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By Joseph Dempsey Hark Naming Rights

Sunday, May 18, 2008

You could hear it before you could see it. It tried its best to remain unnoticed, but in a fleeting second, in a flash of divine light, it tipped me off to its presence.

Pictured this week is Joe's Falls, north of Richland Creek Campground, which is northeast of Ben Hur, Arkansas — and way out in the boondocks in the truest sense of the word. If naming this pristine natural phenomenon after one's self seems a bit presumptuous, well, it is what it is.

One Friday evening in the late nineties, having temporarily had my fill of the flat Arkansas River delta, I packed up Yoda, my dog, grabbed several bags of gear, and headed northwest to Russellville, Arkansas, which is my favorite jumping off place for exploration of Newton and Pope counties in the remotest reaches of the Ozarks. These environs are rife with spectacular statements of nature.

While we camped out that night at the Holiday Inn — you have to understand that my idea of roughing it is to settle for a black and white TV in the room — it came a toad-strangler of substantial proportions. In fact, though opinions vary, Mother Nature pummeled that end of Arkansas with between four and six inches of rain while we slept, depending on whomsoever you decide to consult or believe.

Answering the call of gravity, all of that water immediately started heading downhill. And in the section of untamed real estate that was my destination, there are only two directions: up and down. I headed to my favorite, Falling Water Falls on Falling Water Creek, not too far from the location you see above. When I got there, the falls, if that is possible, were under water. Brown, swirling water.

Time to drop back and punt. Doing so, I took a long loop to the north, approaching from a different direction via the Richland Creek Campground. At the end of the detour I observed four feet of angry, cappuccino colored water roaring over the bridge at the campground. The bridge is normally 10 feet or so above the creek. Folks, that is a bunch of H2O.

Muttering incoherently under my breath, I reversed my course once again. On the way out, something to my left caught my eye. Yea, verily, quick sparkle off in the trees. Hark! I must see. Trudging about sixty yards west, I could hear it before I saw it. My jaw dropped. There it was, a wild raging ballet of water in a setting of craggy rocks and verdant greenery.

Pegging the blood pressure and adrenaline meters, falling on my butt a couple of times, with deer-in-the-headlight eyeballs, I perused the scene for the best angle. There were several. I shot about six rolls of 36-exposure transparency film. This image above is the pick of the litter, but just barely. In one of its manifestations, Joe's Falls graced the cover of a corporate annual report. Now it's back again a decade later.

As Yoda and I smugly left the scene, it occurred to me that I had become all too ready to throw in the towel, nearly missing the miracle that was just waiting to happen. At the time, I did not realize the gravity of what I had shot. I went back to the same spot a couple of weeks later. The falls were still there, but only at a puny trickle.

So, unless you perchance arrive on the scene six or seven hours after a near Noah downpour, you will not see what I saw. One mo' time God underscored his practice of taking care of fools and drunks. That's when I decided that since few if any of my fellow mortals have ever seen what I saw that glorious day, the naming rights were mine — and I seized them. That's my story and I stickin' to it.

N O T E S:  
Nikon N90s on tripod / AF Nikon 20mm f2.8 D / Fujichrome Velvia / Scanned with Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED @ 100%-4000 dpi 16-bit color/ Post processed in Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended / Photomatix HDR and Genuine Fractals Print Pro


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