The surviving barn

old barn at Arkadelphia Arkansas

This old barn is alive, well and functional. It serves as the central storage facility and conversation piece for the Open Banks Hunting Club in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. The club is so named because the main facility is situated high on a cleared section of the banks of the Ouachita River, affording a clean look at the stream below, unfettered by normal river bank underbrush

The prognosis for this old barn is good. It is well used by my friend Eddie Snider and his cohorts in the Open Banks Hunting Club near Arkadelphia, Arkansas. The barn as you see it, is in its third permutation. It started out with only the breezeway and the enclosed section to the right sometime in the early 1900s, so we are told. The first addition was the near breezeway to the left, then the second to the left and finally the breezeway to the right. It’s a dead giveaway because you can see where the new roof joists were attached to the old ones. The originators were adding functionality before the word was invented.

A bike in the barn

old bike hanging in barn

An old bike hangs in the old barn. See it at Corndancer dot Com.

The story of this barn started on the photo of the week page at Corndancer dot Com. To see other pictures of the barn and see an old bicycle hanging in the barn, click here to go there, a cool thing to do. We’ll wait while you check it out.

The barn was originally a horse and mule barn. You can tell by the height of the big doors which will accommodate a man on a horse without bumping his noggin or knocking his hat off.

As you look at the front of the barn, there is a nondescript  notch cut in the top of front opening. The back opening is as it should be. Seems one of the members had a motorhome to park in the breezeway. While said breezeway would handily admit a man on a horse, a motorhome was wont to fit. A chainsaw solved the problem resulting in the snaggle-tooth notch in the front door.

Fifty years or so ago, the land on which this barn is located was under cultivation for row-crops. Changing agricultural trends being what they are, the land is now dedicated to timber and is selectively harvested from time to time.

In the meantime, critters, not giving a tinkerer’s damn about business trends do have a deep and abiding appreciation for favorable habitat. That being so, the timber habitat has the appeal of a pleasure palace and smorgasbord to God’s creatures, so the woods are full of ’em, including a couple of alligators in one of the ponds. Life is good when it is harmonious.

Barn down

old barn remnants

Not quite Stonehenge on the Ouachita, a couple of old cross-ties used for structural members in the barn that fell stand as a memorial to the crumbled structure.

There were (were being the operative word) two barns on the property until an untoward wind several years ago put one of them on the ground. Some remnants survive in stacks to remind one of where it was. Only the strongest survive, even in barns.

Another barn, complete with Ford-Ferguson tractor

The old tractor holed up in this precariously leaning barn looks like a Model 9n Ford-Ferguson tractor, which unbeknown to most, was a turning point in the tractor business. The Ford-Ferguson was the first tractor to offer a three-point hitch, invented by Harry Ferguson, and recognized by Henry Ford as something he had to have for his line of tractors.

Ferguson Ford tractor in old barn

Ferguson Ford tractor in an old barn not far from the barn with the bike.

Before the three point hitch was invented, connecting implements to a tractor was a pain in the keaster at best, requiring a lift device or several full grown men helped by a half-troop of Boy Scouts, grunting and groaning to get stuff hitched. With the three point hitch, the tractor operator backed up to the implement, attached it and went about his business. Easy hookup, less hernias. Such a deal.

Urban volunteers

Meanwhile, back home in LA (Lower Arkansas), spring has served notice that like it or not, it is here. My windshield as covered with the first gossamer film of pollen day before yesterday. This will be replaced in a couple of weeks by an onslaught of yellow powder that would have worked well as one of Pharaoh’s plagues.  Today, blooming jonquils confirmed the seasonal shift.

volunteer jonquils

These jonquils are "volunteer." They appear annually in the same place. They are not attended to, fertilized, molly-coddled or otherwise taken care of. They, being urban posies have the toughness of the hood, if that's possible in a flower. Since they survive nicely, one can only suppose that they do.

