Nine months later

reclining camel in new orleans zoo

Though I photographed this Audubon Park Zoo camel in New Orleans in the early to mid-nineties (on film), he or she might still be with us since camels live 30-40 years. Katrina, while disastrous to most of the city did not unleash her full fury on the zoo, so survival through that catastrophe shouldn’t have been a problem. It was if he or she was waiting on me. After a roll or so of film, I said thank you and bade farewell.

After Katrina failed in her best efforts to completely destroy New Orleans in August of 2005, my road-trip buds, Dick Warriner, the late Dick DeWoody, and I mused that the excuse for our annual trip to the Crescent City, the annual French Quarter Fest, might be in danger. We began to entertain suggestions for other road-trip destinations, but none had the panache of “Nawlins.”

man eating sandwich at french quarter fest

Click on Mr. Sandwich Eater to see more festival and post-Katrina pix

Despite the Katrina’s failure to administer the coup de grâce to New Orleans, the damage, as most will recall, was more than substantial.

Even at that level, the scurrilous storm did not cashier the festival. Late in 2005, we received notification that the festival was on. At this point we suggest that you can see other festival and lower Ninth Ward pictures where this story started, on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. Take a good look and we will wait here while you peruse images and verbiage.

woman with dog at french quarter fest concert

Pretty girls with dogs are as ubiquitous as bands at outdoor concerts, and the 2005 French Quarter Fest was no different. Something caught the dog’s attention which set up a good photo op. Blind hog finds acorn again.

The lower Ninth Ward

We attended the festival April 21 and 22, 2005. Other than damage to trees and a few closed shops in the French Quarter, we did not see much evidence of the evil sister’s visit. However, even as the party went on in the Quarter, life in the lower Ninth Ward, the area that caught the worst of Katrina’s flooding, fell way short of comfortable. Call it morbid curiosity or whatever you’d like, the first leg of our return trip was one of observation, through the lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

I shot the following pictures on that trip, nine months after Katrina made her fateful visit to south Louisiana. This is the first time these images have been made available for public viewing.

Katrina storm damage in lower ninth ward

Look closely for a man entering the house.

house with help sign on top

The residents here made sure the Coast Guard helicopter crews knew what was needed.

houses in New Orleans lower ninth ward

These homes have been “inspected.” Note the cryptic spray paint code on next to the door.

Camper trailer setup in New Orleans lower ninth ward

There were a number of camper trailers set up in residential yards.

abandoned suv in new orleans lower ninth ward

Just around the corner from the camper this abandoned suffers callous neglect.

While to some, considering the reveling of the festival and the misery of the lower Ninth Ward in the same article may seem calloused, the truth is, the city needed all of the merry-making it could handle to pump good Yankee dollars into the seriously injured Crescent City economy. The condition was and still is called reality.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Two barns and a wreck

Old vine covered Delta barn

This old barn harkens back to the Delta days when mules were the power behind the plow and farm hands hand-hoed and hand-picked cotton. Hmh. Guess that’s why they called ’em “hands.” The barn’s tall entrance door and large loft door are the giveaways. One admits a man on a horse and the other is for convenient hay storage.

This old barn has a lot of eye appeal for barn aficionados. The only problem, few if any of these barn enthusiasts ever see the old structure. It lives just off a well traveled road, but is put in defilade by a thick line of trees between the barn and the road.

tow boat and new orleans bridge

Check  our French Quarter story and pictures at Corndancer dot com

Even when the trees are bare, one has to look hard to catch a glimpse. I decided on this winter shot so viewers can see the structure which is covered with foliage from the vines in warmer weather.

If a more urban environment is to your liking, see some scenes from the French Quarter in New Orleans in our weekly article on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com.

Across a river and further south, a smaller and younger barn, and/or agricultural storage building sits unused. This one is easy to spot from the nearby road. Local readers who see it will probably recognize it immediately. Though it is showing a slight list to port, the old structure will probably last long enough to entertain at least one more barn-loving generation.

old barn south of Pine Bluff Arkansas

Not exactly a barn in the true sense of the word, this old agricultural storage building still has the period schmaltz to raise old barn-lovers pulse a count or two.

The future for bold barn lovers is bleak. The objects of their affections are crumbling on a daily basis. And the last time I looked, “they” ain’t building any new old-barns. As I make my rounds, I take note of old barns I previously photographed which are now piles of broken lumber and debris.  Those numbers are climbing. Look now before it is too late.

