Cheap Thrills

Rainbow in a storn on Wilbur West Road near Pine Bluff Arkansas.

Rainbow on Wilbur West Road, southeast of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. A friend called me and told me where it was. Fortunately I was mobile when I got the call. I rolled up to the location squeezed. off one burst of seven or so exposures, and poof — the rainbow  was history. Got lucky on this one — for a little time and gasoline. Cheap tickets for the good seats.

Flying in the face of popular, even legendary opinion, the best things in life (in my humble opinion), are not necessarily free. Realists will agree that anything of value has a price tag. Fortunately f0r many experiences, the quality far outweighs the pittance put forth to put ones self  in the belly of opportunity.

Observing Mother Nature at work with her dramatic skies, sforzando storms, and calamitous clouds comes at or near the top of that cheap thrill list for me.


Click on the storm to see more weather pix.

Speaking of cheap thrills, there are even more to see on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com.

Go there to get a glimpse of a dramatic storm shot, golden crops in the field and a morning sun blasting its rays through dramatic clouds. We’ll wait here while you take the trip.

As I was leaving  the all-toof-brief encounter with the rainbow, the late  afternoon sun peeked around the clouds as the storm hit my driver’s side window with a bucket of high velocity rain drops. Opening the window guaranteed a good Nikon soaking which puts the guts of the camera at great risk. Fortunately, with a freshly washed window, I was able to get the shot below, a free-will gift and offering from my Good Friend Above.

Rainwater on truck window

This is the way to see a storm —  safely surrounded by a full-sized pickup truck whose radio is spitting ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man,” into the cab.

The last of August, 2013, vestiges of Hurricane Isaac were rumbling through our neighborhood. Fortunately Isaac was a mere shadow of his former self when he made his visit. I did a bid of radar tracking and figured the cloud formations over Saracen Lake here in Pine Bluff would be worth a look-see. I was right. Isaac was leaving town and headed north. He made an ordinary fishing pier look special, another cheap thrill.

Fishing pier in storm on Lake Saracen in Pine Bluff Arkansas

Hurricane Isaac’s tailings make a nice setting for the fishing pier on Saracen Lake in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Other than a bit of wind and a few boomers, the hurricane’s visit was a non-event. I suppose by the time the Old Boy dropped in on us, he was a mere tropical depression.

birds on street light arm

These birds have an apparent pecking order and always look just about the same, day in and day out.

Though lacking in drama, the pecking order of these birds who consistently occupy the arm of this street light at South Hazel Street and I-530 here in Pine Bluff do provide some comic relief when one harkens back to the “Talk-a-little, peck-a-little” song from the 1962 hit movie, The Music Man.

Aerial photography is not a cheap thrill, but grabbing a few personal shots on the way home after the money shots are “in the can” is. This is a view of a mostly industrial and recreational area in my home town, Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The water you see is the former channel of the Arkansas River which was diverted through an artificial channel north of this scene. The result is a slack water harbor and a fine recreational area.

Lake Langofer Pine Bluff

To the far left is the Pine Bluff – Jefferson County Regional Park. To far right is the Pine Bluff Harbor Industrial District. Fishing is great in these waters. Angler Rick Clunn won the 1984 Bass Masters Classic with a fish caught in the waters to the far middle left of this picture.

With Mother Nature, most of the time, the good seats are also the cheap seats. Even if you don’t venture out, there is plenty to see. All is costs is a look. Take a gander the next chance you get.

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.


There goes the neighborhood (again)

old house falling down

Click on the old house for our original post.

A couple of years ago about this time I wandered into Lincoln County, Arkansas and plied its gravel roads in search of a story. I found a couple of old houses barely visible from the road — infested with a cubic acre or so of mosquitoes.

Fortunately I had slathered my person liberally with Deep Woods Off, AKA “skeeter-dope” in LA (lower Arkansas), so the pesky winged miscreants got close, but did not taste my blood. I was tipped off to the old houses by a big “home place tree.” See the tree and read the start of this story on the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com.

While I was shooting the crumbling ruins, a big storm was brewing to the west, a fact I discovered after I left the mosquitoes and piled back into the truck. The storm was close enough that I got a couple of storm shots. Then the emergency broadcast squealer sounded and announced that certain parts of Jefferson County to the north were under a tornado warning. The description of the subject real estate included my neighborhood so I lit a shuck toward home.

