I never promised you a rose garden, but you got one anyway


Old chevy truck and roses

The former gas island at Joe Webb's Auto Repair is now an unlikely rose garden, proving that beauty can blunt the edge of ugly and look cool when properly applied. We've shown you this before, but somehow, it just seemed right to feature it again.

Things you do not expect to see

It’s not often that you observe an old gas station pump island enclosed in a razor-wire-topped chain-link fence and converted to a rose planter. However at Webb’s Auto Service in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, seeing the unusual is well, usual. This bit of horticultural presence came about at the capable hands of Vicki, the bookkeeper, office manager, gardener, and in-house ray of sunshine at Webb’s. This is not our first visit to Webb’s Auto Service, check out our previous post here.

basset hound

Click on the dog to see another picture of her

Among other things you do not expect to see is a gate with a Basset Hound nose hole. However, at Dick Warriner’s domicile, like Joe Webb’s garage, seeing the unusual is, well, also usual.

Dick replaced his old gate which did not have the imaginative orifice you see below. In a moment of brilliance, he modified the new gate to accommodate Lillie, his Basset Hound. She is appreciative of her leader’s thoughtfulness as you can see below.

Lillie is a rescue dog, and like most rescues, has proven to be a loyal and rewarding companion. She came to the Chez Warriner suffering from the ill-effects of protracted neglect. To her credit, despite her less-than-ideal condition, her tail-wagging mechanism worked well as did her built-in Basset mournful look which will melt the heart of all but the most calloused and hopeless people. As you can see, things are going well for her now. See another picture of Lillie and get in on the start of this story on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com.

Bassett Hound looks out a hole in a gate

Lillie, the Basset Basset Hound peers out a hole in a gate. The hole was placed where it is so she can do exactly what she is doing.

 Sometimes, even plants can send a message. Here some vastly different plants seem to enjoy each others presence the same environment. It appears that their joint efforts have choked out the weeds.

clover and butter cups

These wild flowers seem to be sending a message.

Out-of-the-ordinary stuff provides some of the cheapest entertainment available. It’s simply a matter of allowing one’s self to stumble across it. Happy stumbling this week.

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

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A tale of two bridges


The unexpected, towers from the abandoned rail bridge next to the highway bridge, shot through the windshield, on  a long zoom which tends to bring the towers closer together.

The unexpected, towers from the abandoned rail bridge next to the highway bridge, shot through the windshield, on a long zoom which tends to bring the towers closer together.

As you first cross the U.S. Highway 70 bridge just north of DeValls Bluff, Arkansas you are taken aback by the sight of two drawbridge towers left over from a bygone era. The towers are part of the former Cotton Belt Railroad bridge over the White River next door to the highway bridge. The old bridge was taken out of service in 1982. A DeValls Bluff businessman bought the bridge for $1.00 and still owns it.

This story got its start on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to see more pictures of the bridge(s) and get in on the start of the story, a very cool thing to do.

Fortunately there is a road leading through a small riverbank community of houses on stilts which goes nearly to the foot of the old bridge. After that, it is simply a matter of inching down a steep riverbank reinforced with rip-rap to get into the correct place for a low-angle shot. It is a slow, deliberate traipse over impending disaster with a tripod, camera and a couple of lenses.

from te banks

From the riverbank, the old bridge is massive and impressive. Since the river is very low now, I was able to set up much lower in the river bed that I would under normal conditions. This accentuates the wide angle perspective. Considering its age, the old bridge is holding up well.

Turns out the real menace was a small strip of slick mud close to the water which put me on my duff near the water’s edge. Nothing was hurt but my feelings and I did get  a closer look at the ‘coon tracks left over from last nights coon supper. The view from the banks was worth the trouble. From where I was, I decided I wanted get closer to the old bridge. And that I did.

Looking down the bore, so to speak, after a climb up a homemade ladder.

Looking down the bore, so to speak, after a climb up a homemade ladder. At the upper left, the extensions from the bridge held railroad signal lights. Telephone and telegraph wires were strung across the right side. The gravel pile in the foreground was dumped there to discourage wheeled interlopers from the entering the abandoned bridge. You can see the bottom half of the north lifting mechanism counterweight in the middle of the bridge.

After a short stomp through some low weeds in a small stand of trees, I found the north end of the old bridge. It terminated as a wall. Lo and behold, there was a ladder (homemade and old, but sturdy), leaning against the wall. I’m guessing the wall and ladder are in the 16′ foot range in height. With a mite of trepidation, I climbed the ladder, stepping over one rung which appeared not capable of holding my weight.

