Bizarre and bizarrer

Elvis on Dickey Tree Services fire truck

Elvis on Dickey Tree Services fire truck in Portia AR.

Never before in the annals of mankind has the phrase, “you can’t miss it,” been more appropriate than when applied to the Dickey Tree Services fire truck parked on U.S. Highway 63  in Portia AR. One simply does not expect to see a life sized “Elvis,” holding forth (in silence) from atop the cab of a retired fire truck turned tree services truck. Not in your wildest tequila induced dreams. But when you wheel into Portia AR, population 483, there it is. You are not dreaming. It is for real.

40 chevy in wall

See more bizarre goings on at Corndancer dot-com.

Before we go much further with this Bizarre and Bizarrer treatise, may I suggest that you go to the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot com and get in on the first part of this bizarre story.

You will see what appears to be an old Chevy attempting to open a new drive in at a salvage yard and you will begin to understand the high value of “bizarre” in our society. The business has taken a unique decorative track to grab the attention of passers-by.

Dickey Tree Services fire truck

Dickey Tree Services fire truck complete with "The King." Notice the small "Elvis" perched on top of the ladder.

The fire truck and Elvis are the handy work of Ed Dickey, proprietor of Dickey Tree Services. Ed Dickey and his crew are, until I hear a better term, “internists for trees.” Rather than hacking limbs off, Dickey and crew apply tree “medications” to cure afflicted trees, a noble undertaking. Since Dickey’s patients cannot come to the office and some are several stories tall, the retired hook and ladder truck makes good sense. With regards to Elvis, Emerson said it best, “Hitch your wagon to a star.”

Dickey Tree Services trailer and fire truck

Dickey Tree Services trailer and fire truck

Rain, rain, go away!

On another matter, down here in LA (lower Arkansas), we are making a supplication to turn the spigot off for a while. We understand that April showers bring May flowers. And we like how a nice rain populates waterfalls. But enough is is enough. Moderation in all things please. Amen

Rain on windshield

Rain on windshield at Taylor's Auto Salvage. Enough already!

Back in the seventies, the Carpenters, featuring the idyllic voice of Karen Carpenter, created “Rainy Days,” now considered a classic comment on a day like to today, a rainy Monday.


old salvage yard building

See more pictures in our Weekly Grist Gallery

See more fire trucks and pictures from Taylor’s Auto Salvage, our bizarre and bizarrer stories of the week, in our Weekly Grist Gallery.  Who’s more bizarre, who knows, that’s up to you. If you decide, you can let the world know with a comment below.

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Peas attend this festival

National Rotary Tiller Championship Race

This woman is competing in the 2010 World Champion Rotary Tiller Race as part of the 2010 Purple Hull Pea Festival in Emerson, Arkansas. The custom tiller is powered by a Honda motorcycle engine. The tiller was built specifically for action in this competition.

In their own web site, the people of Emerson, Arkansas call their festival, “The Purple Hull Pea Festival and World Championship Rotary Tiller Race, “ … quirky … and … fun.” From this observation post, they are truthful on both accounts. The longevity of the award-winning festival, the idea of which was hatched in 1990, seems to underscore the accuracy of their description of the event. The crowds just keep on coming. In your wildest dreams, you do not expect to hear of such an event.

To learn how the festival came to be and to see more festival pictures,  take a short trip to the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com and get in on the start of the story. We’ll wait for you here.

Tiller racer at National Rotary Tiller Race Championship

Festival activities heat up on Saturday at the rotary tiller races. The goats grazing in the background are not disturbed. They have seen it before and it does not disturb a good meal. Yes, there were guys racing tillers too. These pictures just happened to fit the page. See the gallery link below for more tiller race, parade and other event pictures not shown here.

The two day festival is a Friday-Saturday affair. Down south, you go to church on Sunday. In true home-town fashion, the festival, for the most part, fills the Emerson School grounds. It spills over into some adjacent residential neighborhoods, but in Emerson, that’s no big deal and not a problem. The schedule on Friday includes a Pea Lunch, cake auction, gospel entertainment, the start of the festival basketball tournament and a bunch more. The action really really heats up on Saturday morning with the tiller races.