Thanks to my friend Eddie Snider for ferrying me about the boondocks on his four wheeler. We are 6-2 and 6-3 respectively. Neither of us is in marathon condition so the little Kawasaki was toting a fearsome load. It did well as we are here to bear witness.

There’s more

See a collection of better quality pictures from this trip, including some not posted otherwise,  in a high-resolution gallery. Click here to go there.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey.
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Two old Saline River bridges

The Saline River starts out in the Ouachita Mountains west of Benton, Arkansas with four forks. The four forks converge near Riverside in Saline County, Arkansas. The river leaves Saline County and winds on a serpentine path through Grant, Dallas, Cleveland, Bradley, Drew, and Ashley Counties. It empties into the Ouachita River near Felsanthal in Ashely County.

Before we go too much further, this “old bridge” story actually started in Mooringsport, Louisiana with a story about and pictures of an old draw bridge on the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to see the old Mooringsport bridge and get the story.

Old Saline River Bridge west of Tull, Arkansas

Tull Bridge over the Saline River, west of Tull, Arkansas was finished and opened for service in 1916. The bridge was in use until it was replaced in 2005. I have driven over the one-lane bridge on many occasions. Though the wooden floor rattled loudly as you drove over the bridge, you finally become accustomed to the noise after enough trips to gain confidence that the rusty structure would indeed keep you high and dry.

I first came across the Tull Bridge the mid-seventies. It was a ferrous oxide poster child and rattled like a box full of bones then, but there was a certain charm to traversing a bridge with a wooden floor. That certain charm for the most part, ameliorated the fear and trepidation brought about by the attendant sound effects.

East view of the Tull Bridge

Looking at the Tull Bridge from the east bank of the Saline River. You can see the floor planking, the source of the bridge's percussion serenade as you dared to venture across it. the new bridge, completed in 2005 is visible in the picture to the right.

Even the approaches to the Tull Bridge were planked with wood. The approaches did not rattle like the planks on the bridge. On most trips across the bridge, if other traffic was not present, I would stop on the bridge and get out of my vehicle just to look at the construction. Don’t tell my mother I did this.

Side view from the north of Tull Bridge

Looking south from the new bridge, you get a view of the bridge not afforded until the new bridge was completed. And you begin to think, " ... I drove across that sucker a bunch of times."

If you seriously travel central and southeast Arkansas, crossing the Saline River is inevitable. On this trip, I lost count of the number of times I crossed it. Like most rivers, as it progresses downstream, it becomes a bit but not overly turbid. Under normal circumstances, the waters of the forks, originating in Ouachita Mountains, are gin-clear.

Upstream side of old North Fork Saline River Bridge

The upstream side of an abandoned bridge across the North Fork of the Saline River off Arkansas Highway 128 near the junction with Arkansas Highway 5.

Meanwhile, a county or so away,
still yet another abandoned bridge beckoned

This bridge in northern Garland County, Arkansas was built by a county road department in 1931. It has been replaced by a newer bridge which I was standing under to get the shot above.  The bridge is a favorite for photographers, but not at this angle. It took some delicate steps over some serious rip-rap at the base of the bridge to set up for the shot.

County road departments these days, it appears, eschew the obvious aesthetic considerations their predecessors put into this one. It is graceful with a shape reminiscent of a gull in flight. Not an easy appearance to achieve with concrete. They did well and someone was thinking in the right direction to leave the bridge standing. Whomsoever you are, thanks.

Down stream side of North Fork Saline River Bridge

One can see the second arch in this bridge from the downstream side. The sturdy bridge has a classic, but bruised bridge beauty. Even in rural Arkansas, grubby graffiti shows up.

It’s nice to see a couple of old bridges which did not suffer destruction. We’ll look for more.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

The best of times for BLT lovers

These tiny yellow blossoms are the beginnings of a plump, juicy home grown tomatoes. They will make a BLT you won't believe.

These tiny yellow blossoms are the beginnings of plump, juicy home grown tomatoes. They will make a BLT you won't believe. These are back-yard blooms.

