Going for the green

Water tower at Lake Dick Arkansas with approaching storm

July is a good time to look for afternoon thunderstorms. This one cropped up near Lake Dick, Arkansas in July of 2009. It was a perfect set of lighting conditions, strong late afternoon light and turbulent clouds in the background. The image is a study in Mother Nature’s complementary color distribution: Green, gold and blue talking to us.

Our world, on November 24, 2013, here in LA (lower Arkansas), is bitter cold (for us), blustery, and brown. I am not casting aspersions on these conditions, but am merely observing their presence. There is a bit of sticker shock however, as these are the coldest temperatures we have experienced thus far this year. To top that, as winters go, last winter was puny at best, so our systems are far removed from the last bone-chilling experiences in LA.

Hollow cypress tree near Grider Field Pine Bluff AR

Click on the tree to see the start of the story.

Though my duck hunting friends will likely disagree, I believe this is a really good time to be inside watching a football game (or working on a blog).

For those who bemoan these present conditions, I am offering archival selections of warmer and greener circumstances. You can see where this idea germinated on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com where you will see, among other things, a hollow cypress tree surrounded by, you guessed it, green.

Storm clouds in sunset at Lake Dick Arkansas

A day earlier from the water tower shot above, across the road from the water tower, with the camera pointing away from the tower, the setting sun is painting the clouds in vibrant pinks and pseudo-oranges supported by grayish blues. Corn is silhouetted in the foreground. Just being there was a privilege from on high.

Water tower in rice field

A year later, in July of 2010, the field was planted with rice. This is about the same time of day as the storm pictures above, less the disturbances, but nevertheless, cool.

remote abandoned stairs hear lake dick arkansas

Not far from the water tower, earlier the same day, I found a stairway to nowhere. It was likely the front yard approach to a family farm which succumbed to economics. The land around the stairs was not cultivated at the time of the shot.

lady bug on winter wheat near Pine Bluff Arkansas

Just a few miles from the water tower, in April of 2011, we found a nearly ripe field of winter wheat. Turns out ladybugs think winter wheat as a home site is cool. I am told they are beneficial to the wheat crop, since nasty aphids are their favorite treat.

Since we are just days from the time to be grateful for what we have and the opportunities afforded by our blessings, please know, dear readers, that you are a blessing to me. Stay warm and well.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind



Compress no more

Old water tower and building at former Federal Compress in Pine Bluff Arkansas

This building and water tower are all that’s left of the former Federal Compress and Cotton Warehouse on West 6th Avenue in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The original facility stretched for two or three city blocks and was a beehive of activity during cotton harvesting season. Advancing agricultural technology put compresses in the same category as high-button shoes, buggy-whips, and the Edsel.

Back in the day when cotton was King, most LA cities and towns of any size had a cotton compress (or two). The compresses received baled cotton from local gins and then compressed  the bales to a smaller size, around 60% of their original size, which made storing and shipping more efficient. Most of the compresses operated on steam as did this one, the Federal Compress in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Old Coca-Cola sign

Click on the sign to see more.

While we are on the subject of “back in the day,” let me direct you to see an old Coca-Cola wall sign, painted I’m thinking sometime around 1907. The sign is on Main Street here in Pine Bluff, so locals can go ogle it, if so disposed. Go to the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com to see the sign and graze through some commentary.

When gin operators discovered high-capacity hydraulic presses, they eliminated the need for the trip to the compress, sounding the death knell for these businesses. There was one other compress  in Pine Bluff, the Pine Bluff Compress and Warehouse Company. It is now leveled. The only evidence remaining of its former presence are a few concrete piers.

Old water tower and building at former Federal Compress

Here is a toads-eye view of the tower. The wide angle lens gives a, shall we say, “towering” appearance.

Old compress water tower and building on same premises as an ice company

The old building and water tower now share real estate with a modern ice plant. Steam to ice in one generation, quite a transition. Shot across the street from the old compress premises.

A straight on shot from the edge of the premises gives you a more accurate view of the proportions of the building and tower,

A straight-on shot from the edge of the premises gives you a more accurate view of the proportions of the building and tower.

Though the economic value of compresses has long since met its demise, there is still historic value to that part of our background. Investors made commitments and provided a needed service. They created jobs that put food on family tables. Even the compress steam whistles were a dependable time check for neighbors. Compresses were a mainstay made obsolete. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

Streetscape in Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Three generations of signs speak to the history of this corner in my hometown of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. We see a venerable financial institution well over 100 years in business, a beloved local merchant no longer in business and the new occupant of the premises, a church with a neon slogan. Time and life goes on.

