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

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There goes the neighborhood


There goes the neighborhood

Not surprisingly, this is the worst house in the neighborhood.

The neighborhood consists of two houses. The other one is in somewhat better condition than this one, but not much. Someone at some time picked up and left, and never came back. We wonder why, but probably not loose any sleep over it. The old house and its neighbor can be found on County Road 49 in Lincoln County, Arkansas, not far from Yorktown. A lot of folks gladly tell you they are from Yorktown, which consists of a barbeque cafe, a gin and a bridge over Bayou Bartholomew. At 375 miles in serpentine length, Bayou Bartholomew is the longest bayou on the planet. I have never figured out exactly where Yorktown stops and starts, but it looms large as a community.

The site is marked by a large “home-place tree,” which is destined to far outlast the crumbling homes. See the other house and the tree on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com, a very cool thing to do. Click here to go there. We’ll be right here waiting when you get back.

collapsing house

Alas front porch, I knew ye well. Get a good look. The house is nearly history.

The retreat from this tar-paper sided house may have been hasty. At the bottom of the back opening is a cardboard box full of washed and capped jars, some of which are mason jars. Anyone who went to that trouble would probably have taken the box along as the departure unfolded. Perhaps they were one step in front of someone who did not have their best interests at heart. In that case, leaving the jars and the box springs may have been OK.

Good news, bad news

The good news is, it’s late April and early May in Arkansas. The bad news is, it’s late April and early May in Arkansas. Opposing forces of nature give rise to these observations. After a winter that finally departed, kicking, clawing and objecting as it bade farewell, a magnificent spring made its grand entry. Replete with blooms, bees, buds, and temperate days. the season, despite a more intense than normal pollen assault wasn’t all that shabby. There was enough rain to make nice waterfalls and most of it eschewed the weekend to make its arrival. As of about ten days ago, that honeymoon with spring was over. It’s thunderstorm and tornado time in the neighborhood.

As I pursued this Saturday afternoon trip, the weather worsened, mainly north of where I was at the time. As a result, the cloud formations were dramatic, not a bad thing for a photographer.

storm over fields

The storm is gathering over this field just west of Grady, Arkansas.

As I traipsed along, I turned on the radio for a tune or two, and lo and behold, the music was replaced by a TV meteorologist informing this part of the world that southwest Pine Bluff, Arkansas was precariously close to being struck by a tornado. Since that’s where I live, I pointed the truck north and depressed the accelerator. And kept my ears glued to the radio.

storm and traffic light

You are looking in the general direction of my residence a few miles from here. This is the junction of US Highways 65 and 425, southeast of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

As I reached the outskirts of town, the news improved. The core of the storm had moved east and according to my spousal unit, the house was still standing and all occupants, one woman and a herd of animals, were alive, well and taking on nourishment. That being so, and the talking heads were broadcasting a blow by blow account of the storms progress, I decided to chase it.

Arkansas river bridge

The US Highway 79 bridge over the Arkansas River, north of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Turns out, the chase was futile and I terminated the pursuit on the outskirts of Altheimer, Arkansas and headed home on US Highway 79. Taking that route, gave me a consolation prize far better than a storm shot, of which there are probably millions. Since the Lord is continues to take care of fools and drunks, He saw fit to put me on this bridge, with no traffic in sight for miles under the conditions you see above. Not being one to argue with providence, the rest was up to me. The scene was there, and I recorded it. There’s something to be said for a higher power.

But wait, there’s more in our Weekly Grist Gallery!

Each week, we post high resolution versions of the Corndancer and Weekly Grist pictures. This week in color and black and white. These pictures are larger and at a better resolution. Click here to see these pictures in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

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 mighty 819: some repairs needed


Engine 819

Engine 819, restored in 1986 to original operating condition and put into service for special steam locomotive rail trips lies idle in the Arkansas Railroad Museum in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, after a partial dis-assembly for a Federal Railroad Administration inspection, it fell victim to rising metal prices and a shortage of funds to complete the necessary repairs.

In its heyday, the 819 pulled trains with the best of them. It is one of the last steam locomotives built for main line use and was absolutely the last steam locomotive built in the Cotton Belt St. Louis and Southwestern Railroad (more popularly known as the Cotton Belt), shops in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. To get a few more details about the life, times, and a picure of the restored 819, visit the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com, where this story started. Click here to go there. We’ll wait here.

