photo of the week

A Few Ill Winds away from Kindling

Well over 100 years old, this old dogtrot house in Cleveland, Arkansas, sits right on Highway 95 for all to see. Since time is taking its toll, get a good look. A few more ill winds and it could become kindling.

Dogtrot and the Devil

Monday, November 23, 2015
Pine Buff, Arkansas

Author's Note:

Since most of my wanderings are on weekends, it is not often that I am fortunate enough to find a person who can fill me in on what I am shooting.  The trip that included Cleveland, Arkansas, in October of 2012 was one of those.  I knocked on the door of the residence across the highway from the dog-trot house you see above.  Lo and behold, a retired minister who was “born and raised” behind the door on which I had just knocked presented himself and responded positively to my request for information.  He was not at a loss for words.  He filled me in on the provenance of the house and neighborhood, then regaled me with a favorite community joke from “way back in the day.”

Thanks for looking,
       Joe Dempsey


The Walnut Has Staying Power

The left (north) side of the front porch will be the first to go.  You can easily see where the dogtrot was closed in the center.  The "home-place-tree" in the background is a healthy walnut, which will probably long outlive the house.

Shadow of a Long-Gone Past

First Published on Sunday, October 28, 2012
Pine Buff, Arkansas

The first thing you notice as you approach Cleveland from the south on Arkansas Highway 95 is this old dogtrot house.  It was built and first occupied in the last quarter of the century-before-last.  For the mathematically and historically challenged, that would be after 1875 and before 1900.  Like most dogtrot houses that enjoyed long-term occupancy, at sometime in its life the dogtrot breezeway was closed to make a new room, and consequently stop the wintery winds from blasting through the middle of your house.

Cleveland is now a small, small community, more than a few notches less than a mere shadow of its former self.  The once bustling town boasted a major mercantile and land enterprise, a lot of businesses, and a lot of people, according to the retired minister who was kind enough to fill me in on his home.  Now in his nineties, he should know.  He was born and raised there, across the highway from the old dogtrot.  He has returned to the place of his birth for retirement.


You'll Find Clues in the Details

A closer look at the deteriorating back porch shows some details of expansions.  The different-size clapboards tell the tale.  The stone structure is the family well, a real convenience in that location.  It saved many a step into the jaws of ill weather.

I met the minister after I knocked on his door seeking information on the old home.  Since he lives directly across the highway, I surmised that the property might be his and if so, would he object if I photographed it, and further, could I pick his brain on the provenance of the structure?  He informed me that he was not the owner, and that since the owner of the structure recently made the big one-way trip to see his Maker, he could see no problem with either of my requests.

Though his home in its present manifestation bore not the slightest resemblance to a dogtrot house, the elder clergyman told me that it was built by his grandparents and was virtually a clone of the one I was about to photograph.

story within

As the minister regaled me with historical Cleveland tidbits, he injected a "story."  The setting is Cleveland sometime around the turn of the last century.  As with many small towns of that genre in that day and time, there was a large mercantile and land company, which dominated the local economy.  Let's just say the company was owned by Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones.  That said, the devil story devil continues.  Seems a local citizen reports that he has had a bad dream in which he winds up in hell.  The dreamer reports to the devil, whom he finds to be reasonably cordial as he, Beelzebub hisself, gives the new arrival the two-bit tour.

In their wanderings, they happen across an upturned wash pot.  The devil stops the tour at that point and tells his fledgling resident that he can go just about anywhere on the premises he cares to go, but under no circumstances can he approach or touch the overturned wash pot.  After a while longer, the new resident can't hold his curiosity in check and asks the devil, "What's the deal with the wash pot?"  The devil quickly replies, "Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones are under the wash pot and I'm afraid that if they escape, within a couple of weeks they will have 'all-over-hell' mortgaged."

From the top photograph, you can see where the original chimney resided as opposed to the current location further inside the house.  The rest of the life cycle of the house follows a typical path.  From the differences in the clapboard siding planks, you can see that the home was expanded several times.


Simple Engineering

A close look at the foundation for the old structure reveals simple engineering at its best.  It did make for cold floors in the winter.

In that day and time, the first order of business was to get out of the weather.  As the family and earning power grew, so did the house.  An addition here.  An addition there.  Then at some point the children reach adulthood and seek their fortunes elsewhere.  Sooner or later family income diminishes and the home suffers for maintenance.  Which brings us to where we are today.


Arkansas Citrus

No, I am not crazy, nor are you seeing things.  This is not citrus fruit.  These are ripening black walnuts on the huge home-place tree in the backyard of the house.  The tree was full of 'em.

The old structure has great value because it reminds us of how we got here, how life was before we got here, and how our forbearers made successes out of what they had.

Photo Notes

Nikon D300, ISO 200, tripod mount, all. First picture, Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 EX DC HSM, base exposure for HDR series, 1/200@f9; second picture, same lens, base exposure for HDR series, 1/250@f9; third picture, same lens, base exposure for HDR series, 1/200 @ f9; fourth picture, same lens, base exposure for HDR series, 1/100@f6.3; fifth picture, AF-S Nikkor 18-200 G ED, base exposure for HDR series, 1/40@f8; sixth picture, same lens, 1/250@f8. Post processed with Photomatix Pro 4 and Adobe Photoshop® CS6 Extended.


see more
But wait, there is much more
at Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,
where you'll see the rest of the story
of this trip including another
dogtrot house, a couple of old
barns, several rock houses and more. You'll take a spin through the hills of Arkansas and spend zilch, zero, zip on gas.

go now and enjoy go go3 gogo gogogo
weekly grist grist
go to it now
go to potw 204
go to potw 234
go to it now
brave dog