A tale of two bridges, twice told

Bridges over white river at DeValls Bluff AR

Click on the bridges for the original Weekly Grist post.

I am sending you back in time to September, 2009  when I visited DeValls Bluff, Arkansas, where you can see something you can’t see anywhere else.

The town is renowned for barbeque at Craigs, just down the street from the Family Pie Shop. Famous may be an understatement for these two establishments, legendary might be more accurate.

bridges at DeValls Bluff AR

Click on the bridge for our original Corndancer story

However, I was not in DeValls Bluff to eat. I was there to shoot their bridges over the White River. The newer one takes U.S. Highway 70 over the river and rises high to accommodate barge traffic. It’s neighbor, not much more than a good rock throw away, is an out-of-service railroad bridge. The two together are quite a sight to see, so I am sending you back there this week. Click to see our original Tale of Two Bridges post.

Since the majority of my fellow Arkansans and the rest of the world are not frequent visitors to DeValls Bluff, I considered it my duty to rectify this cultural deprivation with pictures and a story. If you do happen to go to DeValls Bluff, go there hungry.

Be sure and check out our original Corndancer dot-com Photo of the Week story for more info and pictures.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Fountain Hill redux

Border Collie, Maggie at Phiilps General Merchandise, Fountain Hill,Arkansas

Maggie, the resident Border Collie at L.M. Phillips General Merchandise in Fountain Hill, Arkansas, takes a long look at the front door of the store. Is she pondering the sign or checking out an approaching human? Regardless, she is on her A-game. Click on the picture to see our original July, 2009 post.

Margaret Phillips, and her dog Border Collie, Maggie, at L.M. Phillips General Merchandise, Fountain Hill Arkansas

Click on the picture for more on Margaret and Maggie.

Back in July of 2009, I discovered L.M. Phillips General Merchandise at Fountain Hill, Arkansas, one of the few real, live, general stores still alive and well. The Saturday afternoon I was there, the  proprietress, Margaret Phillips was doing a brisk business. Part of her business model is Maggie, a precocious Border Collie who believes her job is to look out for Margaret’s personal safety and to be an alarm system who raises the alarm when suspected interlopers show up.

We are sending you back to Fountain Hill this week for a second look at the story of Margaret and Maggie. You will also see John Cruce and his team of mules pulling a wagon, something you don’t bump into every day. You will also want to see our original Corndancer dot-com Photo of the Week page with more pictures and a story.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

A bear, a monkey, and a locomotive redux

Fuzzy monkey on a limb

Click on the monkey to see the original post

Back in November of 2009, I ran shy of current subject matter and was compelled to dig into the archives to populate the Weekly Grist and Corndancer Photo of the Week pages.

Mind you, these were film archives, 35mm transparencies, no less, so we are talking late eighties and early to mid nineties. Lots of fumbling, loupe looking, page turning, and head scratching as opposed the modern alternative of “scrolling down.”

I found the ones I wanted, mostly unrelated, including a fox, some alligators, a bear swimming in deer grass, a locomotive, and one super cool monkey. I put the fox and gators on Corndancer. I put the bear, monkey, and locomotive on Weekly Grist. Click here to see the original post and marvel.

fox at new orleans zoo

Click on the fox for the Corndancer Photo of the Week

The fox and the gators bear inspection on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com, where we discuss the conundrum the fox versus the gators: How we consider warm and fuzzy versus low, long, toothy and perhaps slimy — while both are God’s critters. There is no good answer, but it is a pretty good read.

Given that these critters were adults when I shot them years ago, most have probably ascended to the big critter home in the sky, so this is a memorial to them. Well maybe except for the gators who can live up to 50 years and still may be scaring the socks off of those with weak stomachs. I guess that’s how God makes up for ugly.

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

A Wet Woolly

falls at woolly hollow state park

These falls are easily accessible for folks who aren't up to a big hike. Click on the pic for the original post.

Woolly redux: wet, but not so wild

A couple of years ago about this time, the bottom dropped out all over Arkansas and particularly in Central Arkansas including the area around Woolly Hollow State Park. While the griping was rampant during the storms, the aftermath was rewarding.

The crown jewel of the park is Lake Bennett, a man-made lake held in place by a massive earthen dam built by our grandfathers and uncles in the CCC in the 30s. The spillway feeds the falls below nicely.

The top of the dam is fortified with large sharp riprap rocks with the pointy ends up. Think 300-foot tyrannosaurus rex mandible. Probably discourages horse-play on the top of the dam.

woolly hollow falls

Click on the pic for the original Corndancer story

Though the lake is small compared to other man-man lakes, its scenic index is among the best. The outflow from the dam spillway cascades and snakes through a rugged descent making for easily accessible falls looking.