High prices, dwindling experts

The 819, once proudly restored, fell victim to ballooning metal prices and a dwindling pool of knowledgeable volunteer labor. The restoration effort started in 1983 and was completed by 1986, led by current and retired employees of the Cotton Belt, many of whom worked in the steam locomotive area of the Pine Bluff shops.

engine 819 driver wheels

The driver wheels on the 819 are about shoulder high to my 6'-3" frame.You can probably see some faint chalk lines in a checkerboard pattern on the side of the boiler. These are to facilitate the ultrasound inspection. See the next picture below for details.

By 1993, when the engine was sidelined to undergo its mandated 15-year inspection, the number of steam-experienced volunteers had begun to shrink. At the same time, world metal prices went through the roof. To make matters worse, a short time thereafter, the Cotton Belt changed hands and some of the shop facilities which afforded help to the 819 volunteer corps were relocated or shut down. Not a good thing when you have a 212-ton steam locomotive lying around in parts.

Ultrasound test grid on engine 819 boiler

The chalk grid on the side of the 819 boiler are to facilitate the ultrasound test of the boiler plate. The ultrasound test is completed by the square foot. If an anomaly is detected in a given square foot, that square foot must be divided into square inches and retested to isolate the anomaly. None of the square feet on the 819 boiler required the square inch trick. Not to shabby for a 67-year old boiler. Disregard the appearance, the old girl is in good condition.

Members of the Cotton Belt Rail Historical Society, caretakers for the 819, tell me that as far as the inspection went, it went well and the old girl passed with flying colors. After the inspection was nearly complete, their ultrasound machine went on the fritz, so in addition to everything else, they are waiting on that repair to materialize.

Joe Btfsplk not welcome here

Despite some daunting odds, don’t look for long faces in Cotton Belt Rail Historical Society, They know what they are up against and know it is up to them to do something about it. That being so, they never stop looking for sources of help and support to get the 819 back where it belongs … pulling cars of happy people over the railroads of America.

But wait, there’s more!

See all of this week’s Weekly Grist and Corndancer pictures, plus a few not published, in glorious, high resolution color. The collection includes a couple of T-Model Ford shots and a freshly painted diesel locomotive seen at the Arkansas Railroad Museum. Click here to go there.

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

Rainy day solutions


What to do on a rainy day? Go out and see wet things, but first adjust your attitude. We covered a way to do that and we show you a couple of other rainy day pictures on Photo of the Week page at Corndancer  dot com. That’s where this whole thing started. Check it out here, a very cool thing to do.

Ud’n, ud’n!

Spray squirts from the truck as we hit the water covered gravel road at about 30 mph. Wow! Yippee! Ud'n, Ud'n!

Spray squirts from the truck as we hit the water covered gravel road at about 30 mph. Wow! Yippee! Ud'n, Ud'n!

Our trip took a turn down Lincoln County AR Road 2, a good gravel road. During a healthy rain, some of the road is covered by a few inches of water in places. If you have a pickup relatively impervious to water, a lead foot and a good attitude, you can make some spray about three times taller than the truck. I did it, grinning from ear to ear. You grow older, but you don’t have to grow up!

Someone’s ass is wet

This jenny (a mamma donkey) seems unfazed and could care less about being soaked.

This jenny (a mamma donkey) seems unfazed and could care less about being soaked. She may also think we're full of it for thinking that.

After the spray exercise, I came across a donkey, a jenny (the mamma kind). She was drenched. Thus, someone’s ass was all wet. She seemed to be taking being thoroughly soaked in stride. Some critters will head for shelter in a rain if it is available and some just don’t care. I like their attitude.

Ramshackled

If you blink, you'll miss this now well camouflaged former dwelling on Mabry Road in souther Jefferson County AR.
If you blink, you’ll miss this now well camouflaged former dwelling on Mabry Road in southern Jefferson County AR.

A bit further north on Mabry Road in Jefferson County AR, backed up to a cypress-lined bayou, is this old cabin and/or house. If conditions were the same when it was occupied as it is now, one could probably have fished off the back porch … or at least a few steps from it. The rain and wetness add some drama to the appearance and the greens are much greener.

Man your paint cans!

These rail cars were obviously in one place too long and the grafitti artists made good their spray-can attack. Being an old art director (among other things), I can see some takented handiwork here along with some applied forethought as to appearance.