Collapsed barn

Here’s where our old barns are headed. Gravity and Mother Nature’s nasty side will eventually win out. When it is Mother Nature versus good maintenance, the playing ground is somewhat leveled – but – fat chance on most old barns.

Parting shot

The picture below is from a commercial shoot several years ago. Analyzing the image from an artsy-craftsy standpoint, it has a lot to offer: interesting composition, nice range of tones and plenty of well-placed complimentary colors plus some interesting textures and lines. Most viewers agree on these observations. Then I confess to the subject matter.

Sewer lagoon

What you see is the secondary impoundment of a system of sewage treatment lagoons. The system consistently receives EPA recognition as the best of its kind in the nation. The effluent from this system is cleaner than the river into which it dumps.

It ain’t always what you think.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.

Hemp and the Saint

Maintenance on St Louis Cathedral in New Orleans

This is early morning and work is already underway on the cathedral. If you look closely you can see the morning hose man, washing away the detritus of the night before in front the Cabildo, the Saint's next door neighbor. The city is coming to life and soon the Chartres Street will be brimming with performers, artists, and onlookers.

Mule in New Orleans French Quarter

Click on the mule for French Quarter mule pictures

Even Saints need maintenance and New Orleans Saint Louis Cathedral is no exception. Folks in New Orleans have worshiped at a church in this location since 1727. The current structure was completed in 1789 after a fire destroyed the original building in 1788.

Since that is two centuries and some change, it is patently obvious that regular, conscientious maintenance for the cathedral is the rule, not the exception. See another view of St. Louis Cathedral in our April 19, 2009 Weekly Grist post.

See more of the French Quarter, namely a couple of French Quarter carriage mules on the Photo of the Week page at

Maintenance worker on St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans

Later, about 20 till 10, this worker plies his trade slightly below the middle steeple and you can admire the meticulous 18th century architectural details.

man weaving hemp bracelets

This entrepreneur's sign reads "HAND MADE HEMP JEWELRY By donation. Nomad Fiber Arts. Trades Welcome," in April, 2004. To each his own, I'm still thinking the term "HEMP JEWELRY," does not ring the truth and veracity bell. He's in Jackson Square in New Orleans, so no surprise there. The Saint is behind the square.

Sixteen months after I shot these pictures, Katriana struck New Orleans. Fortunately things don’t look much different in this part of New Orleans now.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

A mud-chinked cabin

log cabin

Finding this cabin was another of those blind hog finds acorn, the Lord takes care of fools and drunks moments. Here was a mud-chinked log cabin with no electric service. Yeah buddy!


August 1, 2010 – UPDATE – “Killin’ House”

While shooting another story in the general vicinity, a couple local guys stopped by to chat. Eventually the conversation got around to the cabin you see above. One of my visitors said he knew of the cabin near Grapevine and that it was on “Killin’ House Road.” Further conversation revealed that some years back, a person was killed at the cabin. After that untoward event, the cabin became known as the “Killin’ House” and the road became known as, you guessed it, “Killin’ House Road.”

Had I blinked at the wrong time or had less peripheral vision, I would have missed this fine log cabin in the boondocks near Grapevine, Arkansas. In fact, the glimpse was so fleeting, I had to back up and confirm the sighting.

I happened on the cabin after shooting an old and decrepit country store in nearby Grapevine. See the store and read the store story on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to go there.  We’ll wait here.


back of cabin

The windowless cabin is showing some signs of wear, but for the most part, is in good condition. The tin roof is pulling loose in a couple of places and there's a bit of rot here and there along the bottom logs, but judging by the "any port in a storm," standard, the old structure would be a welcome respite in untoward weather conditions. And four walls between you and hungry critters.

The cabin is receiving some attention since the encroaching woods have not completely devoured it. Trees and underbrush have a voracious appetite for real estate, so someone is keeping the clearing, well, clear. Would that I could meet this soul and learn the rest of the story. And oh yes, the front door, about shoulder height to me is also the emergency exit.


Mud chinked

Mud chinked logs are a traditional and effective method of keeping the weather outside where it should be kept. It also has the benefit of offering dirt daubers a condo location. The wasps are generally benevolent in their deportment toward mankind. Even better, they look on Black Widow Spiders as their preferred snack. What a friend we have in dirt daubers.

