A cool country barn

old barn

This is the back side of the old barn. The front side is in substantially better condition.

This old barn in rural Arkansas is well over 100 years old. The man who built it was not yet ten years old when the War Between the States came to an end. See more pictures of the barn and get in on some of the family background where this story started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot Com, a very cool thing to do. Click here to go there.

To honor the privacy concerns of the barn owners, we are not disclosing their names or the location of the barn past “a barn in rural Arkansas.”

The barn has some unusual characteristics we haven’t encountered on our previous barn adventures. It has a walkway around the outside of the stable side of the barn. Shirley (a pseudonym) whose grandfather built the barn had no explanation of this feature. There had to be a good reason, because in a day when sweat provided power for construction tools instead of electricity, a lot of extra effort was required to build the walkway.

barn walkway

The barn has a walkway around the stable side of the barn. We have yet to figure out what the benefit was to justify this extra effort. Although the room you see is floored, horse and mule stalls are next to it. The barn was still in use in the early fifties.

In one of the rooms on the corn crib side, I spotted some sort of device with a crank and a couple of pulleys connected with a flat belt. Turns out it is a hand-cranked pea-sheller, or as Shirley called it in correct local vernacular, ” … a pea thrasher.”

pea sheller in barn room

The device you see is a hand-cranked pea-sheller more popularly known as a  “pea-thrasher.” Oddly enough, the machine is about the same size as a modern electric version I observed last week at the Purple Hull Pea Festival in Emerson, Arkansas. Some things change slowly.

Under the shed in the back of the barn, near the walkway, there is a feeding trough crafted from a hollowed log, not an easy task. Perhaps it is a reflection Shirley’s of grandfather’s and father’s mindset. Traditional men, they never bought or used a tractor, always depending on mule power to do their farming. She said they quit the farming business in the early fifties when lighting struck and killed their mules. They apparently decided that was a sign to quit. Good thinking.

feeding trough

This feeding trough is built from a hollowed log. Unless the builder got lucky and found a hollow log, this was not a short job. Note the rough-sawed board above the trough. Chances are good that the planks used in this barn were ripped from logs  right on the site.

On Arkansas Highway 9 near the Dallas-Hot Springs county line you will find the pristine Hunter Chapel Methodist Church, built in 1852. The church has regular services and they still accept the deceased in their cemetery. That my friends is what you call staying power.

Hunter Chapel Methodist Church

Hunter Chapel Methodist Church. Members find it ironic that the only liquor store for miles in any direction is directly across the highway from the 158 year old church.

Taking the long way home on Dallas County Road 74 (a long, long, long, and winding gravel road),  a bunch of miles south of Hunters Chapel, you will find Old Cypress Methodist Church, founded in 1886, it is younger than Hunter Chapel by 36 years. The 1800s were good for John Wesley’s folks in these parts it seems.

Old Cypress Methodist Church

Old Cypress Methodist Church, founded in 1886, can be found on Dallas County Road 72. On that road, the church is probably outnumbered by 20 to 1 or better by deer camps.

A few miles from Highway 9 on the aforementioned County Road 74, I ran into a real ass. She had some friends, but they were all camera shy. So look at my beautiful ass.

my beautiful ass

My beautiful Arkansas ass.

Inside of old barn

Click on the picture to see the inside of the barn

But wait, there’s more! More barn pictures, inside and out

Each week, we shoot more than we have room to show, so we post them on our handy high-resolution picture galleries. In these galleries you will see more views of the barn inside and out.

The pictures are bigger and they are better. See everything we shot for this story in color and glorious black and white in gallery one: Click here to go there (This is a flash gallery, so MACs don’t like it). Click here for gallery two which MACs will like. There are 42 pictures in gallery one and 20 in gallery two.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey


Peas attend this festival

National Rotary Tiller Championship Race

This woman is competing in the 2010 World Champion Rotary Tiller Race as part of the 2010 Purple Hull Pea Festival in Emerson, Arkansas. The custom tiller is powered by a Honda motorcycle engine. The tiller was built specifically for action in this competition.

In their own web site, the people of Emerson, Arkansas call their festival, “The Purple Hull Pea Festival and World Championship Rotary Tiller Race, “ … quirky … and … fun.” From this observation post, they are truthful on both accounts. The longevity of the award-winning festival, the idea of which was hatched in 1990, seems to underscore the accuracy of their description of the event. The crowds just keep on coming. In your wildest dreams, you do not expect to hear of such an event.

To learn how the festival came to be and to see more festival pictures,  take a short trip to the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com and get in on the start of the story. We’ll wait for you here.

Tiller racer at National Rotary Tiller Race Championship

Festival activities heat up on Saturday at the rotary tiller races. The goats grazing in the background are not disturbed. They have seen it before and it does not disturb a good meal. Yes, there were guys racing tillers too. These pictures just happened to fit the page. See the gallery link below for more tiller race, parade and other event pictures not shown here.

The two day festival is a Friday-Saturday affair. Down south, you go to church on Sunday. In true home-town fashion, the festival, for the most part, fills the Emerson School grounds. It spills over into some adjacent residential neighborhoods, but in Emerson, that’s no big deal and not a problem. The schedule on Friday includes a Pea Lunch, cake auction, gospel entertainment, the start of the festival basketball tournament and a bunch more. The action really really heats up on Saturday morning with the tiller races.

Miss Purple Hull 2010

Catie Cunningham, Miss Purple Hull 2010 wears the title with a big smile.

Close on the heels of the tiller races, is a parade featuring a great collection of restored farm tractors, Miss Purple Hull, and a lot more. The parade, unlike those of larger venues does not drag on for hours. (Speaking of tractors, be sure and click on the gallery link at the bottom of this page to see more of the great collection of tractors at this festival). The parade is short, full of good stuff and has a down-home personal feeling to it not found in bigger parades. After the parade, there is a go-slow tractor race. The idea is to cover the ground in the longest time, idling in low gear without killing the engine. The comments from the master of ceremonies are reason enough to attend the event. What a hoot!

Emerson Fire Truck

No parade is complete without a shiny fire truck and Emerson is no different.

A fully restored 956 Chevy Bel Air four door. How sweet it is.

A fully restored 1956 Chevy Bel Air four door. How sweet it is.

1951 Army Jeep

1951 Army Jeep, from pre-humvee days. Vehicles like this were used in the Korean War.

Color coordinated tractor and driver attire in the parade.

Color coordinated tractor and driver attire in the parade.

There was a lot of stuff for sale at the festival. Two vendors caught my eye, both of which were selling purple hull peas. The first, John KIrkpatrick of Willisville, Arkansas is a circuit riding fresh vegetable dealer. His veggies are frozen, but not the crass commercial kind. His merchandise is not long out of  the field when the frigid air hits it. It comes, for the most part in two-bushel bags.

John Kirkpatrick on his trailer.

John Kirkpatrick in his trailer on the festival grounds.

He pulls a long trailer which holds four large freezers chock full of peas, okra, corn, and scads of other desirable veggies. He follows a route to a number of towns in south Arkansas and East Texas, where he has a following. He carries a portable generator with him and runs it when his cargo begins to defrost.

John Kirckpatrick and customer

John Kirkpatrick completes a sale to a happy customer. The bag on top of the freezer is a two-bushel bag. The bag is sold by weight. The volume of un-shelled peas is to come up with this weight is in the neighborhood of two bushel baskets, thus the terminology.

On the other side of the festival grounds, Danny Gryder a truck-farmer from Plain Dealing, Louisiana is peddling freshly hulled peas. He brought more than forty large bags (toe-sacks in proper southern parlance) of fresh un-shelled  peas straight from the fields − and his pea sheller. He set up his machine and started shelling peas on the spot.

Danny Gryder and his pea sheller.

Danny Gryder and his pea sheller. The top swings open and Danny fills the sheller full of peas. The sheller spits out hulls on the side and peas out the small spout near Danny's feet.

The curiosity of the pea huller and the appeal of freshly shelled peas was a siren song to festival attendees. Danny sold out of peas by 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. “I’ll bring a bunch more next time,” he said.

Danny Gryder hand over the last of his peas for the day to a happy customer.

Danny Gryder hands over the last of his peas for the day to a happy customer.

Danny had a few peas left which he handed over to me and I subsequently handed over to my 94-year-old mother after a short drive. Mom was grateful, the quantity was just right for her. “Just barely enough to make a mess,” Danny said as he handed them over. To non-southerners, a “mess” is roughly enough of any vegetable to make enough servings for a meal, such as, ” … hon, Danny gimme a mess of peas.” “Well wundunat sweet of  ‘im Cletus. Didja thank ‘im?” “Yessum.”

Vendors at Purple Hull Pea festival

Vendors at Purple Hull Pea festival from Danny's pea sheller.

All I can say to the folks at Emerson is, ” … y’all done good,” one of the highest compliments proffered from one southerner to another. And if it wasn’t so, I wouldna sed it.

See much more festival in our high-resolution gallery

Each week, we shoot more pictures than we have room to publish. So we post all the pictures, used and those not seen anywhere else in our high resolution gallery. The pictures are bigger and better. My friend Cletus says, ” … Joe, thim pitchers in that gallery are more clearer.” We’re talking more tractors, more parade, more tiller racing.  Click here to see these pictures.

Thanks for dropping by,


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