Down. On the farm.

old gin at Ladd, Arkansas

This old gin at Ladd, Arkansas was built in the late 1800s. The gin machinery was powered by steam. In the 1920s it was removed from service as a gin and has been used for storage since by a plethora of owners. Apparently it was built with the "right stuff."

Most of us enjoy looking at old barns and houses which, despite the ravages of time have managed to remain standing. These structures are monuments to the societal and economic fabric which helped make us what we are, for better or worse. In agricultural communities, there are other remnants of days gone by, to wit: abandoned farm equipment, another part of the living museum one observes in the hinterlands. Before we go much further, may I suggest that you click here and see another view of this old gin and a lilac-covered combine where this epistle started on the Corndancer Photo of the Week page. We’ll wait here.

abandoned tractor and combine

This old tractor and combine, long since abandoned are part and parcel of a farm I found which appeared to have come to a definitive and abrupt stop.

While old rejected tractors and combines don’t have the emotional appeal of old barns and cabins, they still have a story to tell. In March of 2009, I was cruising the roads of northern Lincoln County, Arkansas and happened upon a respectably sized farm through which was scattered a number of farm implements which appeared to have been abandoned in place. From the looks of things, someone said, “OK that’s it,” and everyone dismounted and left. Perhaps it was not quite that dramatic, but the appearance is there.

abandoned combine and grain auger

This abandoned combine and grain auger, are parked in the field where they were probably last used. The opening in the combine behind the cab shows evidence of someone harvesting some parts from the harvester.

Walking off from equipment of this type is no small thing. The combine you see above cost more than most people’s homes. Tractors are not far behind in the pecking order of cost. So while the equipment as it sits now is little more than junk, at one time, it represented a major league investment. We do not know the complete story here, but odds-on, it did not have a happy ending.

Cannabilized tractor

The cultivated fields of the farm were interspersed with patches of pine woods. This old tractor sat near some of those trees. It is older than some of the other equipment I saw. Probably it was cannibalized for parts to keep a similar unit operational.

Lest I give the impression that agriculture in this neck of the woods is all but sunk, hear me say that nothing could be further from the truth. While agriculture is feeling the same economic pinch all of us are experiencing, as an industry it is alive and well. At least in these parts. The face of the industry is different. Like all successful modern pursuits, agriculture takes advantage of cutting edge technology.  Agriculture, however, has one advantage that never changes. To change products, you do not have to rebuild the factory, you plant different seeds.

Combine harvesting soybeans

With the appearance of a horned apparition materializing from a a foreboding fog, this late model combine is harvesting soybeans off Townsend Road near Moscow, Arkansas.

As big as a house and as high-tech as an aircraft, the combine above does its job with great efficiency. However, most combine owners still complain that it is a machine which begins to shake itself apart as soon as you crank it up. But it cuts bean bushes, separates the beans from stalks and hulls and spits the latter out the back while storing the former in its innards. All so you can have margarine, cooking oil, and the gazillion other things that come from soybeans.


Each week we put all of our Corndancer and Weekly Grist pictures along with the ones we did not publish anywhere else in a special pictures only gallery. Click here to go there and see for yourself.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Change of plans, hello Yancopin Bridge

The Arkansas River Bridge at Yancopin, Arkansas

The Arkansas River Bridge at Yancopin, Arkansas. The water is very low now. You can see the waterlines on the supports. You can also see the rip-rap I had to descend to capture this image. If you happen to slip, there is no soft spot for your landing. Fortunately I remained upright.

Given that plans are made for changing, I found the bridge at Yancopin you see above. Through a convoluted set of circumstances, I wound up in Bonnie’s Cafe at Watson, Arkansas to look at a painting of a building I was planning to shoot . . . because of a change in plans. While I was perusing the painting, the proprietress pointed out a poster, the subject of which is the bridge above. My plans were about to change again.

Yancopin bridge

Click on the bridge for more pix and info.

