Fall Colors Are Slowly Appearing

Hillside trees are beginning to change color

As you can see in the photograph above, the trees around this part of the Ozarks are just beginning to undergo the color transformation that makes this such a pleasant time of year to be outdoors enjoying the scenery.

Pin oak turning red

The pin oaks, such as this one, are among the first trees to exhibit a reddening of their leaves.  As such, they stand out in stark contrast to the surrounding greenery.

Pin oak leaves in early fall

The pin oak leaves change from dark green to red, after which they will turn rusty brown before leaping off the tree, in a final act of suicidal defiance in the face of the seasonal changes that are taking place.

The change has begun

This specimen of sugar maple begins it’s color change from the top down, and will undergo several variations of shading prior to the leaves falling from the tree.

Behind horse pasture

I haven’t identified this tree yet (hint, hint), but the outer layer of leaves regularly turn a brilliant purplish shade as the fall change progresses.

There is an excellent website that publishes the Ozark Mountains Fall Foliage Report, where you can learn all about the causes of the color change, as well as obtain up-to-date color reports and forecasts, and get directions for scenic local fall drives throughout the Ozarks region.

I will be posting the changes that occur at this location periodically over the next couple of weeks.  So far the weather has been favorable for a spectacular fall show.  If the cool, sunny days continue, along with cold (but not freezing) nights, we should be in for a real treat this year.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

Rusty Wheels Old Engine Club

There is a local group known as the Rusty Wheels Old Engine Club that stages a public show twice a year at their club site outside of Harrison, Arkansas.  Unfortunately, I usually read about how good their shows are in the newspaper after they occur.  This year was different however.  I ran across an advertisement regarding the show as Retta and I savored our dessert at the ice cream shop, after enjoying a delightful meal at a local diner, a Friday night “tradition” we have recently established.  So I spent Saturday at the show, taking in the old machinery while reveling in the beautiful fall weather we have been having.

John Deere 1951 Model A - HC

I had expected that I would see many restored tractors at the show, such as the John Deere 1951 Model A – HC tractor shown above, and the rugged looking steel cog-wheeled John Deere shown below. 

John Deere steel-wheeled tractor

I did not expected to see the large variety of interesting additional machinery and activities that were at the fall show.  Those items that I can identify, I will.  If I can’t, maybe you can fill me in with a helpful comment.  Forgive the lengthy post, but the following photographs a but a small sampling of what was available to see. 

1965 Bombardier log skidder

How about this 1965 Bombardier log skidder?  Un-restored, but it is still in daily use by a local logging crew.  And obviously, an opinionated owner ;)

John Deere crawler

This 1947 John Deere/Lindeman 14 horsepower crawler would come in handy from time to time in my woods.

Home built buggy

It’s funny, but every time I made it a point to prominently display my camera (I would pretend to be fiddling with the controls), somebody would take the opportunity to drive right in front of me in their unique machines, such as the gentleman in the home-built buggy, seen above.

Tractor pull weigh-in

Shortly after lunch, the tractor pulling competition was scheduled to begin, so the preparatory tractor weigh-ins began about noon.  The Allis-Chalmers tractor (pictured above) has just been weighed, and is driving off the scale to await his chance to pull the sled. 

Tractor pulling the sled

For those of you who may not be familiar with tractor pulling contests, here are the basics in a nutshell.  The tractor is hitched up to a device called a sled, the green piece of machinery shown in the picture above.  The sled is engineered with the wheels and axle acting as a fulcrum point, in such a way that the load borne by the tractor increases the further along the track it travels.  Eventually, even the most powerful tractor will come to a standstill.  The tractor that pulls the sled the furthest is declared the winner, and everyone rejoices afterwards!

But tractor pulling is not limited to conventional farm tractors.  Massive, high budget jet-propelled or diesel-propelled tractors compete in larger venues, but here in a more moderate income area, the souped-up tractor of choice for pulling competitions are the lawn tractor, as shown below.

Competition lawn tractor

Not the ordinary lawn tractor you would expect to purchase at the local big-box store, but super-duper, highly modified and detailed custom jobs, especially built for these pulling competitions.  Some are so highly modified that they resemble a Top Fuel dragster more than a lawn tractor, as you can see in the following photo.

Highly modified lawn tractor

This is a motor sport that you can be competitive in at the top levels without having to budget hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars.

Why work when there's other stuff to do?

And as you can see above, the participants are generally equipped with an active sense of humor.

Heavy iron in operating condition

The variety of engine types represented at the show was vast, including this operational steam locomotive.  The engine only travels about 60-70 feet before it reaches the end of the track and has to back up, but it provides enough distance to show off the operational capabilities of the locomotive.

Light iron in operation

Not to be outdone by larger equipment, the tabletop engineers also had their trains running up and down the tracks.

Small antique engine

This fellow made it his goal to keep this antique engine running the entire duration of the day, so everybody who walked by could see it running.  He was on the road to success in this quest, but it was no easy task.  He was constantly fiddling with the engine to keep it chugging along, but then what else would you expect from a 1915 Fairbanks Morse 1.5 hp engine? 

Brand new model engine

There were many variations of operational small engine replicas on display and for sale, one of which is shown in the picture above.  This kit is manufactured and marketed by a gentleman who lives in the neighborhood, using only a 7″ lathe and small milling machine for the production of his kits.

Anybody need something cut?