These rail cars were obviously in one place too long and the graffiti artists made good their spray-can attack. Being an old art director (among other things), I can see some talented handiwork here along with some applied forethought as to appearance.

The reflections you see are in a “borrow pit” beside the railroad. The term comes from borrowing earth from the pit to build the road bet for the rail line. The common terminology has long since deteriorated to “bar pit.” I thought it was an epiphany the day I discovered what a “bar pit” really was.  For this image, the rain has stopped, but not before it filled the bar pit for these great reflective images, not available without, you guessed it, a rainy day.

Still yet, more sign perforations

One more in our continuing coverage of well ventilated stop signs in southern Arkansas. This one was smacked with a couple of big bore shots.

One more in our continuing coverage of well ventilated stop signs in southern Arkansas. This one was smacked with a couple of big bore shots.

Boys will still be boys. As the inimitable Flip Wilson would have said, ” … the devil made me do it.”

Thanks for dropping by for a dripping trip.
Joe Dempsey

Standing tall after 101 years


This really is a two-story 101 year-old barn, still standing tall. By way of explanation, this story started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. To see the tall version of the barn and get in on how the story started, click here, a cool thing to do. Trust me on this one.

The barn belongs to the wife of Herman Nutt, master of the domain and my tour guide. He is a good one. A friendly, well-spoken man, he is a retired millwright from a local paper mill. Those guys can fix or build just about anything. Herman told me about the barn and some of its contents. The 66 Ford Fairlane Station Wagon belonged to his late mother-in-law. They elected to hold on to the car and there it is.

You are looking at the livestock side of the barn, above. There were two "rooms." The door to the second "room" is just to the left of the car. The stairs to the second floor are also in that room. It is presumed that one side was for beasts of burdern, horses and mules. And the other side was for cattle.

You are looking at the livestock side of the barn, above. There were two "rooms." The door to the second "room" is just to the left of the car. The stairs to the second floor are also in that room. It is presumed that one side was for beasts of burden horses and mules. And the other side was for cattle.

This is the corn crib and storage side of the barn. It is floored to keep feed, leather tack and other supplies off the ground and as far away from hungry varmints as possible. The hole in the ground on this side attests to that this side still as some attraction to burrowing critters. Herman has, among other things, a hammer mill stored on this side.

This is the corn crib and storage side of the barn. It is floored to keep feed, leather tack and other supplies off the ground and as far away from hungry varmints as possible. The hole in the ground on this side tells us there is still some attraction to critters after 101 years. Herman has, among other things, a hammer mill stored on this side.

Herman’s syrup mill still stands close to the barn and his home. Although vines seem to have captured the mill, you can still barely see the two large rollers which squeeze the juice from sorghum cane. Once the juice was squeezed from the cane, it was cooked over an open fire in a baffled pan.

Herman’s syrup mill still stands close to the barn and his home. Although vines seem to have captured the mill, you can still barely see the two large rollers which squeeze the juice from sorghum cane.

Like many fully employed rural residents, Herman kept busy on his “place.” He raised corn and made meal with his hammer mill. You don’t really have to have a creek and a dam to have a grist mill. If you have a hammer mill and a tractor with a power takeoff, you are in business. Herman was also a syrup maker.

He made sorghum molasses and ribbon cane syrup the old fashioned way. Herman’s syrup mill still stands close to the barn and his home. Although vines seem to have captured the mill, you can still barely see the two large rollers which squeeze the juice from sorghum cane. Once the juice was squeezed from the cane, it was cooked over an open fire in a baffled pan.

The syrup mill to the left is typical. It has two large rollers which squeeze juice from the cane as it passed through the mill. Most of the mills were powered by a mule. Look closely the top of the mill and you will see a connector bar attached to a shaft which goes into the mill and is attached to the drive gears. A stripped sapling or other type of pole is attached to the connector bar and the other end is attached to a mule who walks around a circle to power the mill. Click here and here to see syrup mill simlar to this one. Click  Click here to find out more about syrup mills in general. Thanks Herman for steering us in this direction.

Meandering through the boondocks

Having gathered sufficient pixels to support a story, I headed east, back to my home in the Delta. On the way, I of course, took shortcuts, which in this neck of the woods normally mean gravel roads. That’s not all bad. Most of the gravel roads in Arkansas are pretty good and will support a healthy clip of travel. Plus you make some observations, not available to less adventurous souls.