On the outskirts of Pine Bluff, the radio guy said the storm had veered east. I called my spousal unit and discovered that our residence was safe. Thus relieved, I decided to chase the storm. The chase was fruitless as far as seeing a tornado, but I did manage to grab a few storm shots, which you can see on our original Weekly Grist post. When you get there, be sure and click on the Weekly Grist Gallery link at the end of the story for more pictures.

Thanks for dropping by,
Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

There goes the neighborhood

There goes the neighborhood

Not surprisingly, this is the worst house in the neighborhood.

The neighborhood consists of two houses. The other one is in somewhat better condition than this one, but not much. Someone at some time picked up and left, and never came back. We wonder why, but probably not loose any sleep over it. The old house and its neighbor can be found on County Road 49 in Lincoln County, Arkansas, not far from Yorktown. A lot of folks gladly tell you they are from Yorktown, which consists of a barbeque cafe, a gin and a bridge over Bayou Bartholomew. At 375 miles in serpentine length, Bayou Bartholomew is the longest bayou on the planet. I have never figured out exactly where Yorktown stops and starts, but it looms large as a community.

The site is marked by a large “home-place tree,” which is destined to far outlast the crumbling homes. See the other house and the tree on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com, a very cool thing to do. Click here to go there. We’ll be right here waiting when you get back.

collapsing house

Alas front porch, I knew ye well. Get a good look. The house is nearly history.

The retreat from this tar-paper sided house may have been hasty. At the bottom of the back opening is a cardboard box full of washed and capped jars, some of which are mason jars. Anyone who went to that trouble would probably have taken the box along as the departure unfolded. Perhaps they were one step in front of someone who did not have their best interests at heart. In that case, leaving the jars and the box springs may have been OK.

Good news, bad news

The good news is, it’s late April and early May in Arkansas. The bad news is, it’s late April and early May in Arkansas. Opposing forces of nature give rise to these observations. After a winter that finally departed, kicking, clawing and objecting as it bade farewell, a magnificent spring made its grand entry. Replete with blooms, bees, buds, and temperate days. the season, despite a more intense than normal pollen assault wasn’t all that shabby. There was enough rain to make nice waterfalls and most of it eschewed the weekend to make its arrival. As of about ten days ago, that honeymoon with spring was over. It’s thunderstorm and tornado time in the neighborhood.

As I pursued this Saturday afternoon trip, the weather worsened, mainly north of where I was at the time. As a result, the cloud formations were dramatic, not a bad thing for a photographer.

storm over fields

The storm is gathering over this field just west of Grady, Arkansas.

As I traipsed along, I turned on the radio for a tune or two, and lo and behold, the music was replaced by a TV meteorologist informing this part of the world that southwest Pine Bluff, Arkansas was precariously close to being struck by a tornado. Since that’s where I live, I pointed the truck north and depressed the accelerator. And kept my ears glued to the radio.

storm and traffic light

You are looking in the general direction of my residence a few miles from here. This is the junction of US Highways 65 and 425, southeast of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

As I reached the outskirts of town, the news improved. The core of the storm had moved east and according to my spousal unit, the house was still standing and all occupants, one woman and a herd of animals, were alive, well and taking on nourishment. That being so, and the talking heads were broadcasting a blow by blow account of the storms progress, I decided to chase it.

Arkansas river bridge

The US Highway 79 bridge over the Arkansas River, north of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Turns out, the chase was futile and I terminated the pursuit on the outskirts of Altheimer, Arkansas and headed home on US Highway 79. Taking that route, gave me a consolation prize far better than a storm shot, of which there are probably millions. Since the Lord is continues to take care of fools and drunks, He saw fit to put me on this bridge, with no traffic in sight for miles under the conditions you see above. Not being one to argue with providence, the rest was up to me. The scene was there, and I recorded it. There’s something to be said for a higher power.

But wait, there’s more in our Weekly Grist Gallery!

Each week, we post high resolution versions of the Corndancer and Weekly Grist pictures. This week in color and black and white. These pictures are larger and at a better resolution. Click here to see these pictures in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

Thanks for dropping by,
Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

A ’63 pink binder

It’s an R-185

Miss Marci, Mason Sickel's '63 pink International Harvester R185 tractor

Miss Maci, Mason Sickel's ‘63 pink International Harvester R185 tractor.

There are a lot of things one simply does not expect to see: Martians disgorging from a “flying saucer,” a pick up ice hockey game on the White House lawn, and a flying giraffe with zebra stripes. Add to that list a pink 1963 International Harvester R185 tractor parked in a barn in the middle of a soybean field in the Grand Prairie region of Arkansas. Until now. Folks, this is not a computer creation. It’s real.