Miss Purple Hull 2010

Catie Cunningham, Miss Purple Hull 2010 wears the title with a big smile.

Close on the heels of the tiller races, is a parade featuring a great collection of restored farm tractors, Miss Purple Hull, and a lot more. The parade, unlike those of larger venues does not drag on for hours. (Speaking of tractors, be sure and click on the gallery link at the bottom of this page to see more of the great collection of tractors at this festival). The parade is short, full of good stuff and has a down-home personal feeling to it not found in bigger parades. After the parade, there is a go-slow tractor race. The idea is to cover the ground in the longest time, idling in low gear without killing the engine. The comments from the master of ceremonies are reason enough to attend the event. What a hoot!

Emerson Fire Truck

No parade is complete without a shiny fire truck and Emerson is no different.

A fully restored 956 Chevy Bel Air four door. How sweet it is.

A fully restored 1956 Chevy Bel Air four door. How sweet it is.

1951 Army Jeep

1951 Army Jeep, from pre-humvee days. Vehicles like this were used in the Korean War.

Color coordinated tractor and driver attire in the parade.

Color coordinated tractor and driver attire in the parade.

There was a lot of stuff for sale at the festival. Two vendors caught my eye, both of which were selling purple hull peas. The first, John KIrkpatrick of Willisville, Arkansas is a circuit riding fresh vegetable dealer. His veggies are frozen, but not the crass commercial kind. His merchandise is not long out of  the field when the frigid air hits it. It comes, for the most part in two-bushel bags.

John Kirkpatrick on his trailer.

John Kirkpatrick in his trailer on the festival grounds.

He pulls a long trailer which holds four large freezers chock full of peas, okra, corn, and scads of other desirable veggies. He follows a route to a number of towns in south Arkansas and East Texas, where he has a following. He carries a portable generator with him and runs it when his cargo begins to defrost.

John Kirckpatrick and customer

John Kirkpatrick completes a sale to a happy customer. The bag on top of the freezer is a two-bushel bag. The bag is sold by weight. The volume of un-shelled peas is to come up with this weight is in the neighborhood of two bushel baskets, thus the terminology.

On the other side of the festival grounds, Danny Gryder a truck-farmer from Plain Dealing, Louisiana is peddling freshly hulled peas. He brought more than forty large bags (toe-sacks in proper southern parlance) of fresh un-shelled  peas straight from the fields − and his pea sheller. He set up his machine and started shelling peas on the spot.

Danny Gryder and his pea sheller.

Danny Gryder and his pea sheller. The top swings open and Danny fills the sheller full of peas. The sheller spits out hulls on the side and peas out the small spout near Danny's feet.

The curiosity of the pea huller and the appeal of freshly shelled peas was a siren song to festival attendees. Danny sold out of peas by 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. “I’ll bring a bunch more next time,” he said.

Danny Gryder hand over the last of his peas for the day to a happy customer.

Danny Gryder hands over the last of his peas for the day to a happy customer.

Danny had a few peas left which he handed over to me and I subsequently handed over to my 94-year-old mother after a short drive. Mom was grateful, the quantity was just right for her. “Just barely enough to make a mess,” Danny said as he handed them over. To non-southerners, a “mess” is roughly enough of any vegetable to make enough servings for a meal, such as, ” … hon, Danny gimme a mess of peas.” “Well wundunat sweet of  ‘im Cletus. Didja thank ‘im?” “Yessum.”

Vendors at Purple Hull Pea festival

Vendors at Purple Hull Pea festival from Danny's pea sheller.

All I can say to the folks at Emerson is, ” … y’all done good,” one of the highest compliments proffered from one southerner to another. And if it wasn’t so, I wouldna sed it.

See much more festival in our high-resolution gallery

Each week, we shoot more pictures than we have room to publish. So we post all the pictures, used and those not seen anywhere else in our high resolution gallery. The pictures are bigger and better. My friend Cletus says, ” … Joe, thim pitchers in that gallery are more clearer.” We’re talking more tractors, more parade, more tiller racing.  Click here to see these pictures.

Thanks for dropping by,


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 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,


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

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