Gravel roads and wooden bridges are old hat down here. To those in urban areas maybe not. So, take a gander at the wooden bridge on my shortcut.

Gravel roads and wooden bridges are old hat down here. To those in urban areas maybe not. So, take a gander at the wooden bridge on my shortcut.

And finally, a trip in the boondocks is not complete without observing a road sign, the countenance of which has been altered by gunfire. After all boys will be boys, and in our part of the country, there is no closed season on shooting signs. It just seems to be a tradition.

My friendly local firearms and gunfire expert tells me the smaller holes were punched with nicely placed 30-.06 rounds and the gash was imposed with a 12 guage shotgun, up close and personal.

My friendly local firearms and gunfire expert tells me the smaller holes were punched with nicely placed 30-.06 rounds and the gash was imposed with a 12 gauge shotgun, up close and personal. Boys will be boys.

Thanks for dropping by,
Joe

Squires and Spurlocks: Joined at the hip since 1901


Randy Spurlock and his mother, Dorothy smile as they show us the first Spurlocks Store in Squires, Missouri. The store was opened in 1901 by C.M. Spurlock, Randy's grandfather and Dorothy's father-ini-law.

Randy Spurlock and his mother, Dorothy, smile as they show us the first Spurlocks Store in Squires, Missouri. The store was opened in 1901 by C.M. Spurlock, Randy's grandfather and Dorothy's father-in-law. Randy is wearing his volunteer fireman beeper. More about that later.

Maybe it’s something in the water. Perhaps it’s the clean country air. Could be some fine genetic traits chasing each other in an endless loop. Or none of the above.  Whatever it is, it’s working. Squires, Missouri and Spurlocks Store continue to share success after beginning the partnership in 1901. Though the word “general” is not in the name of the store, Spurlocks is a general store in the truest sense of the word.

This story is a continuation of a rousing start on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer.com. To get in on the beginning and see some other pictures, click here.

A house on a hill cannot be hid (den?) Spurlocks commands the top the the hill at Country Road JJ and Highway 5. You simply cannot miss it.

A house on a hill cannot be hid (den?) Spurlocks commands the top the the hill at Country Road JJ and Highway 5 in southern Missouri. You simply cannot miss it. You don't want to miss it. Don't even think about not stopping.

The sprawling store’s shelves are stacked like cord wood with food, hardware, clothing, plumbing supplies and a plethora or other merchandise.  A neophyte to the store could probably spend a couple of hours browsing and still miss some of the good stuff.

Think about it though. The nearest larger town is Ava, population 3,000 plus, nine miles away. So if you are to serve your customers well, you have to bite the bullet and pile in the inventory. It’s apparent that the Spurlocks believe in the old adage, ” … you can’t sell off an empty wagon.”

Fred Spurlock, son of C.M. and father of Randy, assumed the mantle of leadership for the store after his service on the battlefields of Europe in World War II. Fred earned four Bronze Stars and a Silver Star as a scout. The scouts move ahead of the infantry, sniff out the bad guys and radio information back. Fred’s unit was in the thick of things in the Battle of the Bulge. No wonder they call those folks “The Greatest Generation.”

In the fifties, Fred Spurlock decided it was time for Squires to have an operational volunteer fire department, so he took the bit in his teeth and led the charge. He and a few others found a fire truck and made a deal. The deal fell through. Undaunted, Fred and friends found another truck. This time they were successful. As time went on, the community continued to support the volunteer fire department with donations, fundraisers and a lot of volunteer sweat. Because of this diligence and dedication, Squires has a fine community center and fire department building. The community center is dedicated to the memory of Fred Spurlock.

Old Glory snaps in a stiff breeze at the Squires Community Center. Residents of the community raised the money and built the center themselves, a concept too often forgotten in this day and time. (Old military guys remember the term "full value wind," this is it).

Old Glory snaps in a stiff breeze at the Squires Community Center. Residents of the community raised the money and built the center themselves, a concept too often forgotten in this day and time. Old military guys, take note. This is a "full-value" wind.

Squires has an official population of 35. The US Post Office, housed as it has been for the last 100 years or so in Spurlocks Store, serves about 250 give or take a few, in the community area. Every fourth of July, the population of Squires spikes. Around 3,000 or so hardy souls show up for the Squires Independence Day celebration. Many of these are repeat attenders.