Corndancer dot com

Corndancer dot com

But there’s more to see in this rural neighborhood including a still-standing one-room school built in 1921. The school has a rich history not only as a center of education, but as a community center and a place where things happened.

See the Idlewild Schoolhouse and some pumpkins on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer cot com. Click here to go there, a very cool thing to do.

The truck wasn’t originally meant to be pink, but …

When I first spotted the truck from a distance, I figured it was red and sorely in need of a paint job. Closer inspection revealed that theory wrong.

The truck now belongs to Mason Sickel of the Tollville, Arkansas community .  It originally belonged to a neighboring farmer who bought it new in 1963. “It was one of the first tractor-trailer rigs put into operation in this area,” Sickel said. “Farmers were using ‘bob-trucks’ (for the uninitiated, a ‘bob-truck,’ in this use environment, is a single axle truck with a flat bed, in the two-ton and up range), to carry their crops to elevators or mills.”

A change of plans

Sickel had coveted his neighbor’s truck for a while, but could never convince him to sell. Then the winds of fortune changed and Mason Sickel got his truck. He had owned it for more than a year when he decided to repaint in in the fire engine red common to IHC trucks of that era. Then he and his wife discovered their child-on-the-way was a little girl. That changed everything. From that moment, he decided he would honor his unborn daughter with a pink truck emblazoned with her name.

"You can hear it coming from a far piece," says one of Mason Sickels associates on his farm.

"You can hear it coming from a far piece," says one of Mason Sickels associates on his farm."The exhaust system is what you see, hooked up to a split manifold." To the non-mechanically inclined, that means there are no pesky mufflers to impede the engine's roar.

A family tradition

Mason is continuing a farming operation originated by his great-grandfather and subsequently carried on by his grandfather and father. He likes to restore old stuff. “I come by it naturally,” Sickel says. “My grandfather was a junk supreme junk collector.” Sickel then told me about one of his storage buildings that was full of stuff. He asked me to follow him to see for myself. I trailed behind his ancient doorless IHC Scout until we arrived at “the place.” He opened the door. I did not know what to expect, but should have suspected, given my experience with the truck. The building was full of pristine condition restored antique farm tractors. John Deere, Farmall, Minneapolis-Moline and Allis-Chalmers to mention a few.

Mason Sickel smiles beside his showroom new antique Farmall tractor. It is restored to perfection and is typical of the Sickel collection.

Mason Sickel smiles beside his showroom new antique Farmall tractor. It is restored to perfection and is typical of the Sickel collection. The tractor is showing a bit of storage dust in this picture, but a quick hosing and wipe down will make it shine like new money.

Mason says he will show several of his tractors and some other restored vehicles and equipment at the 33rd Annual Grand Prairie Rice Festival in Hazen, Arkansas October 24, 2009. The family-oriented event includes a parade and show of antique farm equipment, an inflatable playground for kids, bands and other entertainment. And it’s free. Mark your calendars. I bade Mason farewell and headed into the sunset so to speak. It is indeed refreshing to meet congenial people like Mason. He had never seen or heard tell of me and treated me “like comp’ny.” Thanks Mason.

A couple of weeks later,

I was through the territory again. Heading home, close to England, Arkansas, I encountered a couple of respectable thunderstorms. Thunderstorms fascinate a lot of folks and I am one of those. These put on a good show.

This is storm one, taking shape. Sometimes the clound dipping toward the horizon can form into something more serious, but not this time

This is storm one, taking shape. Sometimes the clound dipping toward the horizon can form into something more serious, but not this time

I followed the storm traveling east to west for several miles until I out ran it. There was another one ahead with a bit more oomph.

A few miles further west, storm one had begun to consolidate. This time a rice field is in the foreground.

A few miles further west, storm one had begun to consolidate. This time a rice field is in the foreground. As fascinating as these storms are, it's a good idea to give them some distance.

I turned south for home and another storm running east to west was bearing down on me. Fortunately, the storm would do nothing worse than pelt the truck with some major league rain drops.

Storm two. We were on a collision course, but a pounding rain was the worst this storm could generate. A rice field is in the foreground.

Storm two. We were on a collision course, but a pounding rain was the worst this storm could generate. A rice field is in the foreground. Just a few minutes after this shot, the truck got a good soaking.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the “Eyes and Mind

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