Winter is circling the drain


Click on the red barn for our original "Baring it all" post.

Click on the red barn for our original “Baring it all in the winter” post.

Jonquils are blooming, the yellow peril from millions of horny oak trees is beginning to present itself for inhalation, and to top that, the TV weather-woman just reminded me that when we wake up Wednesday morning, we will be in the first day of Spring 2013.

All that said, it I am going to get on the stump for seeing Mother Nature’s wonders in winter months, I have to hustle. To illustrate my point I am sending you back to January 2011 when I addressed this issue with a post appropriately entitled: Baring it all in the winter. The weather was a mite airish and the landscape was unadorned by green.

Old barn in winter

Click the little barn to see the big barn

As is usual, with these photo-articles, you get two versions, one here and one on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com, where you will see another winter barn.  This is a result of a plot between me and Ebenezer Bowles, grand-master, big kahuna, and keeper of the candles at Corndancer dot-com.

We want to make sure you get plenty of exercise with your mouse and simultaneously enrich your web-surfing experience. So we figured since the mayor of New York can act in your benefit by telling you how big your sody-water can be, we can benefit you with this additional mind exercise and eye-hand coordination work outs. That’s what friends are for. ??

Thanks,
Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.

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

A tale of two bridges, twice told


Bridges over white river at DeValls Bluff AR

Click on the bridges for the original Weekly Grist post.

I am sending you back in time to September, 2009  when I visited DeValls Bluff, Arkansas, where you can see something you can’t see anywhere else.

The town is renowned for barbeque at Craigs, just down the street from the Family Pie Shop. Famous may be an understatement for these two establishments, legendary might be more accurate.

bridges at DeValls Bluff AR

Click on the bridge for our original Corndancer story

However, I was not in DeValls Bluff to eat. I was there to shoot their bridges over the White River. The newer one takes U.S. Highway 70 over the river and rises high to accommodate barge traffic. It’s neighbor, not much more than a good rock throw away, is an out-of-service railroad bridge. The two together are quite a sight to see, so I am sending you back there this week. Click to see our original Tale of Two Bridges post.

Since the majority of my fellow Arkansans and the rest of the world are not frequent visitors to DeValls Bluff, I considered it my duty to rectify this cultural deprivation with pictures and a story. If you do happen to go to DeValls Bluff, go there hungry.

Be sure and check out our original Corndancer dot-com Photo of the Week story for more info and pictures.

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

Change of plans, hello Yancopin Bridge


The Arkansas River Bridge at Yancopin, Arkansas

The Arkansas River Bridge at Yancopin, Arkansas. The water is very low now. You can see the waterlines on the supports. You can also see the rip-rap I had to descend to capture this image. If you happen to slip, there is no soft spot for your landing. Fortunately I remained upright.

Given that plans are made for changing, I found the bridge at Yancopin you see above. Through a convoluted set of circumstances, I wound up in Bonnie’s Cafe at Watson, Arkansas to look at a painting of a building I was planning to shoot . . . because of a change in plans. While I was perusing the painting, the proprietress pointed out a poster, the subject of which is the bridge above. My plans were about to change again.

Yancopin bridge

Click on the bridge for more pix and info.

Prior to digging into the change of plans, may I suggest that if you did not arrive at this site from the Corndancer dot com photo of the Week page that you afford yourself the opportunity to change your plans and temporarily detour to that page where this story started. You will see additional bridge pictures and learn a bit about the area and not-so-usual name. Click here to go there.

Bonnie's Cafe, Watson, Arkansas

It was in Bonnie’s Cafe, that I stumbled across my knowledge of the bridge. This image was shot in October, 2008 on a Sunday when Bonnie’s was closed. Otherwise, there would be a plethora of pickups parked here. Bonnie’s cuisine is legendary and her fans are legion.

The prospect of shooting that bridge, which I discovered was not far,  was far more appealing than what was currently residing in the plans department. These sentiments precipitated my third successive change of plans for the day, and a good thing. In fact, there was far more to shoot than the time allotted. “I shall return.”

The bridge rotator control house

Nestled high in the superstructure of the bridge center span is the control house to rotate that bridge span to allow river traffic to pass. There is also a span with counterweights and towers which house what appears to be a lift span. One ordinarily does not see both mechanisms in one bridge. You have to climb metal stairs to reach the control house which has zero, count ‘em, zero, amenities for human comfort.

The bridge, now out of service was opened by the Missouri-Pacific Railroad in 1903 and stayed in continuous service until 1992. The bridge and 73 miles of railroad in the same section of were subsequently handed over to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism who are developing the Delta Heritage Trail Park in the property.

