The odds of this happening

You had to be there

 A street corner in Pine Bluff, Arkansas

This potpourri of colors, lines, textures, and shapes must be observed at this exact angle to get what you see. Any deviation will yield a different image.

This image, while not destined for greatness, contains some textbook elements of design which might excite an artsy academian:

  • It has a primary palette of warm colors with a few cool colors tossed in for good measure
  • It has a nice mix of strong vertical lines with a few horizontal lines, just enough of them concentrated at the visual center of interest
  • It contains variety of shapes
  • It has an element tilted at a slightly cockamamie angle.
  • It has a duke’s mixture of textures
  • All of these elements are neatly arranged to bring you into the left side of the image, make your observations, and exit smartly on the right
  • And the arrangement is 100% accidental
A beer can and Bill

Click on the can to see another unlikely picture and story

Speaking of which, our sister publication, the Corndancer Photo of the Week, features a similar happy accident consisting of a beer can on a sidewalk with hand etched information nearby. Take a gander and we’ll wait here until you return.

The collection of urban hardware you see above lives on a corner which I observed for years from my former 6th floor office. I have also driven past this corner probably thousands of times without giving it a second thought. Fast forward to February 15, 2014.

The chain of events gets underway

I was meeting in the home of some friends I am helping with a project. They had invited other friends who were also participants in the project who would provide information to me. I determined that some of the physical pieces should be scanned and the visitors agreed. At the conclusion of the meeting, we all left the home and went to the physical location of the project, to wit: The Community Theatre in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

When I determined that my usefulness to the other participants was exhausted, I excused myself to leave for other activities. Once inside the truck, I discovered that I had driven off and left the materials to be scanned at the home which was now securely locked. All of which means that I was compelled to sit in the truck and wait for the others to leave and head back home. That decision was made easier by listening to a broadcast of my beloved Hawgs in the process of shellacking LSU in a basketball game.

The pieces fall into place

As I listened to the game, I saw the arrangement above. I snapped a few, then backed the truck up a tad to get a better angle. Once I got back to the computer and took a look at what I shot, it occurred to me that for that light and that setup I had to have:

  • Gone to a meeting at the right time
  • Determined that I needed to scan some materials and took possession of same
  • Driven off to a second location and left the materials in a locked house
  • Parked in exactly the right place at the new location
  • Completed my presence at a second location and decided to leave
  • Discovered absence of the left items
  • Decided to wait in the truck
  • Looked up and saw the nearly perfect arrangement which you see above.

Now I ask you, what are the odds of all of those axes converging at the right time? Off the chart, one would presume, but the convergence occurred at the correct time. The next thing was to recognize the opportunity and do something with it. Then the scary part came. How many of those occasions have I failed to recognize? I don’t know, but not to worry. That which I just discover that I don’t know has plenty of company.

Thanks for looking,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Compress no more

Old water tower and building at former Federal Compress in Pine Bluff Arkansas

This building and water tower are all that’s left of the former Federal Compress and Cotton Warehouse on West 6th Avenue in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The original facility stretched for two or three city blocks and was a beehive of activity during cotton harvesting season. Advancing agricultural technology put compresses in the same category as high-button shoes, buggy-whips, and the Edsel.

Back in the day when cotton was King, most LA cities and towns of any size had a cotton compress (or two). The compresses received baled cotton from local gins and then compressed  the bales to a smaller size, around 60% of their original size, which made storing and shipping more efficient. Most of the compresses operated on steam as did this one, the Federal Compress in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Old Coca-Cola sign

Click on the sign to see more.

While we are on the subject of “back in the day,” let me direct you to see an old Coca-Cola wall sign, painted I’m thinking sometime around 1907. The sign is on Main Street here in Pine Bluff, so locals can go ogle it, if so disposed. Go to the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com to see the sign and graze through some commentary.

When gin operators discovered high-capacity hydraulic presses, they eliminated the need for the trip to the compress, sounding the death knell for these businesses. There was one other compress  in Pine Bluff, the Pine Bluff Compress and Warehouse Company. It is now leveled. The only evidence remaining of its former presence are a few concrete piers.

Old water tower and building at former Federal Compress

Here is a toads-eye view of the tower. The wide angle lens gives a, shall we say, “towering” appearance.

Old compress water tower and building on same premises as an ice company

The old building and water tower now share real estate with a modern ice plant. Steam to ice in one generation, quite a transition. Shot across the street from the old compress premises.

A straight on shot from the edge of the premises gives you a more accurate view of the proportions of the building and tower,

A straight-on shot from the edge of the premises gives you a more accurate view of the proportions of the building and tower.

Though the economic value of compresses has long since met its demise, there is still historic value to that part of our background. Investors made commitments and provided a needed service. They created jobs that put food on family tables. Even the compress steam whistles were a dependable time check for neighbors. Compresses were a mainstay made obsolete. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

Streetscape in Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Three generations of signs speak to the history of this corner in my hometown of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. We see a venerable financial institution well over 100 years in business, a beloved local merchant no longer in business and the new occupant of the premises, a church with a neon slogan. Time and life goes on.

Sometimes a swing back in time is good for the soul. I trust this one was to you.

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.

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