If you are not familiar with the term, “chinking,” it is the process of filling the horizontal gaps between logs with some sort of material to seal the wall. Mud was the traditional medium for this process. Modern versions of log cabins, use more sophisticated materials. While I suspect this is a twentieth century structure, the building methods were traditional, including chinking with good ol’ mud. And the dirt daubers love it.

tree falls on roof

While we have determined that the cabin does get some attention, it hasn't been lately, or the attention giver was not up to moving this small tree across the roof. Bet that tree made a hair-raising retort when it crashed onto that tin roof. The gravel road is in the background.

The cabin was a great discovery, but only if you think finding an intact log cabin in the boondocks is a good thing. If you don’t, get counseling.

Been there, shot that

Mean time, to add a bit of spice to life, I have included probably one of  the most well-shot locations in the lower 48, to wit: St. Louis Cathedral on Chartres Street off Jackson Square in NOLA, New Orleans, Louisiana. This was snapped in April 2009 while the city was still stretching and yawning.

St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans

Andy Jackson and St. Louis Cathedral are one of the most familiar visual combinations of modern times. This setup is a favorite of newsmen and politicians.


But wait, there’s more.

See all of the Corndancer and Weekly Grist pictures in glorious high resolution, including a black and white version of each picture. Click here to go there!

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey

Meandering through south Louisiana

If you are the sort to simply enjoy seeing stuff, you are well advised to occasionally spend a couple of days in south Louisiana. That’s where we caught a glimpse of a disheveled Orange Grove Country Store, where this story started. The sighting is revealed on the Corndancer dot com Photo of the Week page. Click here to see the store.

river crossing

The west bank of the Mississippi River near New Roads LA grows smaller as we ferry eastward toward St. Francisville LA, a delightful town of no small historic significance. The town was our next stop on this Louisiana odyssey, after Orange Grove Store.

St. Francisville LA

The first European settlers arrived in St. Francisville in 1773, some 236 years ahead of us. Somebody’s been there ever since. During the War Between the States nastiness, the town was bombarded by boat-borne cannons. Fortunately, the community survived. If you want to see what life was like in the 1800s, St. Francisville is a sure bet. The town is not large, but more than makes up for its size with a more than respectable concentration of  “stuff to see.”

Grace Episcopal Church in St. Francisville LA. The congregation had its start in 1827. It was invested as a Parish in 1839. The church was shelled in the War Between the States. Final restoration was completed in 1880. The church grounds include a large cemetery. Birthdates in the 1700s are frequently noted on gravestones in the cemetery.

Grace Episcopal Church in St. Francisville LA. The congregation had its start in 1827. It was invested as a Parish in 1839. The church was shelled in the War Between the States. Final restoration was completed in 1880. The church grounds include a large cemetery. Birth dates in the 1700s are frequently noted on gravestones.

New Orleans

No “seeing stuff” trip to south Louisiana is complete without a stop in New Orleans. Of course in NOLA, there is also stuff to eat and stuff to hear. Be assured, we consumed plenty of both. The city’s tourist business is healthy and continues to rebound. After all, there is stuff to see there that is nowhere else.

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. A cannon aimed toward the Mississippi River stands guard over Jackson Square in New Orleans' legendary French Quarter. In the background is St. Louis Cathedral, founded as a parish in 1720. It is the oldest Catholic cathedral in the United States.

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. A cannon aimed toward the Mississippi River stands guard over Jackson Square in New Orleans' legendary French Quarter. St. Louis Cathedral, in the background was founded as a parish in 1720.

The streetcars in New Orleans are, well, legendary, just about like everything else there. The fares are reasonable, but be sure and bring correct change. The conductor can’t make change. The street car round trip out St. Charles and back is well worth the time and pittance of money required. You observe some NOLA quaintness, weirdness, fine old homes, shops and a plethora of other eye candy well worth seeing.

I'm not certain what the names of these New Orleans street cars are, but I'm willing to bet it's not "Desire." These are disgorging and taking on passengers at the Toulouse Stree stop in the French Quarter.

I'm not certain what the names of these New Orleans street cars are, but I'm willing to bet it's not "Desire." These are disgorging and taking on passengers at the Toulouse Street stop in the French Quarter.

Thanks for dropping by,


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