After a tortuous winter of choking down mushy,  flat-tasting red blobs erroneously identified as tomatoes, the advent of Arkansas home-grown tomatoes is a time to celebrate. Even then, the four month wait from tiny tomato bloom to a big bad bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich  is an agonizingly long wait, testing the patience of  determined BLT lovers. This glory story for tomato aficionados started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. See those pictures and grab some tomato lore by clicking here, a very cool thing to do.

Progress in the back yard. Blooms and big brothers (sisters?) Someone set me straight.

Progress in the back yard. Blooms and big brothers (sisters?) Someone set me straight.

While the backyard plants you see above are puttering along, there are some serious tomatoes nearing market readiness near Hermitage, Arkansas, the tomato epi-center of Bradley County, Arkansas, legendary for the tasty tomatoes grown within its borders. The field you see below belongs to Randy Clanton of Hermitage, a second generation tomato farmer who knows his stuff.

One of Randy Clanton's tomato fields near Hermitage, Arkansas. Randy, a second-generation tomato farmer is reknowned for producing tomatoes that tast good.

One of Randy Clanton's tomato fields near Hermitage, Arkansas. Randy, a second-generation tomato farmer is renowned for producing tomatoes that taste good.

Although not visible until you move some leaves around, Randy Clanton’s robust plants you see above are full of tomatoes about three weeks away from harvest. Take a glimpse at the camouflaged tomatoes here.

Tomato onslaught

For several weeks, these plants go crazy churning out their red globes of gastronomical delight. Harvesting at just the right time is a daily routine. While blooms and babies are maturing at the top of the plant, ripe fruit is ready to pick at the bottoms, a picture of natural efficiency. Legions of salivating fans anxiously await their arrival in produce sections around the nation.

Early tomato farming experiences

Randy Clanton recalls a time when his father cultivated his tomato crop with a mule, fed on corn grown in the elder Clanton’s fields. “He told me  on some of the first tomatoes he grew,  he borrowed $200 at the bank for three acres of tomatoes. By the time he was able to start picking and selling his crop, he still had $40 of his loan left, unexpended.” Randy’s friend, Bradley county businessman Kenneth Farrell, a former tomato farmer, revealed his first experience at tomato farming. “The year I finished high school, I had an acre and a quarter of tomatoes I raised. I had $125  in the crop. It was 1958 which was a ‘high’ year for tomato prices. After all my expenses, I was able to go to the Ford place and buy the best car they  had.”

Times have changed

Randy and Kenneth agreed that the price of tomatoes has not grown proportionally with what it takes to produce them. However, on Randy’s farm, it is easy to see that good farming practices and due diligence are the key, a good thing for us on the BLT end of this process.

What’s that large yellow orb in the sky?


Liquid lingers in south Arkansas. My thanks to Pat Patterson for the shot of me in my truck. Pat's wife, Darlene was riding with me. At this point, she was not trembling with fear and trepidation, but those conditions were not far off.

For the first time in what feels like months, there is no rain predicted in these environs for the next seven days. Nevertheless, the remnants of thunderstorms past linger in our neighborhoods. I joined my friends William L. “Pat” Patterson and his lovely spousal unit, Darlene in visiting our mutual friends, Jack and Linda Newbury in their home at Felthensal AR. Felthensal has been described by some as a small drinking community with a fishing problem. There may be some credence to this rumor. The community sits on the banks of the Felthensal pool formed by the Felthensal Lock and Dam on the Ouachita River in south Arkansas. The local waters are a fine fishing resource. In winter months, hunters descend on the community in droves. We took a swing around the area, looking at still flooded parking lots among other things.

Boys will still be boys. Reckon any girls ever do this? Hmmm.

Boys will still be boys. Reckon any girls ever do this? Hmmm.

Later on in the day, I found our next sign. This time as a two sided target. One side’s pelting is punctuated by exit wounds.

Thanks for dropping by,

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