A day across Arkansas


Carl Blackwell with restored gasoline engines

Carl Blackwell of Wynne, Arkansas proudly stands beside some of his stable of restored gasoline engines at the 37th Annual Grand Prairie Rice Festival at Hazen, Arkansas on October 26, 2013. These engines were popular in the first half of the twentieth century in non-electrified rural areas where they were used to power generators, grist mills, pumps, and just about anything else that need rotary power to work. As electric service spread to rural areas, the engines fell from favor. Restoring these engines has become a popular niche avocation and Mr. Blackwell is one of the finest practitioners of the genre.

Carl Blackwell of Wynne, Arkansas is a master tinkerer, machinist, and restorer. I visited with Carl at the Grand Prairie Rice Festival in Hazen, Arkansas where he displayed several of his collection of old gasoline power units he has personally restored to working order.  It comes naturally to Carl. He is a retired machine shop supervisor and has a precision lathe and milling machine at his place in Wynne, Arkansas.

Restored and operating Star gasoline power unit

When Carl Blackwell starts an engine restoration project and can’t find the parts he needs, he goes to work and makes the parts. This restored Star engine is a prime example of Carl’s expertise. After he started the restoration process, he could not find parts for the cylinder head valve mechanism, (the round thing in front of the silver thing, and most of the parts around it), so he went to work and made the parts. As you can see the engine is fully functional.

St. Mary's Church at St. Vincent Arkansas

Click on the church to see how the story started.

We are chronicling a one-day trip through the heart of Arkansas. The story started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com at St. Vincent, Arkansas, where we took a look at fine country church. Take a look to get in on the start of the story.

This was our second visit to St. Vincent. On the first visit, we showed you a barn with an ecclesiastical message, which was down the road from LBJ’s Beer and Groceries. There is a nice distribution of cultural icons in St. Vincent where everyone seems to get along just fine, thank you very much,

Back to the trip

Carl Blackwell was toward the end of the trip, but he was so interesting, I decided to start this epistle with him. After we left St. Vincent, we saw barns and other sights and scenes as we headed toward the Grand Prairie Rice Festival at Hazen where we visited with Carl. Here’s what we saw on the way:

entrance to field with overhead flags

Here, we were trying to figure out if we arrived too early or too late. Those, it seems, were the only choices given that sense of abandonment.

Old horse barn

Not far from the flags, we saw this old barn, which we presume was a horse/mule barn due to the height. Normally the big doors on a horse barn were tall enough to accommodate a human on a horse. Note the abandoned disc harrow in the foreground.

Old rural utility building

After turning down a likely-looking gravel road we found this old utility building. It was probably a small barn that had something to do with livestock. We conjecture that due to the fencing on the property.

old rural utility bulding with blue sky background

More of the same with a different look. The still standing night-watcher light is disconnected.

old school bus with curtains

Here in the mid-south, it is not unusual to see old school busses converted to deer camp shelters or other use. This one has been curtained, and not moved for a while. The lettering on the bus says: “Licking Heights Local School District.” I Googled that name and discovered that Licking Heights Local School District is in Ohio. Folks, it’s quite a stretch between Mid-Ohio and Springfield, Arkansas. No telling how the bus arrived here.

dog

As I was shooting the bus, one of the neighbor’s pups dropped by for a look. Looks like he has some greyhound in his background. He was friendly, but suspicious.

restored 1938 C Model Case Tractor

After the bus and dog, we transitioned to Hazen, Arkansas to barely arrive at the 37th Grand Prairie Rice Festival with a little time to spare before the event closed. We’ve been there before and it was fun. There were a lot of antique tractors including this 1938 Case C Model.

back side of case 1938 c model tractor

This is the back side of the Case C model. In the background, you can catch a glimpse of a gigantic 24-ton antique, fully operational 1919 Fairbanks-Morse Type Y Vertical Oil Engine. You can see the engine in operation at Corndancer dot-com.

case combine harvesting rice

Exhibitors were folding their tents as we left the festival. South of Hazen we found a rice harvest underway. There were three combines in this field. They were trying to beat an incoming storm. If you are into four-wheel drive vehicles, this is the ultimate high-horsepower get-in-the-big-middle-of-it-vehicle. Entry level exceeds 800 grand and you need a lot of level muddy ground.

We digress from the trip

After the combine we made it safely to the carport. We will fast forward from this trip of October 26, 2013 to November 1, 2013 when we saw a tree full of shoes at Sardis, Arkansas. While this is out of the purview of our original trip, due to the shock value of a tree full of shoes, we include the picture below. If you want to see more details, see our Sardis Shoe Tree gallery.

Somehow you simply do not expect to find a tree full of shoes. Except if you are in Sardis, Arkansas. Then, it is an everyday occurrence.