Questioning my presence

After I arrived at the top, I was no longer in the convenient defilade afforded by the underbrush below. I was on the old bridge and in plain view. bigger’n Dallas. I said to my self, self, before you finish shooting up here, someone is going to arrive on the scene and question your presence. My prognostications were correct. I completed my shots and was tearing down equipment and preparing to descend, when I heard a four-wheeler engine approaching. Company was arriving.

No harm intended or perpetrated

In a few minutes, as I was about to start my descent, a young man toting a .22 rifle appeared at the bottom of the bridge and asked if I had encountered any red wasps on the bridge. I allowed as how I hadn’t, but I did take a number of pictures. He was a polite man and we engaged in a conversation. He became convinced that my intentions were honorable and that I had done no harm to the bridge. Concurrently, I became convinced that he would do no harm to me. Turns out he lives nearby and keeps an eye on the bridge for his friend the owner. He was doing his due diligence and had no idea what to expect. The bridge is normally festooned with “Posted” signs which were obliterated in a spring flood and never replaced. To me, that means open season. He was satisfied. I was satisfied. And I got the shots. All’s well that ends well.

Paul Hofstad, DeValls Bluff, Arkansas

Paul Hofstad, DeValls Bluff, Arkansas

This trip to DeValls Bluff was the second one in as many days. The day before, I took the shot at the top of the page and afterward, decided that it was foolish to drive and shoot simultaneously,  and harbor any expectations of a lengthy life.

To solve the problem, I garnered the services of a young man by the name of Paul Hofstad. I suggested that if he would allow me in the bed of his pickup and he ferried me across the highway bridge as I shot, he would have an extra ten bucks on Saturday night. The deal was struck and the picture is below.  Paul is a student at Phillips Community College. He is nearly finished with his course of studies  in wildlife management which he hopes will culminate in a job with the federal wildlife service. Thanks and good luck Paul.

Shot from the bed of Paul Hofstad's red Ford pickup.

Shot from the bed of Paul Hofstad's red Ford pickup.

“And now, as the sun slowly sinks in the west,” we are pleased to present the next entry in our continuing display of Joe Webb’s magnificent collection of signs. This time, dig the old, old, er … ancient,  Pepsi logo.

The sho' nuff old, old, old, er ... ah, ancient Pepsi logotype

The sho' nuff old, old, old, er ... ah, ancient Pepsi logotype

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey

http://joedempseyphoto.com/

http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/

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

Traveler’s rest


The Traveler, opulence on wheels

Now 104 years old, the Traveler, once the personal rail car of the president of the St. Louis and Southwestern Railroad permanently resides on Pumpkin Hill Road south of Rison, Arkansas,

Now 104 years old, the Traveler, once the personal rail car of the president of the St. Louis and Southwestern Railroad, now permanently resides on Bob Abbott's place down Pumpkin Hill Road south of Rison, Arkansas,

Though her paint is a bit faded, for her age, the Traveler, formerly the private rail car of the president of the St. Louis and Southwestern Railroad is holding up well. She left active service in 1960 and has been here on Pumpkin Hill Road, south of Rison, Arkansas since. This story started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. To see more pictures of the Traveler, click here, visit the Photo of the Week page and get in on the start of the story.

What you saw as the Traveler pulled away from you. The door is open to the observation parlor. You see reflections in a large oval mirror over the rear facing parlor settee.

What you saw as the Traveler pulled away from you. The door is open to the observation parlor. You see reflections in a large oval mirror over the rear facing parlor settee.

At the back of the car, there is an observation parlor with the door opening to the rear platform. See a picture of the parlor here. If you think you see water in the background of the picture above, you are correct. It’s a toss up  as to whether is a big pond or a small lake, but it is a beautiful impoundment, brimming with large catfish, bass and hand-size bream. Those who wet a hook there are normally not disappointed according to Bob Abbott, the owner.

The mahogany main parlor at the front of the car has a writing desk, a large table with six chairs and very comfortable aisle seating. The windows are large. The carpet, though aged, is lush.

The spacious main parlor served as a dining room, a place for business meetings, and for friendly card games as is evidenced by cards and other necessities in the open drawer,

The spacious main parlor served as a dining room, a place for business meetings, and for friendly card games as is evidenced by cards and other necessities in the open drawer.

Detai of the writing desk. Note the fine joinings and finish of the cabinetry, all in original condition.

Detail of the writing desk. Note the fine joinings and finish of the cabinetry, all in original condition. Notice the charcoal in the pan under the desk. It absorbs moisture and untoward odors.

The hallway would not be a comfortable fit for the average NCAA Division I or NFL defensive tackle. I wear a 46 long suit and when I stood squarely in it, my shoulders scraped the sides of the door.