It’s a good place to go for people who do not feel comfortable hiking a long way and want to see some nice falls. See the original story at Corndancer dot-com and click here for the original Weekly Grist post. Then take a look at this Woolly Hollow gallery of bigger pictures.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Greeting, eating, and sweetening the pot

Inside of Selma Methodist Church

Most of the inside trim, pews, room partitions, and balcony were removed from the Selma Methodist Church building when work started to rebuild the foundation. The church was jacked up eight feet in the air to facilitate foundation reconstruction. Fortunately for us, the pulpit appurtenances were spared the ignominy of storage. What you see was hand carved and is in very good condition. The patina of the floor comes from more than 130 years foot traffic. Most people believe it was never painted or shellacked.

The inside of Selma Methodist Church at Selma, Arkansas looks a bit disheveled right now. So would you if you had your innards nearly turned inside out by the back sides blows of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Church picnic serving line

See more Selma pictures at Corndancer dot-com.

The church building, completed and first used in 1874 and narrowly escaping that disaster, has undergone some serious work for stabilization since that fateful March in 2008 when the storms nearly pounded it into the ground. You can get more details on the start of this story at the Corndancer dot-com Photo of the Week page. We’ll wait here while you look.

We were there for the first official fundraiser held by the Selma Methodist Church Preservation Society, a group of dedicated Selma Church fans whose sole purpose is to return the church to its like-new condition. They are in the first phase which is to stabilize the structure and bring further deterioration to a halt. See more Selma event pictures in our Weekly Grist gallery

You  can see pictures of the complete church interior and read a recent article detailing the church history were published in the December 2010 issue of Rural Arkansas, the official magazine of Arkansas Electrical Cooperatives.

Picnic serving line

The fine southern cuisine prepared on the grounds before your very eyes went fast. The cooks were efficient and nary a soul went hungry. Gets one in a generous mood.

 The storm damage to the church was so severe that it was declared unsafe for any events and/or any entry for other than maintenance, and then at extreme risk. This fundraiser was the first event held in the church since the storm damage in 2008. Previously, it was frequently used for weddings, funerals, and other events. Even attendees took turns ringing the church bell, a welcome sound to the community. It is said the bell was cast with 100 silver dollars melted into the metal before the pour to improve the sound. To my ears, it worked.

Selma Methodist Church

Selma Methodist Church, May 21, 2011, the first day it was open to the public since the storm damage in March 2008.

See more pictures of the Church and the fundraiser event in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

 Part of the fund raiser was an auction of donated items. The auction was conducted by guest auctioneer, Mark McElroy, County Judge of neighboring Desha County, Arkansas. For non-Arkansans, the title “County Judge,” in Arkansas is an executive title rather than a jurist title. The position is roughly equivalent to what folks in other states would call a county mayor. Judge McElroy, a man of many talents is one of those individuals who has never met a stranger. He kept the crowd entertained.


Judge Mark McElroy works to pry extra dollars from a bidder, while his "Vanna White, Mr. Riggins (sunglasses), watches the action.

The trip to Selma took me through the Coleman community where you will find the  “Look-See Tree,”  a fine White Oak on the premises of Olin Tucker. The tree is designated as an  Arkansas Historic Tree.

Arkansas Look-See tree

Olin Tucker's Look-see tree with full summer foliage.

Parting shot(s)

Meandering around, we find stuff that makes us smile. We presume this is the right stuff to make you smile as well. Driving north on Hwy. 70 after our junk yard adventure a couple of weeks ago, we saw a home-made sign promoting fig sales. Being curious, we followed the area to discover that not only could one purchase figs, you could also drive away with a new dog house.

figs for sale

If you are looking for figs, this is the place. The sign appears to be a recycled day-glo highway warning sign of some sort. Adaptive re-use, I believe, is the term.

Figs and dog houses

Once you cross the railroad and levee which comprises the 90 feet between the first sign and entrance to the fig emporium, you discover that, as a bonus, you can buy a dog house as well. Diversification is a good thing in business these days.


Click on the dog to see more Selma pictures in our Weekly Grist gallery

See our Weekly Grist Gallery, this week with 55 pictures of the Selma Church Fundraiser event.

See Pepper the Schnauzer in this gallery the one and only Schnauzer to attend the Selma Methodist Church fundraiser. Well socialized, he fit right in. There you will also see more pictures of the church, the auction and the musicians as well as the cooks and attendees.

