A race and a parade, if you peas

Rotary tiller racer starting the race

When a tiller race starts and the souped-up tiller first bites Mother Earth the dust flies, part of the appeal and excitement of rotary tiller racing at the World Championship Rotary Tiller Race during the world-famous Purple Hull Pea Festival at Emerson, Arkansas. The announcer sits calmly as the racer’s heartbeat jumps exponentially.

If you are searching for a unique experience in the company of  new-found friends, put the last weekend of any June, at Emerson, Arkansas on your calendar. It’s not necessary to dress up, come comfortably to the Purple Hull Pea Festival at Emerson. You’ll rub elbows with nice folks there.

Tiller racer at Emerson Arkansas

Click on the tiller racer for more Emerson pix and info.

You will also have the opportunity to consume the properly prepared namesake legume, watch a parade, be entertained, observe the World Pea Shelling competition, dance in the streets, see a fireworks spectacular, and observe The World Championship Rotary Tiller Race.There’s nary another place on the planet that can deliver on that.

You also now have the opportunity to see more pictures and information on the festival on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-come where this tale of fun got underway in the first place.

Rotary tiller racer underway

Up close and personal. The guy in the lime green shirt is a second or two away from the start now. He has about another six seconds and change to reach the finish line 200 feet away if he expects to to be “in the money.”

Little girl racing tiller

Rotary tiller racing at the Purple Hull Pea Festival is not limited to good ol’ boys. Little girls (and little boys), and their mothers, sisters, and aunts race tillers as well. It’s a family thing.

Before the big race starts, you can watch the world renowned “Million Tiller” parade as part of the festival. You will see a great collection of antique tractors, local beauties, four wheelers, horseback riders, motorcycles of all stripes, families being families and civic and church groups showing support for the big event. Be forewarned, sometimes the tiller count is a tad shy of a million.

Family in jeep in parade

The family that parades together stays together. It’s not every day you see a family in a jeep adorned with a teddy bear, (at least that’s what I think it is), a proper crusting of mud, all smiles, and a beautiful baby daughter under a parasol (OK, umbrella) — in a parade. It is just too cool, and you saw it here first.

Among the star attractions of the parade this year, in my humble opinion, was a “motor-trike” powered by a Chevy engine, the back end of which is a replica of the classic slick back Corvette Stingray.

Black Chevy powered trike

As I was salivating while shooting this magnificent beast, the driver told me to be sure and shoot the back. He was on the move so I had to whirl fast to do his bidding.

Stingray replica

As promised, the aft end of the trike is a true Corvette Stingray replica. The lacquer is so shiny it picks up a reflection of gravel in the street.

The Purple Hull Pea Festival in Emerson, Arkansas, population 368 (or there about) is small town America at its best. You go. You enjoy. You leave. And you are glad you went. In LA (lower Arkansas), that’s a “it don’t git much better than that” experience.

See more tiller race and parade pictures in our Purple Hull Pea Festival galleries. Click below:

Thanks for dropping by,
Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.



Only in the Ozarks: these falls, this store

The "middle fingers" of Six Finger Falls on Falling Water Creek near Ben Hur, Arkansas

The “middle fingers” of Six Finger Falls on Falling Water Creek near Ben Hur, Arkansas

August 21, 2011 – We have updated this post with pictures shot on the same trip not previously posted.

Six finger falls

Click on the falls for another view at Corndancer dot-com

You’re looking at the middle fingers of “Six Finger Falls” on Falling Water Creek northeast of Ben Hur, Arkansas. The falls, probably over eons, have carved six sluices through solid rock, giving rise to the name. This story, along with another picture of the falls started on the Photo of the Week page on Corndancer Dot Com. Click here to go there and see for yourself.

Upstream from Six Finger Falls is “Falling Water” falls, on, you guessed it, Falling Water Creek. Coming north on county road 1205 from Arkansas Highway 16 (east of Ben Hur), you pass Falling Water Falls. On this trip you get two, count ‘em, two falls for the price of one. Many people who make the trip, always take a gander at both.