The parlor pictures above were shot with flash. The picture below was shot from further toward the front of the car and shows more of the mahogany cabinetry in the upper foreground. The color has a different cast brought about by using only available light.

The main parlor from closer to the front of the car. Note the overhead storage and richly upholstered seats.

The main parlor from closer to the front of the car. Note the overhead storage and richly upholstered seats. Also notice my pickup in the left window, a no-no, but I did it anyway.

Though the Traveler is the star of the show on Bob Abbott’s Pumpkin Hill Road place, it is not the only attraction. In 2007, Bob had a small chapel built on the banks of the lake/pond(?). (your guess is as good as mine). Since then it has become popular for weddings and other church related events. Bob, being who he is, does not charge for its use.

The Traveler's new neighbor, the chapel, has proven to be nearly as popular as the Traveler. It could be Divine intervention.

The Traveler's new neighbor, the chapel, has proven to be nearly as popular as the Traveler. It could be Divine intervention. The chapel is particularly impressive in the early spring as Dogwood trees generously bloom.

Signs, signs, Joe Webb’s signs …

A Buick sign from "back in the day."

A Buick sign from "back in the day."

As promised on the Corndancer Photo of the Week page and in last week’s Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind, I am showing another of Joe’s signs. On this one, the Buick folks tout their valve-in-head engine configuration. In the mid fifties, Buick added a variable pitch impeller in their automatic transmissions which supposedly gave you neck snapping power on the low end and more economy on the high end. Such cerebral appeals have long since given away to more visceral appeals in this day and time. The facts are now, proper cup holder configuration is higher on the pecking order of consumer concern and awareness than valve configuration. And so it goes.

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

Tiptoe through the tools


Joe Webb at home with the latest addition to his stable of '55 Chevys. This one makes number eight. Add 22 "parts" cars of the same vintage, plus a shop full of 55 parts.

Joe Webb in his shop at home, with the latest addition to his stable of '55 Chevys. This one makes number eight. But wait, there's more. Add 22 "parts" cars of the same vintage, plus a shop full of 55 parts that can be measured by the ton. The Phillips 66 sign will sooner or later enjoy a fitting location on the walls of the shop.

This story started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot Com. To see another Chevy picture and a couple of signs and get in on this thing from the start, click here, a very cool thing to do.

Joe Webb’s shop on Poplar Street in Pine Bluff, Arkansas should qualify as a museum. There may be a few issues with stepping over and around jacks, brake lathes, grinders, air hoses, and other miscellaneous and sundry tools of the mechanic’s trade. In this case, tip-toeing through the tools is worth the trip. On the walls and hanging from the ceiling you’ll see an extraordinary collection of old automotive oriented signs. From a former life, I recall that proper museum collections should have a focus. This one has that. In spades.

The main shop entrance gives you an idea of what to expect. The DX and Gulf signs are signficant to the history of the business. At one time, the shop was also a service station that carried both brands.

The main shop entrance gives you an idea of what to expect. The DX and Gulf signs are signficant to the history of the business. At one time, the shop was also a service station that through several permutations, carried both brands of gasoline.

Not just a good sign. Good art.

Not just a good sign. Good art.

Joe’s collection does not stop at his shop. His guest bedroom in the Chez Webb is plastered with a similarly deep collection of smaller “point-of-purchase” signs. (That term was probably not yet in use when the signs were originally fabricated).

Art for marketing’s sake

The art on these signs was designed and created when art directors still used brushes, pens and other ancient and honored paraphernalia to create their masterpieces. The Champion Spark Plug sign is a good example. Close inspection shows that it is “flat art.” That means that the look achieved by the artist was made through application of solid colors. Having been a small part of the last vestiges of that school of art production, I can tell you, it will make you scratch your head.

In their day, these signs were an essential and important part of merchandise marketing. We’re talking thirties, fourties and perhaps into the fifties a bit. Television was an idea yet to bloom. Radio was popular,

The Kaiser-Frazer brands marketed by Henry J. Kaiser, the aluminum magnate had some loyal followers, my uncle included. However the number of loyal followers were not enough to save the brands. Styling of the cars was a bit ahead of the times.

The Kaiser-Frazer brands marketed by Henry J. Kaiser, the aluminum magnate had some loyal followers, my uncle included. However the number of loyal followers were not enough to save the brands. Styling of the cars was a bit ahead of the times.

but in the AM days, had it’s limitations. Print advertising was the king of communication, but for the most part was a black and white presentation. These signs performed a colorful and dramatic job of communicating the presence and to some extent, benefits of the products they hawked.