This collection is a glimpse at a southern on-the-grounds “git-together” as one should see such an event. Even if you are not an anthropologist you will probably see something you like.

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


110 years old, in the family, the second time around

puppies at old house

These are Angie Ledbetter’s puppies. The pups’ mother moved them from the Chez Ledbetter to the nearby ancestral home of the Garners, her great grandparents and grand parents. There is one more puppy who was bashful and missed the photo-op. They have a severe case of cute.

Note: See more pictures of the pups in our Weekly Grist Gallery

If you blink, you may miss the Garner Place off Arkansas Highway 128 in the Lonsdale community. The original Garners built the first residence on the place as homesteaders sometime in the mid 1800s. The structure below was built and first occupied sometime between the late 1800s and 1901 according to Myrna Garner, widow of the late Robert “Bob” Garner, who was born in the home, a grandson to the original Garners. His final resting place is on the premises.

old farm house

The Garner Place off Arkansas Highway 128 in the Lonsdale community. The Garner family takes a great deal of pride in their ancestral headquarters. So do their puppies.

Old rocking chair under porch roof

See more Garner House pictures at Corndancer dot-com

It’s not every family that has a 110-year-old plus crown jewel of family heritage, where the fifth generation can hang their hat and say, this is where I came from. The late Bob Garner and his wife Myrna had that in mind back in 1974 when they bought the place back.

Seems in the early 50s Garner’s siblings were anxious to sell the old place and divide the spoils. There were 300 acres and the house which they hoped would bring a princely sum.

The property was auctioned off for less than a third of what it was worth. Before we go much further, may I suggest that you go to the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com and see some more pictures of the old home and get in on the start of the story. We’ll wait here.

Bob Garner never forgot about the property and always wanted it back. Then in 1974, he got a call from his father who informed him that the people who bought the place were putting it on the market. Garner and Myra lived in Florida at the time, but Garner let no grass grow under his feet. He returned to Arkansas, made an offer and convinced the friendly local bankers to loan him the necessary moo-lah to close the deal. It all came together and the Garner place was THE Garner place again. See more pictures of the house in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

old gnarled tree

The gnarled old tree at the side of the house, surviving against the odds, is symbolic of the Garner resolve to bring the original family place back into the family fold.

 The Garners, led by Angie Ledbetter, daughter of Myrna and Bob have plans to stabilize the parts of the structure not deteriorated and repair what is needed. First on the list is to rebuild the porch which they tore out after a friend had an unseemly crash-through on the original equipment. According to Myrna they are scouting for old lumber to maintain the character of the home. Sounds about right from what I’ve learned about the Garners.


As we reported on Corndancer Photo of the Week page, the old home site is the Bob Garner’s final resting place. His mausoleum endured a crashing tree during the recent rash of Arkansas storms. The mausoleum survived. A couple of weeks ago, while traveling south of England, Arkansas, we encountered a similar set of circumstances. Both near misses. Perhaps the Almighty is reminding us who is in charge.

fallen tree beside grave

A near miss at a church cemetery south of England, Arkansas. The Almighty making sure we mere mortals do not forget who is in charge. Very convincing.

old barn

I drove on Cash Mountain Road as I meandered in the direction of the Garner Place and found still yet another old barn. You just can’t see too many.

See more pictures of the barn in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

Parting shot

Traveling through the hinterlands of Arkansas and nearby states, one occasionally runs up on some narrow bridges. I found one in Saline County, Arkansas northwest of Glen Rose that takes the record. My truck and a bicycle would not safely nor successfully negotiate the bridge with out grievous personal injury and dings.

pickup truck on narrow bridge

Tight ain’t it?

But wait, there’s more

old barn

See more pictures in the Weekly Grist gallery

See our Weekly Grist gallery with more puppy pictures, another view of the tree on the grave, another barn picture and several more pictures of the Garner house. Click and go to see these pictures. Your momma would want you to do this.

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


A requiem for the stockyards

stockyards dock house

You are looking inside the "Dock House," of the soon-to-be-no-more stockyards in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The "Dock House" was a gathering place for cattlemen, drivers, and interlopers who always enjoy spinning or hearing a good tale. My source tells me the BS inside the "Dock House," was probably thicker than it was in the cattle pens. Now, one can only imagine.

stock yards building

See more pictures at Corndancer dot-com

There is irony in the language on the wall poster above which says, “You can only borrow what you are worth today,” a corollary to “what have you done for me today?.”  The “Dock House” where the poster hangs is part and parcel of “the stockyards” in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Today’s worth of the stockyards is diminished in the face of “progress.”