The Missouri-Pacific Delta Eagle

The Missouri-Pacific Delta Eagle regularly hauled passengers across the Yancopin Bridge starting in the late thirties. My good friend Jimmy Dale Peacock recalls riding on the Delta Eagle for the short hop to Snow Lake, Arkansas for a hunting trip in the fifties. You took the train to Snow Lake because the only roads available amounted to about a trip of more than 80 miles for a destination not far away. You had to detour around the vast White and Arkansas River bottoms, which are classic wetlands. Those conditions have not changed, except that now, there is  no rail service. (Archive photo, not shot by me).

I am told that painting the bridge was a never-ending  job. Two painters were assigned to the job permanently. Given weather conditions, to paint the entire bridge was probably measured in years, not months with two guys and two paint brushes doing the work.

Archive photo of Yancopin Bridge

The bridge was a popular spot for sight-seers. Here a family poses under the west end of the bridge. Note the height of the water in what appears to be cold weather. From the looks of the women’s clothing styles, the picture is probably from the twenties. (Archive Photo).

As many of you know, the Arkansas River is part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System which provides navigable waters for commercial river traffic from the Mississippi River northwest to the Port of Catoosa, near Tusla, Oklahoma. Just about three miles north of Yancopin Bridge, the navigation system, turns east and makes its way into the White River which empties into the Mississippi somewhat north of where the Arkansas empties into the big river.  This section of the river is legendary for producing lunker bass for sports anglers. It also supports commercial fishermen who ply the waters for buffalo, carp, and catfish. It is wild, wooly, and a great place to observe the rich natural heritage of Delta wetlands.

Old river structural remains

Just up river from the bridge are these remains from a previous river construction project. The jagged man-made patterns stand in stark contrast to the serene and well organized lines by Mother Nature. It is a designer’s dream.

Yancopin Bridge towers

Click on the bridge to see more pictues of it.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE of YANCOPIN BRIDGE

Every week we shoot more than we can post on Corndancer Photo of  the Week and Weekly Grist, so we post every thing on the two sites PLUS all of the “keepers” we did not post. This week, we have 20 new pictures in our all-photo gallery including more bridge shots and a couple of shots of the old McKennon Gin in Watson, Arkansas. Click here to see these pictures. You won’t see them anywhere else.

For bridge aficionados

Here are some other bridge posts:

A tale of two bridges, A tale of two bridges IITwo old Saline river bridges, and The bridge that nearly wasn’t.

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

Margaret, Maggie, John and some mules


Margaret Phillips holding down the fort in her store, L.M. Phillips General Merchandise in Fountain Hill, Arkansas.

Margaret Phillips in her store, L.M. Phillips General Merchandise in Fountain Hill, Arkansas.

Margaret Phillips of Fountain Hill, Arkansas is the proprietress of L. M. Phillips General Merchandise, a store founded by her late husband and brother-in-law in 1925 in Fountain Hill. Maggie, a precocious Border Collie (a given), is Margaret’s keeper. This story started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. To see more pictures and get in on the start of the story, click here, a very cool thing to do.

Maggie

Click on Maggie for more pix of her and Margaret — and a great story.

When I first set foot in Maggie’s territory she gave me a welcome like I was Attila the Hun with my band of merry barbarians in trail. Fortunately, Maggie and I set a new indoor record settling our differences and I was able to converse with Margaret Phillips and her assistant, Denise Musgrove.

Equally fortuitous, for both of us, Maggie discovered that I was a willing scratchor and pettor and she already knew she was a willing scratchee and petee.

store

L. M. Phillips General Merchandise occupies the former premises of the Bank of Fountain Hill which, like a lot of small banks of its era, gasped its last breath in 1933.

old safe

The old bank safe is still in place at L. M. Phillips. A great place to hang a calendar.

Occupying a former bank premises, the store is typical of a lot of country stores, with the exception fresh foods. What they miss on that, they more than make up for with a variety of hardware, plumbing supplies, and other stuff they’ve discovered folks want. It is said that marketing is: “finding out what folks want, and giving them more of it … and finding out what folks don’t want, and giving them less of it.” Apparently the Phillips store is working that theory better than most.

The store was doing a brisk business on the Saturday afternoon of my visit. The prevailing mentality of customers I observed was one of not merely a trip to “the store,” but  the manifestations of one visiting with a cherished friend. Now ain’t that something in this day and time of fast food and the cattle-herding mentality demonstrated by far too many retailers. Maybe that’s why they’re still in business while others are long gone.

My business concluded in Fountain Hill, I sallied forth on the long way back home, hoping for at least one more photo opportunity. My search did not take long to become fruitful. Near the Prairie Grove community northeast of Fountain Hill I encountered John Cruce, driving two mules and a wagon.

John Cruce, his wagon and team pull up for a visit in the side yard of the Prairie Grove Community Center, northeast of Fountain Hill, Arkansas.

John Cruce, his wagon and team pull up for a visit in the side yard of the Prairie Grove Community Center, northeast of Fountain Hill, Arkansas.

For his day job, John Cruce is the proprietor of a prosperous saw-mill business. For fun, John has nine mules and keeps them because that’s what he wants to do so. The nearby city of Crossett puts on a fine PRCA rodeo the first week of August. John will drive his team and wagon from the Prairie Grove Community to Crossett and participate in the parade and a performance of the rodeo and return home.

John Cruce fixes a twisted bridle, which made for a nervous mule.

John Cruce fixes a twisted bridle, which made for a nervous mule.

The trip to Crossett by vehicle takes 45-minutes to an hour or so depending on the lead in your foot. In a mule drawn wagon, it’s a three-day trip. John loads his wagon with feed for the team and heads out. They overnight at several friend’s deer camps between Prairie Grove and Crossett.

The east view of a west bound mule team. Riding shotgun in a mule wagon.

The east view of a west bound mule team. Riding shotgun in a mule wagon.

While I was visiting with John, the white mule began to act a bit nervous. John didn’t seem to be deeply concerned, but we both agreed that she might be a bit more at ease if I was in the wagon instead of standing beside it. In the process, John noticed that her bridle was twisted. He fixed that and the problem was solved. In the meantime, I had the opportunity to see how it was to ride shotgun on a mule drawn wagon. There’s a first time for everything.

Earlier in the day, I saw Drew Presbyterian Church, just north of the Drew-Lincoln County line. At the time, the sun was not in the right place for a decent shot. The good news is the front of the church faces due west, so the sun angle was predictable later on.

Drew Presbyterian Church, US Hwy 425, north of Monticello, Arkansas.

Drew Presbyterian Church, US Hwy 425, north of Monticello, Arkansas. The church was organized in 1859. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The timing was right. My seven-fold amen for the day was at the church about 1730 (Mickey’s little hand is on the five and his big hand is on the six) or there about. The start of the golden hour this time of year. Actually in July, the golden hour lasts about three hours or so depending on what’s in or out of a shadow. Ain’t life grand!

Thanks for dropping by,
Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

The best of times for BLT lovers


These tiny yellow blossoms are the beginnings of a plump, juicy home grown tomatoes. They will make a BLT you won't believe.

These tiny yellow blossoms are the beginnings of plump, juicy home grown tomatoes. They will make a BLT you won't believe. These are back-yard blooms.

After a tortuous winter of choking down mushy,  flat-tasting red blobs erroneously identified as tomatoes, the advent of Arkansas home-grown tomatoes is a time to celebrate. Even then, the four month wait from tiny tomato bloom to a big bad bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich  is an agonizingly long wait, testing the patience of  determined BLT lovers. This glory story for tomato aficionados started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. See those pictures and grab some tomato lore by clicking here, a very cool thing to do.

Progress in the back yard. Blooms and big brothers (sisters?) Someone set me straight.

Progress in the back yard. Blooms and big brothers (sisters?) Someone set me straight.

While the backyard plants you see above are puttering along, there are some serious tomatoes nearing market readiness near Hermitage, Arkansas, the tomato epi-center of Bradley County, Arkansas, legendary for the tasty tomatoes grown within its borders. The field you see below belongs to Randy Clanton of Hermitage, a second generation tomato farmer who knows his stuff.

One of Randy Clanton's tomato fields near Hermitage, Arkansas. Randy, a second-generation tomato farmer is reknowned for producing tomatoes that tast good.

One of Randy Clanton's tomato fields near Hermitage, Arkansas. Randy, a second-generation tomato farmer is renowned for producing tomatoes that taste good.

Although not visible until you move some leaves around, Randy Clanton’s robust plants you see above are full of tomatoes about three weeks away from harvest. Take a glimpse at the camouflaged tomatoes here.

Tomato onslaught

For several weeks, these plants go crazy churning out their red globes of gastronomical delight. Harvesting at just the right time is a daily routine. While blooms and babies are maturing at the top of the plant, ripe fruit is ready to pick at the bottoms, a picture of natural efficiency. Legions of salivating fans anxiously await their arrival in produce sections around the nation.