“ When I went crazy buying ’em”

Joe started collecting signs 21 years ago. I asked him when did he begin considering himself a sign collector. He grinned deeply, something he does well, and told me “ … I guess about the time when I went crazy buying ’em.”

He says he’s not exactly certain just how many signs and other automotive related artifacts he has, but conservatively guesses the total to be in the 400-500 item range. “I have some stuff still in original crates and boxes,” he admitted. Turns out, some friends that had the merchandise, being familiar with his pronounced proclivity to accumulate signs,  decided that Joe would give it a good home. They were right.

Since a fillin' station was a good place to grab a cole-drank,* it seems appropriate to include the doctor's sign. It is emblazoned with a bottle reminiscent of their long abandoned slogan, "Drink Dr. Pepper at 10, 2 and 4. *A term used by southerners to describe a chilled, carbonated drink.

Since a fillin' station was a good place to grab a cole-drank,* it seems appropriate to include the doctor's sign. It is emblazoned with a bottle reminiscent of their long abandoned slogan, "Drink Dr. Pepper at 10, 2 and 4. *A term used by southerners to describe a chilled, carbonated drink.

I have a number of other signs from Joe’s inventory now in my picture inventory. For the next few weeks, I’ll include a one or more on Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind. Thanks for your patience.

And thanks for dropping by,

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

April 11, 2011 Update

Took the pickup to Joe Webb’s this morning for servicing and lo, and behold, Vicky had turned the long abandoned gas pump island into a rose garden. And the roses seem to love it. Whodathunk? It’s either adaptive reuse or Brighten the Corner Where You Are.

GMC and roses

I never promised you a rose garden but you got one anyway.

GMC and roses 2

Adaptive reuse of former fueling facility.

GMC and roses 3

Brighten the corner where you are.

Winchester, no cathedral


This sign is the last vestige of fomer retail activity at Winchester, Arkansas. Winchester is not by itself. Thousands of other small towns have suffered a similar fate. Others, not yet so afflicted will follow. It is the way of our times.

This sign is the last vestige of fomer retail activity at Winchester, Arkansas. Winchester is not by itself. Thousands of other small towns have suffered a similar fate. Others, not yet so afflicted will follow. It is the way of our times.

If you breeze through the intersection of US Highway 65 and Arkansas Highway 138 and think you’ve just passed through Winchester, guess again. What you’ve passed through is the eastern most suburb of Winchester. Had you made a right turn on 138, in a quarter mile or so, you’d see Winchester.  Winchester has a post office, a fire station and a city hall. And a still standing Sinclair sign. And folks.  And their domiciles.

A good place to click

A lot of folks wind up here as a result of visiting the Photo of the Week page on Corndancer dot com. Now that you know about Winchester, click here to find out about Chester and Lester as well, at the photo of the week page.

The best laid plans …

Winchester was not a part of the plan for this post. Some magnificent cypress trees about another 45 minutes south were the intended target. However, at about Winchester, the pickup engine began some obnoxious behavior and I decided to do a 180. The guages were all happy, so one presumes, it’s a sullen microchip somewhere. So I figured a whirl through Winchester (the western part) would be OK. I was rewarded with the Sinclair sign. Probably, the former station had a social function as well as its utilitarian destiny. Most small town filling stations did.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Blooming Bradford Pear trees frame the Jefferson County Courthouse on Main Street in Pine Bluff, Arkansdas.

Blooming Bradford Pear trees frame the Jefferson County Courthouse on Main Street in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. These trees line both sides of the street.

Now returned back to minutes from home, there’s a fast-fading opportunity, to wit: blooming Bradford Pear trees. Our home-town downtown is lined with those suckers. They are peaking out now. In 24 to 36 hours, the trees will transform from white to green as the new leaves take hold. The time to shoot is now.

Bradford Pear Blooms at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas on Main Street in Pine Bluff AR.

Bradford Pear blooms at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas on Main Street in Pine Bluff AR. It's late Sunday. The parking lot is usually not empty.

Last, but certainly not least

Old Glory and Bradford Pear blooms greet visitors to this drive-in branch bank just off Main Street in Pine Bluff AR. The tree is not actually as high as the flag. The view is from a service lane looking up. “Forced perspective” makes you think the tree is taller than the flag.

Three cheers for the red white, white, and blue.

Three cheers for the red white, white, and blue.

Update on the pickup

March 4, 2009 — Nothing serious. Some ignition components showing signs of age. Joe Webb, 12th degree master mechanic,  diagnosed the issues and did the fix. Well, after 210,000 miles, what can one expect. It is now hauling booty again!

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind