Fall arrives in LA (lower Arkansas)


Jefferson County Courthouse Pine Bluff Arkansas

The Jefferson County Courthouse in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The original, in this location, was built prior to the War Between the States. A fire nearly destroyed it in the mid-seventies. After the fire, this part of the courthouse was reconstructed to the previous 19th century specifications. Some but not all of this part of the building is original. In the foreground is a Bradford Pear tree just about to peak out before dropping its leaves.

After a hot, dry and far-too-long summer, most of our trees here in LA have long since thrown in the towel on upholding their long-standing tradition of showing off with their best and brightest fall plumage. The two exceptions to this disappointing vegetative misanthropy are the Hickory trees, the Crepe Myrtles, and Bradford Pears. The former bright yellow and the latter two, screaming red.

Giant honey comb in tree

Giant honey comb

Before we go much further, my original idea to shoot leaves was fortuitously interrupted by my neighbor who advised me of a giant honeycomb in a tree in his former backyard. At first glance, you might have thought you were seeing an apparition in the process of eating the tree. Fortunately, it was benign.

It is a sight to behold, and you may behold it where this adventure started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to go there. We’ll wait here while you look.

Fortunately, a concentration of exceptions to this year’s generally anemic fall colors populates our neighborhood. Several crepe myrtles performed as programmed as well as all of our homeboy hickory trees. The former are screaming red and the latter are brilliant yellow. They rock!

crepe myrtles with fall colors

Spindly crepe myrtles in the spring and summer are almost incognito amongst our giant neighborhood pine and hardwood trees. The tables turn when crepe myrtles blast forth their fall colors. In this picture, you are looking at two. Mine in the foreground, and my neighbor's crepe myrtle across the street in yellow orange in the background.

When it comes to fall leaves, I am the neighborhood pariah. Most of my neighbors boast shiny garden tractors with leaf vacuum attachments. Like busy bees, they religiously suck up their share of the six-gillion cubic feet of leaves which annually fall in our neighborhood almost as they drop.  But not I.

crepe myrtle and hickory tree in fall colors

In the foreground a blazing Crepe Myrtle is backed up by a large Hickory tree. Both are in my neighbor's yard (the one who turned me on to the honeycomb in the tree). I see this every time I pull out of my driveway.

Personally, it is my belief that falling leaves belong where they fall. I like how they look. I like how they crunch under your feet. Our cats love to play and frolic in the leaves. Our dogs love the same. So I am always the last hold out with the leaves. Last year, I set a new record. The leaves stayed in place until after the new year before they were ground to smithereens by my good friends who provide us with lawn service. Some will say that being a pariah comes naturally to me. Perhaps it is true.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE

See larger versions of all the the Weekly Grist and Corndancer pictures for this week including the view from my office/studio on our weekly picture only gallery. Click here to go there.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

A bear, a monkey, and a locomotive


bear in pond at Audubon Park Zoo

It ain’t the slime from Hades that ate Brooklyn surrounding the bear. It’s common duckweed.

This critter compendium started on the photo of the week page at Corndancer dot com with a gray fox and some ‘gators. To get in on the start of the festivities and see the critters, click here. We’ll wait while you look.

The black bear is swimming in the pond of the swamp area at Audubon Park, otherwise known as the New Orleans Zoo. Mind you, this shot was made with film around the mid nineties, so the bear and the pond are not the same, if at all.

When you first see the image, you say, “  … yuk, gah-rohss, eeetch!$#@! look at the bear in the slime. The green stuff is neither algae nor slime; it is duckweed, a prolific, emerald green aquatic plant that will cover a pond quickly. What appear to be green freckles on the bear’s muzzle are duckweed leaves.  It is an inordinately warm day in mid-April and brother bear has opted for a dip to cool the savage beast, duckweed notwithstanding.

primate in tree at Audubon Park Zoo

Now where in the $#@!!!^%* did I leave that lottery ticket?

Not far away, perched high above the ground is a monkey, the genre of which escapes me. He looks like he is wearing a roaring twenties raccoon coat. One thing I do know, it appears that his left ear is itching because he is vigorously scratching in that direction.  He looks like he has just lost his lottery ticket. Folks, these critters are why we go and gladly pay to get it. Go forth, learn and enjoy.

All steamed up

Cotton Belt Engine 819

Cotton Belt Engine 819, built, retired, and restored in Pine Bluff, Arkansas

What, you say, do monkeys, bears, and locomotives have in common? At first blush, nothing. Howsomever, these three do. They share a residence in my film image archives. This week, in-lieu of plying the highways and byways for Grist matter, I groveled through the archives. From a technical standpoint,  for those of you interested in photography, this image took a bit of unconventional chicanery. I knew I would not get to see the engine until the afternoon of that day, which, unfortunately meant the business end, which you see above, would be in the shadows. So I took a couple of 600 watt studio strobes and about a 175′ of extension cord to the rail yards and blasted 819 with a sterilizing dose of strobe to get the shot. I got some really weird stares and a couple of mild electrical shocks since steam engines cast off water, but, in the end, I got the shot and that was what counted. The images on this post are all in the 14-15 year old range, shot on Fujichrome 100.

The 819 was built in the Cotton Belt Shops at Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1943. The locomotive was in regular service on the St. Louis and Southwestern Railroad, more popularly known in theses environs as the Cotton Belt Line, until 1955 when it was retired. The mighty locomotive was placed on permanent display in a city park in Pine Bluff where it remained until December 1, 1983 when a group of enthusiasts put the engine back on rails, returned it to the shops where it originated and meticulously restored it to the last minute detail. There is much more to this story than this synopsis, most of which you can find here. The 819 is currently housed in the Arkansas Railroad Museum in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

May 6, 2012 update. The 8i9 is now disassembled and “on hold.” See a Corndancer article and a companion Weekly Grist article from 2010 which give some explanation of the 819 dilemma.

Where is this building (or where was it)?

auto auction barn

This old build is (or was) in plain sight, visible for a long way in either direction on the highway where it was located. Where, was that, within 100 miles?

Who will be the first to tell me where this building is, within a hundred miles, or so, a generous latitude of locations? I have passed this old structure a number of times and finally photographed it about 15 years ago. It’s been seven years since I have been past the building, so I am not certain that it is still standing. Who knows, it could have been razed or simply collapsed. For those who want to participate, email or post a comment below? Hint: It is west of where I live. I will reveal the answer (within a 100 miles or so) next week, it not sooner.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

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