photo of the week

Tin, Tar Paper and a Cotton Patch

Back in the day in the Delta, houses like this were “as common as your foot.”  Now, they are a rarity.  Like this one, most of the homes of this genre are long-since unoccupied and cursed with “deferred maintenance.”  The intact “tin” roof on this one is probably its saving grace.  The “tar paper” siding is mostly intact as well — like chicken soup, it can’t hurt.  This is the quintessential old Delta home shot:  a tar paper-covered house sitting in a “cotton patch.”

Ain't Many

Sunday, June 29, 2014
Pine Buff, Arkansas

Two days after a friend asked me if I ever ran across any old farm houses, I stumbled across this old structure west of Pickens, Arkansas, which just a tad south of Dumas on U.S. Highway 65.  Fortunately, the old house was accessible via a dirt road off the county road I was traversing.  The house is in better condition than others I have seen of this vintage.  Still, old farm homes like these are becoming few and far between.

Ain't But a Few of Us Left.

Thinking about the scarcity of old farm homes, I recalled a favorite tune from an appropriately named album by jazz great, Milt Jackson.  In 1981, Jackson assembled a quartet of jazz veterans:  himself on vibes, Oscar Peterson on piano, Ray Brown on double bass, and Gary Tate on drums for a new album.  The name of the album was “Ain’t But a Few of Us Left,” which was also the name of the title cut.  The tune is just over seven minutes and a listen worth every second.

My discovery was on a Saturday afternoon, which meant I had it to myself (good news).  The flip side of that coin is, I had no one to visit with on the provenance of the old home, which leaves me open to conjecture (bad news).  Though I would not swear to it, seeing the two-door format in front leads me to believe that the house could have might started life as a dog-trot.  As we have seen in the past, the easiest way to create a new room in a dog trot was to close the ends of the hallway.


The Storm Develops.

While I was on the scene, a developing storm to the west of my location picked up speed, yielding different light for the second two shots.  Head on shows the structure to be reasonably sound.


Young Cotton, Traditional Isolation

The view from the northeast shows neat rows of well cultivated young cotton plants — and the isolation of “back-in-the-day” living.  The nearest neighbors are flyspecks in the background.


Cotton by the Textbook

These are rows of young cotton plants adjacent to the old house.  The farmers who work this crop know what they are doing.  The plants are precisely arranged (probably planted with laser or satellite guidance) and properly cared for.  This is a textbook example of healthy cotton.

Another Ain't Many of Us Left.

The old store at the junction of Arkansas Highways 277 and 293 has been closed for a long time, but remains in good condition.  The nearest named place is the hamlet of Florence a mile or so north.  Stores like this one served as the most convenient local supplier of needed goods and some services.  They were also part of the social fabric as a gathering place, gossip headquarters, and as purveyors of information.  Now if you run short of toilet paper, milk, bread, or other necessities, it may mean a 20-mile or so round trip.  You call your neighbors on their cell phones.


The Tank Is Empty.

The old store at the junction of Arkansas Highways 277 and 293 remains in good condition, except for the gas pump, which looks like it was attacked by aliens.  I do not have a clue when it was built, but can say with reasonable certainty when the siding was installed.  You will notice the wavy curves at the bottom of the siding sections — a dead giveaway that they are asbestos and were installed in the late forties or early fifties.


A Glimpse of History

A wider view of the old store reveals the naked sign post which at one time held someone’s brand name (gasoline or soft-drank) with the proprietor’s name hand-lettered at the bottom.  The orange protuberance in front of the doors is likely a pump connected to an underground kerosene (coal-oil) storage tank.  Though the demand for kerosene diminished long before the store probably closed, it was most likely too expensive have the tank and apparatus moved.  So it remains.  Fortunate for us because we get a glimpse of history.


'Hardware Cloth'

Taking a look from the side we notice the “hardware cloth” across the store windows.  I am betting it was not a part of original equipment.

It is good to see reminders of where we came from.  If you are not old enough to remember, you are now elucidated to this part of your recent history.  In both cases, nod your head “yes.”


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But wait, there’s more.
As the trip continued through the Delta,
and the near Delta,
we found some volunteer sunflowers
and a few other points of interest.
Check ‘em out at
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