Early tomato farming experiences

Randy Clanton recalls a time when his father cultivated his tomato crop with a mule, fed on corn grown in the elder Clanton’s fields. “He told me  on some of the first tomatoes he grew,  he borrowed $200 at the bank for three acres of tomatoes. By the time he was able to start picking and selling his crop, he still had $40 of his loan left, unexpended.” Randy’s friend, Bradley county businessman Kenneth Farrell, a former tomato farmer, revealed his first experience at tomato farming. “The year I finished high school, I had an acre and a quarter of tomatoes I raised. I had $125  in the crop. It was 1958 which was a ‘high’ year for tomato prices. After all my expenses, I was able to go to the Ford place and buy the best car they  had.”

Times have changed

Randy and Kenneth agreed that the price of tomatoes has not grown proportionally with what it takes to produce them. However, on Randy’s farm, it is easy to see that good farming practices and due diligence are the key, a good thing for us on the BLT end of this process.

What’s that large yellow orb in the sky?

lot

Liquid lingers in south Arkansas. My thanks to Pat Patterson for the shot of me in my truck. Pat's wife, Darlene was riding with me. At this point, she was not trembling with fear and trepidation, but those conditions were not far off.

For the first time in what feels like months, there is no rain predicted in these environs for the next seven days. Nevertheless, the remnants of thunderstorms past linger in our neighborhoods. I joined my friends William L. “Pat” Patterson and his lovely spousal unit, Darlene in visiting our mutual friends, Jack and Linda Newbury in their home at Felthensal AR. Felthensal has been described by some as a small drinking community with a fishing problem. There may be some credence to this rumor. The community sits on the banks of the Felthensal pool formed by the Felthensal Lock and Dam on the Ouachita River in south Arkansas. The local waters are a fine fishing resource. In winter months, hunters descend on the community in droves. We took a swing around the area, looking at still flooded parking lots among other things.

Boys will still be boys. Reckon any girls ever do this? Hmmm.

Boys will still be boys. Reckon any girls ever do this? Hmmm.

Later on in the day, I found our next sign. This time as a two sided target. One side’s pelting is punctuated by exit wounds.

Thanks for dropping by,
Joe

Buttercup attack


The old truck while seemingly under attack by yellow flowers is in good company. The picture is a study in contasts. Something on it's last legs is surrounded by new growth and renewal.

The old truck while seemingly under attack by yellow flowers, is in good company. The picture is a study in contrasts. Something on its last legs is surrounded by new growth and renewal. A reminder from Mother Nature.

The old Ford in Cornerville AR (Lincoln County),  appears to be under attack by a yellow horde of buttercups. In southeast Arkansas, such attacks are common this time of  year. The trip to find this old Ford started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to see the giant killer buttercup and a garden under buttercup attack.

This old chicken house near Rowell AR on US Highway 63 appears to be floating on a sea of buttercups. The area around Rowell seems to have more that its share of buttercups this year. It's hard to imagine having too many flowers nearby.

This old chicken house near Rowell AR on US Highway 63 appears to be floating on a sea of buttercups. The area around Rowell seems to have more that its share of buttercups this year. It's hard to imagine having too many flowers nearby.

A single buttercup plant, by itself, is a dinky little pipsqueak. It’s skinny and has an almost thread-like stalk. These plants are smart. You rarely not see just one. It’s more like one million, so to speak. Seeing two or three acres of buttercups in one wad is not unsual.

The building above is an old “broiler house” as it was originally called, now they are simply called what they are, “chicken house.” This chicken house, like many in the area is no longer in use and now serves as a storage building. The houses are used to grow out chicks to market size. You may have munched on a drumstick which originated here.

Okay, it's a rare occasion. One misplaced buttercup is surrounded by purple clover blooms.

Okay, it's a rare occasion. One misplaced buttercup is surrounded by purple clover blooms.

The buttercup above probably feels like a hamburger salesman at a vegetarian’s convention — or vice versa. The red clover surrounding the buttercup was planted by the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. During this season, it is hard to drive anywhere and not see the purple blooms.

The buttercups, on the other hand, are on their own and doing well. It is said by many that plants have survival instincts. If that is so, the buttercups are well programmed.

From the looks of things, the sign was hit with at least one load of number six shot. Some good ol' boy probably did not get the squirrels he was after and decided to alter the sign. Boys will still be boys.

From the looks of things, the sign was hit with at least one load of number six shot. Some good ol' boy probably did not get the squirrels he was after and decided to vent his frustration on the sign. Boys will still be boys.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe

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