Prior to digging into the change of plans, may I suggest that if you did not arrive at this site from the Corndancer dot com photo of the Week page that you afford yourself the opportunity to change your plans and temporarily detour to that page where this story started. You will see additional bridge pictures and learn a bit about the area and not-so-usual name. Click here to go there.

Bonnie's Cafe, Watson, Arkansas

It was in Bonnie’s Cafe, that I stumbled across my knowledge of the bridge. This image was shot in October, 2008 on a Sunday when Bonnie’s was closed. Otherwise, there would be a plethora of pickups parked here. Bonnie’s cuisine is legendary and her fans are legion.

The prospect of shooting that bridge, which I discovered was not far,  was far more appealing than what was currently residing in the plans department. These sentiments precipitated my third successive change of plans for the day, and a good thing. In fact, there was far more to shoot than the time allotted. “I shall return.”

The bridge rotator control house

Nestled high in the superstructure of the bridge center span is the control house to rotate that bridge span to allow river traffic to pass. There is also a span with counterweights and towers which house what appears to be a lift span. One ordinarily does not see both mechanisms in one bridge. You have to climb metal stairs to reach the control house which has zero, count ’em, zero, amenities for human comfort.

The bridge, now out of service was opened by the Missouri-Pacific Railroad in 1903 and stayed in continuous service until 1992. The bridge and 73 miles of railroad in the same section of were subsequently handed over to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism who are developing the Delta Heritage Trail Park in the property.

The Missouri-Pacific Delta Eagle

The Missouri-Pacific Delta Eagle regularly hauled passengers across the Yancopin Bridge starting in the late thirties. My good friend Jimmy Dale Peacock recalls riding on the Delta Eagle for the short hop to Snow Lake, Arkansas for a hunting trip in the fifties. You took the train to Snow Lake because the only roads available amounted to about a trip of more than 80 miles for a destination not far away. You had to detour around the vast White and Arkansas River bottoms, which are classic wetlands. Those conditions have not changed, except that now, there is  no rail service. (Archive photo, not shot by me).

I am told that painting the bridge was a never-ending  job. Two painters were assigned to the job permanently. Given weather conditions, to paint the entire bridge was probably measured in years, not months with two guys and two paint brushes doing the work.

Archive photo of Yancopin Bridge

The bridge was a popular spot for sight-seers. Here a family poses under the west end of the bridge. Note the height of the water in what appears to be cold weather. From the looks of the women’s clothing styles, the picture is probably from the twenties. (Archive Photo).

As many of you know, the Arkansas River is part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System which provides navigable waters for commercial river traffic from the Mississippi River northwest to the Port of Catoosa, near Tusla, Oklahoma. Just about three miles north of Yancopin Bridge, the navigation system, turns east and makes its way into the White River which empties into the Mississippi somewhat north of where the Arkansas empties into the big river.  This section of the river is legendary for producing lunker bass for sports anglers. It also supports commercial fishermen who ply the waters for buffalo, carp, and catfish. It is wild, wooly, and a great place to observe the rich natural heritage of Delta wetlands.

Old river structural remains

Just up river from the bridge are these remains from a previous river construction project. The jagged man-made patterns stand in stark contrast to the serene and well organized lines by Mother Nature. It is a designer’s dream.

Yancopin Bridge towers

Click on the bridge to see more pictues of it.


Every week we shoot more than we can post on Corndancer Photo of  the Week and Weekly Grist, so we post every thing on the two sites PLUS all of the “keepers” we did not post. This week, we have 20 new pictures in our all-photo gallery including more bridge shots and a couple of shots of the old McKennon Gin in Watson, Arkansas. Click here to see these pictures. You won’t see them anywhere else.

For bridge aficionados

Here are some other bridge posts:

A tale of two bridges, A tale of two bridges IITwo old Saline river bridges, and The bridge that nearly wasn’t.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

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