Various old saw and sawmill equipment was displayed at the Rusty Wheels Old Engine show, such as the tow-able cut-off saw seen above

Operational lumber saw mill

This horizontal saw is powered by the steam engine located a distance outside the shed.  The engine powers the saw via a long belt and pulley system, which you can see in the picture above.  There is a large distance separating the engine from the saw for several reasons.  This arrangement affords room for long lengths of lumber to be cut, keeps the saw operators out of the smoke and noise from the engine, and protects them from harm should some type of pressure failure occur in the steam engine.

Engine to power the saw

But the most important reason for the distance is to create the grip necessary for the belt to power the saw.  The sagging weight of the long belt causes it to exert tremendous pressure onto the surface of the pulleys, thereby reducing slippage to a minimum.  Additionally, since the seam that is used to join the two ends of the belt is prone to damage, the extreme length allowed the ends to be trimmed and re-spliced as necessary.  The engine would just have to be moved a little closer to the equipment, and all would be operational once again.

Cord braiding machine

Various old industrial equipment was on display, and most had been restored to operating condition, with ongoing demonstrations of the machinery in action.  The photograph above shows a cord braiding machine.  This machine kept chugging along all day, weaving the brightly colored threads above into the cordage you see spooling onto the reel, seen at the lower left of the photograph above.

I could go on with hundreds of additional photographs, but instead I invite you to see for yourself at the next Rusty Wheels Old Engine show, which comes up again this spring.  It is well worth the time, and adult admission is free, children and seniors free-er, of course!

The website for the Rusty Wheels Old Engine Club is www.rustywheels.com.


 Spring 2011 Show –  June 10th and 11th, 2011

 Fall 2011 Show –  October 7th and 8th, 2011      

There’s Gold In Them Thar Hills!

Well, maybe not gold, but possibly there might be silver.  And why do I think that there might be silver in the hillock that we so pretentiously call “our mountain?”  Because I know for certain that there has been lead ore extracted from this area in the past, and I just learned recently on the Discovery Channel that silver strikes may occur in proximity to lead ore veins.

Here is a brief history of lead mining in the general area.  The most prominent and successful mining operation in the area was under the auspices of the New York Zinc and Lead Company, which operated the Bear Hill Mining Property at George’s Creek in Bear Hill Hollow in the late 1800’s, however the mining of lead was first noted to occur in 1818.  During the civil war, there were three lead ore smelters operating in a nearby township (which is now at the bottom of Bull Shoals Lake).  The lead ore from this area was used primarily for bullets, which the area supplied to both the Union and Confederate armies throughout the Civil War.  My neighbor’s ancestors conducted a very successful business at the time of the Civil War, called the Markle Cannon Foundry.  They utilized the “Gillette Razor” methodology of doing business (sell the razor cheap, and profit from over-priced blade refills).  This company donated cannons to both combatant armies during the civil war, and then profited handsomely by provisioning the armies with expensive cannon balls, which were produced, in part, with lead mined locally.

Lead mining occurred on and off during the ensuing years, but became active with the onset of WWI, and later, WWII.  The last known commercial lead mining in the area ceased operations in 1959.

In reviewing the Abstract of Title which we obtained as a result of our purchase of the property, we have found five instances of mining leases that were granted to mining concerns by the various owners of this land, spanning the period from the early-1800’s to the mid-1960’s.  I have not been able to determine how much ore was extracted from this site, nor how long the mining was active, but I do know it occurred on this property.

Topo of

This is a topographic view of a part of “our mountain.”  You may recall the panoramic view from the mountain top, which is seen in the upper right part of the map above.  In the upper left side of the map, notice the red line I have drawn.  This line represents a ravine that cuts it’s way down one part of the slope, where lead ore has been extracted in the past.  Today’s post will show what the upper portion of this ravine (and past mining locale) looks like.  At the lower part of the red line, you can see the crossed pick-ax symbol that the USGS used to indicate the presence of a mining operation at the time the area was mapped.  We will explore the lower portion of the ravine in a future post, when more leaves have fallen and the area becomes more conducive to photography.

Looking up the ravine

This picture was taken at about the midway point of the mining area, looking up the ravine.  Notice the rock outcroppings on the right.  This is the result of the ore extraction process that occurred here.

Revetment pond

This photograph shows a dry pond site at the top of the ravine, denoted on the topographic map as a red O.  It was my initial belief, upon first seeing the dry pond, that it was an unsuccessful stock tank for cattle that at one time grazed a large, crescent-shaped pasture midway up the mountain.  I have now come to believe that it was constructed to be a revetment, or containment pond, to prevent a deluge of water from cascading down the ravine during the thunderstorms that sometimes manage to avoid bypassing our property.

Excellent critter habitat

The erosion that has occurred in the exposed rock outcroppings has created small caverns at the base of the rocks.  Although there was nothing in this hole at the time of this photograph, I am sure that it has been a shelter for some critters from time to time.

Ravine wall

This is another rocky ledge in the upper ravine area that has been created by the mining activities of the past.  One day, I would like to accompany someone trained in geology through this area, so that I can learn to understand what I am seeing in these outcroppings more fully.

Tenuous footing

This oak (?) tree appears to be growing directly out of the rock.  I find it interesting to see how it grows horizontally, and then makes an abrupt 90 degree turn, again reaching for the sky.

So now you have seen the upper part of the ravine where lead ore extraction has occurred on this property.  This might be the exact spot where I soon discover the “Mother Lode” silver ore vein on our land.  If I do, I’ll keep you all posted.  And then again, maybe not.  But that’s how legends are born.