The stockyards are being demolished by dis-assembly to make room for a new structure to be erected by the new owners of the property, Central Moloney, Inc., the next-door neighbor to the stockyards. Get in on the start of this interesting story and see more pictures on the Photo of  the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com. We’ll wait here while you look.

Pine Bluff stockyards

What formerly transpired at the stockyards now commonly takes place on the internet and closed circuit TV, leaving thousands of local stockyards similar to this one,  in the lurch.

Once a bustling hub of business, this 69-year-old stock yard in Pine Bluff, Arkansas owned by the Glover Livestock Commission Company is no longer active, although the company is. It is not alone in its dilemma, hundreds of other local stockyards have met a similar fate.

Formerly cattle sellers and buyers would congregate at stockyards like this and do business on “sale-days.” Participants in the process forged long-term face-to-face friendships and business relationships. Lounges like the abandoned “Dock House” above vibrated with tall tales and down-home humor. Now the same business transactions are being made over the internet and closed circuit TV. The participants probably don’t know each other from Adam’s Off-Ox.

Office building at stockyards

This building at the Pine Bluff Stock Yards once housed offices, a popular restaurant and "The Rancher," a successful western store. The structure is more than 70 years old.

stock yards loading ramp

The back of the old office building as seen though a loading ramp in the stock yards building.

Every time we scratch our heads and wonder “what else could possibly be invented,” up jumps a radical new idea which grabs our collective imagination and forces a shift in business practice. This is not to castigate the new process, far from it, because this story reaches you with in the same venue that spelled disaster for the stockyards. Our point is to remember and respect what got us where we are. It is the eternal conundrum. We ride the wave of new means, methods, and technology, but decry some, but not all of the results. It’s called reality. Welcome to the global marketplace, have a nice day.


Without stepping in, well … you know. See all-new pictures of the stockyards inside and out in our Weekly Grist Gallery. You’ll see pictures not available anywhere else, plus all of the Corndancer and Weekly Grist pictures, bigger and in high resolution. Neat stuff and low-carb, low-calorie, and your mamma will approve of it.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Meandering through the mountains (again)

Roasting Ear Creek Stone County AR

Where Roasting Ear (properly pronounced rohsn'ear and spelled roasn'ear) Creek crosses Mitchell Road in Stone County, Arkansas there is a nice low water bridge downstream from which is this vista of winter-bare-bones-pristine boondocks beauty.

My forays to the mountains are not normally as closely spaced as the one week before last, and this one. However it did lend the opportunity to observe the big difference a couple of weeks can make in the boondocks when winter is closing in. Most of the trees were bare this time. Not a bad thing mind you. Now we can see more of what Mother Nature has to offer. Speaking of which, this adventure started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. Click here to go there and see a closer upper of the tree on the creek you see above and a couple of other wild territory shots.

Old barn near Woodward Arkansas

The election is history, but not the signs. This old barn stands on Arkansas Highway 263 near Woodward in Stone County, Arkansas. Note to candidates. Come get your signs.

On the way to the mountain snippets of coolness, one always passes the omnipresent old barns and commercial structures which stand as silent witnesses to times which were simpler and less cluttered with “conveniences.” I say that with my tongue firmly ensconced in my bewhiskered cheek because were it not for several of these conveniences, namely digital cameras, butt-kicking computers and software, and high-speed internet, I could not send nor could you receive this dispatch. And we would not want that.

fifty six arkansas

Fifty Six Arkansas, population 163. It is the nearest town to Blanchard Springs Caverns, one of the nations premier underground cavern attractions.

My friend, Frank Girolami, creator of  the fine blog A Frank Angle, asked that in my wandering around my home state if I had the opportunity to post something about the town of Fifty-Six, Arkansas, would I?  Well Frank, I was in the neighborhood so here it is.

old store at almond arkansas

This old store and a cross roads are about the crop at Almond, Arkansas. At one time this was probably the epicenter of what was happening in the community.

On the way back to my weekend temporary headquarters at a friend’s lake house on Greers Ferry Lake, I took a wrong turn (imagine that!). As a net result, I happened across the old store above. Methinks that one more time Providence steered me toward a worthy target I would have missed otherwise. And who is one to question Providence. Certainly not I.


See our weekly picture only gallery with all of the Corndancer and Weekly Grist pictures plus some that are not published elsewhere. See some big ol’ truck ruts where some poor soul drove a bit to far, a lake cliff and more. Click here go to there.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

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