Arkansas Visit

May 4-8, 2012

On Saturday, May 5, Suzanne fixed a fine lunch, with Bob grilling hamburgers and hotdogs. The whole family gathered, and it was a great time of fellowship. On the left are Brent and Mandi Lassiter, with their two sons Eli and Garrett on the floor to the right of them. Right on floor are Bryan and Mary Lassiter, in from Bryan's studies in medical school in Little Rock. On couch: Dorothy Tirey, Rod, Bob and Suzanne Lassiter.

We entered Arkansas in the early afternoon on May 4, and at about Marked Tree we started seeing lots of rice fields.

We enjoyed watching the gymnastics of an agri plane putting out fertilizer over a large field along Hwy 14. It was fascinating enough that we pulled off for a few minutes to watch the plane.

The bright yellow plane made repeated passes over the field, releasing fertilizer from a framework below the plane. We didn't know what it was releasing, but upon showing the pictures to Bobby, we got a description of the particular hardware that was used for fertilizer.

The other thing that kept us at this location near Amagon on Hwy 14 was the fascination with the redwing blackbirds which were flitting around the edges of the rice fields. I love their distinctive call. They are very skittish and hard to get close to, but using the car as a blind, I got a few shots of them.

We reached the fields about dusk, with a bright moon rising.

We reached Newport about 3:30pm and visited with Dorothy a while. Then we went down to Bobbie and Suzanne's and unloaded luggage, and soon got to see Brent, Mandy, Garrett and Eli.

After supper I rode down to the Amagon area with Brent, who was going to check on the rice fields. He has about 550 acres of rice planted there. I enjoyed the visit and hearing about the latest technology for agriculture - like software for uploading a distribution for fertilizer for a field and then downloading it to equipment in the field. He checked and adjusted gates through the dikes to control water level. He is using heavy-gauge plastic sheet for gates, with chains that hook on steel pegs on the posts, making possible quick adjustment of the water flow.

We moved around and Brent worked on a number of the gates through the dikes. He worked into the moonlight.

It was great to get together with the family on Saturday, May 5. Brent and family came in from Jonesboro for the weekend. They will move back to their house here at the end of school in two weeks. Bryan and Mary came in from Little Rock where he is in medical school.

After lunch I rode down to Amagon with Garrett, who had some repair work to do in the rice fields. Here he is opening a second opening in the first dike off the pump to allow the water to move more rapidly to the successive sections.

I was interested in the way they used the pump - it was different from what I saw as a teenager myself, working in Uncle Leland's rice fields. The diesel power unit which drives the pump is putting water into a pipe network. They then just open a vertical pipe where they want to put out the water into the field.

Garrett is adding openings to the dikes close to the pump to speed the transfer of water to the other sections to the west of the pump.

We moved from the very wet to the very dry, and Garrett is closing gaps in the dikes of the southeast field so that it can be flooded again.

Rod gets engaged in the gap filling on the dikes. We closed about ten dikes for future flooding.

The rice dikes made interesting patterns in the fields. It was interesting to be back in a rice field after more than 50 years since my high school work in Uncle Leland's rice fields.

We went to church at Newport First Baptist Church with the family on Sunday, May 6, and had another wonderful dinner with the family. In the afternoon, Dorothy and I drove around to visit Jacksonport, Hickory Grove, and Tuckerman. We bid goodbye to Brent's family as they headed back to Jonesboro for the boys' week of school.

From the wee hours of Monday, May 7, we had heavy rain, thunder and lightning. Bob was headed out before 5am to go to the rice fields past Amagon to make sure the pumps were turned off. I rode with him and when we got there at 5:30, Brent was headed down one of the field roads on a four-wheeler in the pouring rain, and he preceded us in getting the pumps shut down.

Brent heads down one of the field roads between the rice fields after shutting down the pumps.

The big rain, measuring just over three inches at Bob's house, was a great boon to the rice so long as the event was managed. A lot of pumping would have been required to get this much water on the fields. After being assured that the dikes were in good shape, Brent loaded his 4-wheeler back up on the trailer. This was over 500 acres of rice which had just been watered well.

With the big rice tract having been checked, Bob returned home to load up a 4-wheeler and go north to the 160-acre tract near the Black River which had just been planted. We drove to it and found that it had been well-watered but had no problems, the rain having been lighter at that location. I enjoyed riding through the new green crops and by a pasture with several new calves.

After checking the north 160, we headed back and checked in with Brent and company, who were spreading out to check other rice acreages in the area. We headed back to Amagon for a more detailed inspection of the gates and dikes in Brent's big tract there. At 9:30 we were back there and Bob unloaded the 4-wheeler to travel around the big area.

This is a flashback to two days ago when Garrett was filling gaps in the dikes in anticipation of having to run the pumps to water this southeast field. The sprouted rice looked rather pitiful in the drying and cracked ground.

But now, two days later in the same field, the Lord has provided an abundant rain and the revived rice looks like it has grown two inches!

Bob has zipped around the whole tract on the 4-wheeler, adjusting the plastic gates that have been taken out of position by the wind or rain. At times he was so far away that I could barely see him.

Bob is back from his big tour around the fields, correcting the gates and inspecting the water level over the 500+ acre tract.

This was one of my companions as I waited and watched the procedure in the field. I really couldn't do anything useful, clad only in tennis shoes since my foot was too big for any of their boots. I enjoyed the chorus of about three kinds of frogs as well as the redwinged blackbirds. It was very interesting to observe the current farming process in the big rice fields.

Bob makes one more run up one of the central field roads to check a few more gates and then comes roaring back with mud flying from the tires of the 4-wheeler.

As we headed out of the fields, we got this view down their south fields which shows the pattern of the planting of the rice. Bob showed me one of the planters that was capable of planting 400 acres a day with rice. This also gives an impression of the size of this operation, since this view shows less than a quarter of the 500+ acre tract.

GBH 50-year Grads

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