Somehow you simply do not expect to find a tree full of shoes. Except if you are in Sardis, Arkansas. Then, it is an everyday occurrence.

Thanks for joining the trip. We have observed scenes seen by few — and seen by many — but probably not in the same day. That’s the beauty of cyber traveling.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

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The question on the barn; and a favorite waterfall


Old barn with cross on roof

The roof of this old barn at St. Vincent, Arkansas has a question superimposed on the image of a Cross. “R U Ready?”

As you cruise into the outskirts of St. Vincent, Arkansas, you notice an aged reminder of Redemption, or the lack thereof, on the roof of this old barn. Back in the day, barn roofs were convenient substitutes for billboards, most of which were painted by itinerant sign painters. This roof was not painted by one of the traveling practitioners. It shows all the vestiges of creation by a non-professional painter with a passion to  deliver a message .

Whomsoever did the deed had a better eye than most amateurs for proportion and layout. The message is on both sides of the barn and clearly shows in the Google satellite view of the location.

LBJ's beer and grocery

Click here for the LBJ’s story and pictures

Not far up the road from the barn is St. Vincent’s business district, consisting of one store, LBJ’s Beer and Grocery. In Arkansas, some might consider the two a culture clash. Unlike the old barn, there were people present at LBJ’s which seemed ripe for a good story.

That presumption of a good story was correct. See the story of LBJ’s Beer and Grocery — and its proprietress on the Photo of  the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. We’ll wait here for your return.

store with old lion oil sign

Later that afternoon, we found this store proudly displaying an old Lion Oil sign. Lion Oil is an Arkansas company which has changed hands over the years. The Lion Oil refinery in El Dorado, Arkansas, you can be assured, is refining crude even as you eyeball this image.

The next day, liquid sunshine

A day later, we headed back in the same direction.The fine sunlight of the preceding day had transmogrified to overcast and liquid sunshine. I decided that these conditions did not create gloom and doom, but offered different challenges.

Mountain in the mist

As we were ascending to the hills, cold rain hit warmer earth and foliage creating a misty mountain mystique. It didn’t last long.

Murky falls

Once the mental re-orientation was done, I headed nearby to one of my favorite waterfalls, Falling Water Falls, (on Falling Water Creek) northeast of Ben Hur, Arkansas. The normally pristine falls were a bit murky due to the extreme drought in this Arkansas neck of the woods. The creek drains a lot of downhill territory which contains a lot of dust resulting in the coffee look of the falls. The dusty grunge however does not diminish the siren sound of falling water, which is mesmerizing to a lot of folks, Me included.

falling water falls, falling water creek, arkansas

It is not necessary to leave your vehicle to take in this view of Falling Water Falls on Falling Water Creek, northeast of Ben Hur, Arkansas. The murky appearance is an anomaly. The creek normally runs clear and clean, however, the accumulation of dust due to the current drought in the runoff area that feeds the creek creates the temporary appearance.

Falling water falls falling water creek arkansas

It is necessary to leave your vehicle to get this view. A few non-hazardous steps will do the trick.

I identified Falling Water as one of my favorites. Here are links to my previously documented visits to the falls, the first of which goes way, way, back to the film days: Falling Water 1; Falling Water 2;  and Falling Water 3.

Mouldy monument

On “Old Highway 27,” I found this old monument, the inscription of which reads.” Arkansas Federation of Women’s Clubs Memorial Forest.” Then there appears to be a blank space where a plaque was removed, followed by further emblazonry reading, “Ozark National Forest, United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.”

Apparently someone decided that the memorial, which stands taller than my 6-3″ frame was no longer necessary. Perhaps there is some irony in the fact that the memorial bears a striking resemblance to the map of Texas, our former Southwest Conference arch-rival.

Arkansas Federation of Womens Clubs Memorial forest monument

Perhaps the monument was abandoned because it looks too much like Texas, our former arch- rival in the now defunct Southwest Conference.

Grunt and groan fence

Further north on “Old 27″ I found this old rock fence. Folks, there is no easy way to build one of these. Here are the instructions: Find rock, lift, tote, lower in place. Repeat if necessary. Multiply that by the number of rocks you see, keeping in mind that this is a fraction of the fence.

old rock fence in the ozarks

Imagine the labor to build in this old rock fence. Apparently our fore-bearers believed there was great value to these structures. Back in the boondocks, one frequently encounters fences that strongly resemble this one.

Across from the rock fence is an old residence which appears to now be a deer camp. The old dug well looks good in the front yard. Since there are no ropes attached, one can presume its primary function is now decorative.

old dug well in the ozarks

The old dug well structure across from the fence is well preserved, but non-functional.

The cool stuff to see does not go away during inclement weather, it just looks different and may be a tad more difficult to reach. But, if you don’t go you’ll never know.

Thanks,

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