Hidden Hollow

Down stream from Six-Finger Falls about 100 yards on the left, you will find this hollow carved out over millions of years by the small falls at its head. The hollow is immense and gives you the feeling you are in a big cave with no roof. You almost would not be surprised to see a pterodactyl coming at you in this environment. When I first found it, I took the liberty of naming it “Hidden Hollow.” Much-more-famous-than-I photographer, writer, and over-all nice guy, Tim Ernst, calls it “Fuzzybutt.”

Old house on Falling Water Creek Road

On the way to the falls, if you come in from the Ben Hur side, you will see this old structure. I’m betting it is now a deer camp, formerly a residence. The outside decor includes everthing but a kitchen sink, and that may be on the other side.

low water bridge on falling water creek

Past the alleged deer camp a mile or so, you cross Falling Water Creek via this low-water bridge, mostly out of the picture. You are looking downstream.

Rotary Ann Overlook on Arkansas Highway 7, south of Pelsor. The view is to the west. The overlook is legendary for spectacular sunsets.

Rotary Ann Overlook on Arkansas Highway 7, south of Pelsor. The view is to the west. The overlook is legendary for spectacular sunsets.

On the way to Falling Water Creek, earlier today, I passed “Rotary Ann Overlook” on Arkansas Highway 7, south of Pelsor, Arkansas. The mountains from the overlook were still shrouded in morning mist, a breathtaking sight.

Oark store

Oark General Store, according to local sources has been in continuous business since 1890.

After the waterfall adventure, I proceeded to Oark, Arkansas and the Oark Café and General Store for lunch and a shoot, in that order. Breakfast seemed to have been a week ago. Crawling around waterfalls will do that to you.

The current store owners, James and Carla recently bought the store, taking their place in a parade of former proprietors. Like many country stores, a big part of their business is the café.


The Oark General Store Cafe is not only a popular venue for local folks, visitors from outside the community also frequent the tables. The area to the right (shelves and drink boxes) was partitioned as a feed warehouse in the fifties. A concrete floor for the warehouse replaced the original wood floor in that area. Other than that, the ceiling and floors in the building are exactly as they were when the store was built. Eclectic decor with the checkered table cloths amplifies the  down-home feeling experienced in the store.

This was true for the previous owner as well. This is not my first time at the Oark establishment and it will not be the last. James and Carla are continuing a tradition of good vittles. I sinned with a chicken fried steak, gravy, mashed potatoes, purple hull peas liberally seasoned with bacon, a salad and a huge roll. I could feel my arteries constricting, but nevertheless reveled in this revered culinary delight.


Angela, the Oark General Store and Cafe chef with “Hooter,” the official store dog.

mamma eats here sign

A good sense of humor underscores the inherent goodness of the cuisine.

As I was leaving, I visited with Chef Angela, the creator of my yummy artery clogger. She was relaxing on one of the store porch benches, required furniture if you are to be considered as an official southern country store. She was visiting with “Hooter, ” the official store dog, also a spiritual requirement of country storedom. Hooter, Angela says, “came with the store,” when James and Carla made the purchase. It appears that everyone has nicely adjusted to the transfer.

Angela and Carla both say that Hooter has a strong Catahoula genetic presence. I have to agree. But I can see some Blue Tick and mebbe a of smidgen of Rottweiler. I’m thinking it doesn’t make much difference to Hooter one way or the other, since he seems to like everyone he sees, regardless of his coding. Good attitude Hooter. Would that there were more like you, four and two-legged.

Gulf sign and old fire truck

On the way to the store from the Finger Falls, I saw this old fire truck with an ancient Gulf Oil Co. sign standing guard. It has some sort of extensions which remind you of a shrimp trawler. There’s probably a good explanation, but it escapes me.

Harmony Presbyterian Church

The last shot of the day as I descended to the flat lands was Harmony Presbyterian Church. As I recall, more than 100 years old and holding up well.

Thanks for dropping by,


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