There goes the neighborhood (again)


old house falling down

Click on the old house for our original post.

A couple of years ago about this time I wandered into Lincoln County, Arkansas and plied its gravel roads in search of a story. I found a couple of old houses barely visible from the road — infested with a cubic acre or so of mosquitoes.

Fortunately I had slathered my person liberally with Deep Woods Off, AKA “skeeter-dope” in LA (lower Arkansas), so the pesky winged miscreants got close, but did not taste my blood. I was tipped off to the old houses by a big “home place tree.” See the tree and read the start of this story on the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com.

While I was shooting the crumbling ruins, a big storm was brewing to the west, a fact I discovered after I left the mosquitoes and piled back into the truck. The storm was close enough that I got a couple of storm shots. Then the emergency broadcast squealer sounded and announced that certain parts of Jefferson County to the north were under a tornado warning. The description of the subject real estate included my neighborhood so I lit a shuck toward home.

On the outskirts of Pine Bluff, the radio guy said the storm had veered east. I called my spousal unit and discovered that our residence was safe. Thus relieved, I decided to chase the storm. The chase was fruitless as far as seeing a tornado, but I did manage to grab a few storm shots, which you can see on our original Weekly Grist post. When you get there, be sure and click on the Weekly Grist Gallery link at the end of the story for more 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

Providence and Provence led us here


Waterfall on Bidville Road

Wide angle distortion deceives you into believing these falls on Bidville Road near Winslow, Arkansas are not tall. The fact is, they are at least 20 feet tall and perhaps a bit more. Ice is forming in the pool and icicles have formed adjacent to the falls. A hike of a quarter mile or so across rocky terrain is necessary to see the falls as you see them here.

The story of these falls started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. To see another picture of the falls and formations close by, click here go to Corndancer dot com, a very cool thing to do.

While exploring the territory where these falls reside, I had the good fortune of running into Eugene Provence, a lifelong resident of the area. His good advice helped me find the way to the falls. Eugene makes his living driving a truck over twisting, precarious gravel roads in this parts, the Boston Range of the Ozark Mountains out of Winslow, Arkansas.

18 wheeler truck on mountain gravel road

Eugene Providence skillfully drives this truck over twisting, turning mountain gravel roads which are far from the ideal venue for large trucks. I was taken aback when I first encountered the truck approaching a one lane bridge I was approaching from the opposite direction. You simply do not expect to meet 18-wheelers this far back in the boondocks.

Eugene Providence

Eugene Provence at the wheel of his big White tractor.

Before the day was over, I met three of the Providence family including Eugene, his father, and a Provence nephew to boot. To the man, they were outgoing, friendly, and helpful. It is not often that one meets strangers out of the clear blue sky who put for such demeanor. Good upbringing I suppose.

As you face the falls, to the right is a steep cliff, probably the height of a five story building. Bidville road runs not far from the drop off. Eugene said at one time a truck and trailer hauling a bulldozer went over the edge. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to see how that could happen.

cliff

As you face the falls at the base, this bluff is to your right. The right of way for Bidville Road is not far from the edge. Icicles dangle from the edge. BRRRRRRR it was cold!

View from the top

top of the falls

This is looking down the bluff at the falls from the shoulder of Bidville Road. The white objects at the bottom center left of the picture are the ice formed in the pool below the falls. You can barely see the small cascades of water running down the bluff from the vicinity of the large rock to the right center of the picture. It is a long drop.

As I was setting the tripod up at the edge of the road to get the shot above, Jason Provence, related to Eugene, stopped as he drove by to caution me about the bluff. I thanked him and told him that if he came back by in about 30 minutes or so and the truck was still there, but I wasn’t, to kindly extract what was left of me from the bottom. Fortunately, that was not necessary.

approach to the falls

This terrain is at the approach to the falls as you hike in. It is typically replete with rocks, boulders and fallen timber knocked down by a severe ice storm last January. The low angle to the shot is due to the fact that yours truly is sitting on his back side after losing his footing, taking a dive and unceremoniously assuming that ground-level position. I figured as long as I was there I might as well record the event.

The boondocks around Winslow and anywhere else do not go into hibernation and disappear when the weather turns cold and the leaves drop. It is a good time of the year to see things you won’t see when leaves are on the trees. I’ll have more to say about that in a later diatribe.

Our headquarters for this foray was Sky-Vue cabins, just a mile or so south of Winslow on US Highway 71. A clean, well-lighted place with great breakfasts and gracious hosts.

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

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

Three rooms and a path


 Primitive house-barn combination

This old barn and house was under one roof. Not a bad idea in days gone by. What it missed in pleasant aromas, it made up in security, one would surmise.

Imagine rounding a curve on a remote gravel road and all of a sudden before your eyes is the skeletal remains of a homesteader place. Of all the places I have found in my wanderings, this is the most primitive. I’d hazard a guess that it dates back to early 1800s, though I have no evidence other than personal opinion on the matter. It is obviously a combination barn and residence. Past that, my humble opinions follow in this story.

If you’ve arrived here from the Corndancer dot com Photo of the Week, this continues the saga. If you’ve arrived here independently of the original story, and your curiosity is piqued, you can check it out here.

Looking at the barn-home from the back. The residence is on the right. Enclosed and pen space for the family critters is on the left.

We do not know who the residents of the barn-home were. I could have probably done a bit of local research in nearby Scotland, Arkansas, and someone might have known who lived there. However, it was Saturday afternoon and there were few signs of life in the town. The store was closed and it was likely that everyone else was glued to their tv sets watching Florida administer a good shellacking to the Razorbacks. Not a good time to interrupt fans with an unsolicited request for a local history update.

The structure shows evidence of maintenance and improvements after the original construction. The framing around the front door shows sawmill rip marks. The frame was attached with more modern looking nails. The doors on the critter side are similarly festooned with commercially prepared strips of lumber. Even the hardiest of souls can appreciate labor saving improvements.

Entrance to primitive cabin

The front door to the residence appears to have been built for midgets. People of average height must stoop to enter the premises. This is not uncommon for primitive residences.

The living quarters had little to offer besides shelter and protection from predators. In that day and time perhaps that's all that was expected.

The living quarters had little to offer besides shelter and protection from predators. In that day and time perhaps that met expectations.

Once you are inside the living room, den, bedroom, kitchen, closet, utility-room combination, you run out of amenities. Four walls, a ceiling, a floor and a door are it. There might have been a window at the back, but it’s hard to tell for sure.

You are nicely sheltered from the elements and there is a wall between you and those critters who consider you a menu item. Past that, there’s not much more to be said for the accommodations.

For these folks, a trip to town was a daylight to dark experience at the very best. Even by today’s standards, the home place is way back in the boondocks. The gravel road from highway 95 is good and well maintained now. It was probably little more than a primitive trail when this place was built.

Some things never change

If you were a husband, and you went to town by yourself, you were leaving your family to the elements and wild critters for an entire day. Who knows, maybe more. If  you were the wife left behind, as soon as husband was out of sight, the concerns mounted. What will befall him on the trip? Will I ever see him again?

Critter closets. Your nearest neighbors were your animals. Right across the breezeway.

Critter closets. Your nearest neighbors were your animals. Right across the breezeway. Hope the breeze was in the right direction.

If you both went, you had to be concerned about what might happen while you were gone. Would your home be plundered by a bear. Would a wandering miscreant knowing that if no one were home, it was likely no one would be home for a while. Long enough to do nefarious deeds.

Today, we complain of modern stresses. (Most of which are self-imposed in one way or another). In 18-whatever, in this neck of the woods, one of your stressful worries was being eaten. We should count our blessings. We don’t need old-fashioned stress. Losing the remote is far preferable to being today’s special for a hungry critter.

This backroad is a handy shortcut for 18-wheelers, an advantage to photographers who need to make a bridge photo interesting.

This backroad is a handy shortcut for 18-wheelers, an advantage to photographers who need to make a bridge photo interesting.

This trip started at Petit Jean State Park and meandered easterly through central Arkansas. On the way, I encountered a steel bridge across Cadron Creek east of Springfield AR. Since there ain’t many of ‘em left, I’m including a shot of the bridge. The telephoto lens effect gives the appearance of an imminent run over by the 18-wheeler. Not a chance. Thank goodness for long optics.

Thanks for dropping by,
Joe Dempsey

All photos and content ©2008 Joe Dempsey.

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