Sometimes a swing back in time is good for the soul. I trust this one was to you.

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.


Alas poor compress

old water tower seem through trtees

The old water tower is all that’s left of the former Pine Bluff Compress Company. Click on the tower to see our original February 2009 story and pictures.

The old water tower is all that’s left standing of what was once the Pine Bluff Compress Company here in my home town of, you guessed it, Pine Bluff. Demolition of the site had already started when I did this shoot.

Two years later the deed was done and the site is not flat except for the old tower. Take a look at our original post in 2009 which shows you the still standing and partially skeletal old compress building and an up close and personal look at the old boiler.

The old boiler had the manufacturers name emblazoned on its doors. Turns out several people who saw the original post had fore bearers who worked at the old boiler company. The folks made comments on the article which are available at the bottom of the original post.

You can see even more of the old compress and read additional information where our story started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com.

Happy New Year and thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

The Towering Past

Old grain elevators in a cotton patch, just off US Highway 65 north of Lake Village

Old grain elevators in a cotton patch, just off US Highway 65 north of Lake Village AR.

A funny thing happened on the way to shoot some old water towers in Mississippi. Just before I got to Mississippi, I ran into the grain elevators above, in Arkansas. The water tower adventure started at Lake Dick, Arkansas during a thunderstorm, all properly chronicled on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer Dot Com.  Click here to see the picture and read the “start out” of this story.

Actually, the trip from Greenville, Mississippi north to Helena, Arkansas and back home started the next morning. As the trip developed, I kept seeing these old water towers and the story of the guy on the roof who refused to be rescued came to mind. So I started shooting old water towers. They do have some staying power, even if they are no longer used. Good engineering, one would presume.

old towers

1. Tower at the site of an old cotton gin on Mississipp1 Hwy 1 near Scott MS. 2. Tower at Shaw MS (where I found an RC and Moon Pie). 3. Tower at Rosedale MS 4. Tower at Gunnison MS, notice the gap in the pipe below the bottom of the tank.

Towers two three and four almost appear to be litter mates and this is not an isolated coincidence. There must be hundreds of these towers still standing.

So, exactly what do you do with a water tower no longer in use. It costs money, snarls traffic and probably will cause a power interruption to demolish or remove them. Solution: leave ’em be.

It was snack time after the tower shot at Shaw. So I stopped at what appeared to be the busiest and most popular store and service station. Notice the terminology. This is definitely not a formula convenience store. It’s home grown. I was greeted by some sojurning customers and by the proprietress as I entered.

RC Cola and a Moon Pie. Can be a breakfast, lunch or dinner substitute or a convenient snack when the spirit moves one in that direction.

RC Cola and a Moon Pie. Can be a breakfast, lunch or dinner substitute or a convenient snack when the spirit moves one in that direction.

Thus welcomed, I  perused the drink and snack offerings. To my delight, I discovered two quintessential southern offerings, to wit: a cooler full of RC Colas and a shelf liberally stocked with Moon Pies.

Southerners need no further explanation. This is essential fare. For those of you not culturally aware of the nature of this food group, its roots are in the quarter-a-week allowance many of us experienced in childhood.

The logic was this: An RC was big.  So was a Moon Pie.  So for a dime, you could pig out and have some change left for other temporal pursuits, such as penny Fleers bubble gum. It was a practical matter.

As a result, one developed a taste for the combination. Later in early adulthood, or during continuing education,  the meal satisfied hunger when nothing else was affordable or available. The examples above are perilously tilting on the hood of my pickup, but where better to photograph this culinary delight?

voss is doss

This towering tank on top of an old building in Clarksdale MS, thusfar is a mystery.

Nearing the northern end of the journey, I wheeled into downtown Clarksdale MS to look around. They have done a pretty good job of restoring their downtown with an eclectic collection of shops, restaurants, watering holes and the like. Cruising around, I noticed a small tower/tank on top of an old building. I asked several folks if they knew what it was. They did not have a clue. Perhaps a reader has the answer.

Ground Zero Blues Club ® — Clarksdale, Mississippi

Ground Zero Blues Club ® — Clarksdale, Mississippi

Further downtown in Clarksdale is the Ground Zero Blues Club ® established in 2001 by actor Academy Award Winning Morgan Freeman, local attorney Bill Luckett and Howard Stovall of Memphis. The ambiance captures the essence of the blues. I am planning to return and hear some of its offerings and sample the cuisine.

Thanks for dropping by!

Joe Dempsey

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