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By Joseph Dempsey Chimney

Sunday, June 8, 2008

You do not see this kind of scene in rural areas these days. It was an all too familiar sight years ago. Rural volunteer fire departments are in most small communities now, and for the most part, they do a credible job.

The chimney was shot late Sunday afternoon in Carthage, Arkansas. The temperature was hovering in the mid-nineties. One presumes the locals were huddled in front of a TV, watching "60 Minutes," with the AC blowing at full throttle. Normally when I shoot something like this in a populated area, a passerby or two will stop out of curiosity, and I can pry a story from them. Nary a soul showed this time.

So that leaves the forensics to us. Carthage is an old town, at least by local standards, and home to 420 souls. The town is nice and clean. A sign of good folks.

Around the corner from the chimney is an abandoned bank building with 1907 etched in stone on its front facade. I mention that fact in search of clues about the age of the home site. Take a gander at the upper part of the chimney. You can still make out the height of the roof and its sharp pitch. One would presume it was of the style when ceilings reached 16- to 18-feet, which would make it a cousin of the bank.

In those days, the fireplace was the centerpiece of the house, much like the screaming televisions of today. No doubt the family savored the warm and cozy environment of a crackling log blaze. That is, until the final house-warming. There may have been a bucket brigade, but a house fire in the early part of the twentieth century almost always won.

Perhaps it was more trouble than it was worth to drop the chimney. Or perhaps, the former residents could not bear to part with the last vestiges of their domicile. In any case, it serves as a reminder that some parts of the good-ole days were not all good.


Around the corner at the bank, I had to back the lower part of my anatomy up to a large board fence to get the correct angle for my shot. This precipitated the burglar alarm of the residence to kick in. The alarm was personified as a large, brindle-colored wooly dog. His bark was authoritative.

As I moved down the fence to change my angle, I came upon the chainlink gate to the residence. Wooly-booger caught a glimpse of me, and increased his alarm trill in both volume and ferocity. About that time the man of the house exited the back door to investigate. About that time I looked at the dog and said, "Well, big-boy, you don't appreciate me in your neighborhood, do you?" Mr. Man of the House quickly shot back, "He's just doing his job." My quick rejoinder was, "And a helluva job he's doing. Give him a raise." Thank goodness, he quickly laughed at my rebuttal. I exited stage left.

Earlier in the day, I encountered another bit of a problem in my indomitable search for images. It happened like this. I saw a likely road. It was gated. The hefty gate, constructed of welded six-inch pipe, was wide open. I considered this to be a wide-open invitation.

I entered, musing that I would go three miles to see if there were any appropriate targets for the Nikon, and then turn around to egress. A mile or so in, I came to a crossroad and noticed a pickup about a half-mile away. Foolishly, I did not wait for the driver to come my way so that I could ask him for local information.

Then it occurred to me that the presence of the pickup was probably the reason the gate was open. Doing a 180 on the fly, I set a new speed record, practically floor-boarding the truck. Not swift enough. When I got to the gate, it was double-locked with two stainless padlocks securing three-eighths-inch sweet-iron chain. Cleverly, the landlord had pushed up earth berms on both sides of the gate to prevent the bypass I anticipated executing.

Hmmmm. Check the map. Viola! There are three other access points to this parcel. Not all of them could be as tight as this one. I was correct.

The next exit was in a brushy area, but it was also bermed. I did a quick recon, found a suitable tight place where the truck could squeeze between a couple of trees and allow me to circumvent the gate. It worked. But not without the four-wheel drive. I learned my lesson. Not every landowner understands that photographers are benign visitors. That being so, no more open-gate entrances for this ol' boy.

Once again, the Lord takes care of fools and drunks. I'm glad.

N O T E S:  
Both shots: Nikon D200 / AFS Nikkor 18-70 f3.5-4.5G ED / ISO 100 / hand held / Post processed with Photoshop CS3 Extended / Photomatix HDR

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