north of Kingsland, Arkansas, normally high and dry, is being encroached upon by waters from the swollen Saline River, less than a mile north.

The symbolism of the sign with its feet in the water, in 2009,  is all too familiar to Arkansans. No one alive can remember a rainier year. All of which prompts one to hum “How high’s the water mama?” without too much provocation. I had the pleasure of watching the man in black perform that tune at Rison, Arkansas, a short ride up the road, in the seventies. I had no idea then that the tune would take on new meaning in this neck of the woods. Some local bards, tongues firmly ensconced in their cheeks, are musing, ” … makes Noah’s flood look like a mornin’ dew,” along with similar, but more colorful observations which I will eschew. Something about a boot.

Rodgers barn

See it at Corndancer dot com

This story started in Cleveland County, but water was not the subject. A really cool old barn was. I could not help but notice the water while going after the barn.

Click here to take a barn-break on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot Com, a very cool thing to do.  We’ll be waiting here for you when you get back.

We nearly made it through the year without a moisture laden seven-fold amen to the aquatic symphony which has been 2009, but the two days before Christmas were soakers for most of the state.  Reports of six to 10 inches for the two days were not uncommon. As a result, the Saline has been a river on steroids.

Construction equipment under water

On Christmas day, this equipment, parked at the foot of the US Highway 79 bridge over the Saline was high and dry. Yesterday, Dec. 26, the truck and ‘dozer were still high and dry with a few inches of water over the tracks of the back hoe. This morning, Dec. 27, it was a different story. Blub, blub.

Bridges and other man-made structures are good standards by which Mother Nature’s machinations can be measured. In less than 24 hours December 26 and 27, Saline grew several feet. The signs and the bridge below are prima facie evidence of a misbehaving river.

Sign at Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Saline River access point

This sign is on the east side of the south end of the US 79 bridge over the Saline River between Rison and Kingsland, Arkansas. The left picture was shot at about 4:30 p.m., December 26, 2009. The right picture was shot about 11:30 a.m., December 27, 2009. The water color is the same, the direction of light is different, hence the different appearance.

POOL ACCESS

I was recently made aware of the origins of the name of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission access point, “POOL ACCESS.” It was explained to me by my good friend, Dick Warriner. The Saline, for the most part is not a deep or wide river. Under normal circumstances it is a docile stream and at least at one time, was legendary as a fishing resource. It may still be, but you could not prove it by me.

The river widens and deepens somewhat at POOL, just down river from the bridge, hence the name. There is also a bluff at POOL  which was also the site of the “old bridge,” and more importantly to Dick, a favorite swimming hole frequented by his family during his childhood. Dick’s grandfather, Grover Roberts, a resident of nearby Herbine, built a retractable tire swing there which was well used by his progeny and I’m certain by other youngsters in the area. Thanks for the info Dick.

Saline River Bridge

The US 79 bridge over troubling Saline River waters between Rison and Kingsland, Arkansas

Parting Shot

While crawling over the bridge on the west side, south end, on top of the abutment, I found a pile of nuts and bolts. These were certainly not placed here by four legged critters or birds, or one would certainly think so. And, there have been no plausible rumors of cults the members of which have a thing for galvanized nuts and bolts. Since this is not a pedestrian bridge, and few besides myself have probably ever noticed the hardware collection, the local curiosity coefficient is low, so an explanation is yet to be revealed.  Why pray tell, is there a pile of nuts and bolts on the abutment?

Nuts and bolts

This is nutty. But the nuts and bolts are the same as hold the bridge railings together.

Thanks for dropping by and Happy New Year!!!

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html