This small cadre of good folks are showing the rest of of us “how it’s done.”

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe

PS: The coffee at Spurlocks Store is always hot and free.

Cypress and relocation


This cypress story got started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer.com. To see another cypress picture and discover these beginnings, click here. Well, in fact, most of this story is there.

These trees showing their massive bases are just inches of water. The normal waterline about 3/4 up the visible trunk from the current water level.

These Lake Enterprise trees showing their massive bases are standing in just inches of water. The normal waterline, barely visible, is  near the top of the picture. Waterlines at the bottom of the trunks show that low water is nothing new to these trees.

Cypress trees are ornery critters. For the most part, (unless the lake goes dry), their feet are never dry and they thrive in non-hospitable environments. That being said, to some of us, they are a thing of beauty.  All of these trees are in Enterprise Lake at Wilmot AR. Wilmot is just a few miles north of the Arkansas-Louisiana state line.

Not far from a lakeside residence, this view gives you an idea of the width of the lake. It is long and skinny. Cypress trees line the shores. In certain parts of the lake, such as what is seen in our Corndancer article, are thickly concenterated.

Not far from a lakeside residence, this view gives you an idea of the width of the lake. It is long and skinny. Cypress trees line the shores. In certain parts of the lake, such as what is seen in our Corndancer article, the trees are are thickly concentrated.

Lake Enterprise is a backward question-mark shaped oxbow lake, a remnant of eons of geological shifts. There are a lot of similar lakes in this part of the country, but none quite as well populated with cypress as this one.

These trees are in just a few inches of water.

These trees are in just a few inches of water. Evidence of previous low water conditions is clearly evident with the pronounced waterlines. Cypress trees have a knack for survival.

What the ??????

A few miles north of Wilmot you see a smoke stack, jutting like an asparagas spear from a plowed field. It is what's left of the Jerome Relocation Center.

A few miles north of Wilmot and Lake Enterprise  you cannot miss a smoke stack, jutting like an asparagus spear from a plowed field. You can see it for miles. It is what’s left of the Jerome Relocation Center.

The Jerome Relocation Center was a camp where 16,000 Japanese Americans (most were US Citizens) were incarcerated from October 1942 until June 1944. Named for the now virtually depleted town of Jerome, Arkansas, the relocation center was established as a result of executive order 9066, signed in February 1942 by then President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

As a result of that order more than 120,000 persons of Japanese descent were relocated from the west coast and Hawaii to similar camps. There was another relocation camp in Arkansas 27 miles north at Rowher. There is a memorial to Japanese American WWII veterans and a cemetery holding the remains of internees who died while residents of that camp.

In the mid-70s, I had the privilege of meeting a man about my age who had spent part of his childhood in the Rowher Camp. He was in the nearby town of McGehee AR helping make arrangements for a memorial service to be held at the Rowher site. Also in the 70s, I talked to several residents of the Rowher area who were adults at the time. They told me that, for the most part, local residents sympathized with the internees. The internees also gave a good accounting of themselves and were polite, responsible people.

A quarter mile or so north of the smoke stack, is a memorial to the Jerome Relocation Camp internees. Being in the Delta, in a farm area, no space is wasted. An irrigation pump sits close by. In the background, you can see a cropduster winging his way home.

A quarter mile or so north of the smoke stack, is a memorial to the Jerome Relocation Camp internees. Being in the Delta, in a farm area, no space is wasted. An irrigation pump sits close by. In the background, you can see a crop duster winging his way home.

I talked to a woman whose family operated a store adjacent to the Rowher Camp. She was very complimentary of the internees and admired their ability to create outstanding vegetable gardens, a skill universally admired here in the south. She also said that after the initial settlement, some of the internees could come and go as they pleased and became customers of her store. She fondly remembered some individuals by name.

Down the road at Wilmot, the trees were there all the time, not paying attention to the personal dramas unfolding to the north. While we humans scurry about learning from our mistakes, the trees await our visit. If we never see them they, the ornery cypress,  don’t care. If we do happen to set foot on their turf, their quiet dignity and infinite resilience give us pause to marvel at inexplicable wonders.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe

More Jerome Relocation Center links: Click here and/or here