Visit to Arkansas
May 11-18, 2015
We headed out for Arkansas on May 11 to visit with Bobby and Suzanne and family, and to celebrate Bryan's graduation from the University of Arkansas Medical School (UAMS, University of Arkansas for the Medical Sciences). They had been telling us about how wet it had been and how hard it was to get the rice planted. As soon as we crossed the Mississippi River into Arkansas, the wetness was apparent. All the fields were wet and soggy if not totally immersed.
There were places where the row crops had been planted and were doing well with the abundant water, and fields where the rice had gotten planted early enough and all this water will save them some pumping costs.
But as we approached Newport there were more fields that were flooded and we could understand why Bobby and Brent were worried about getting the rice crop in.
It was good to get to the land of my old home place and visit with the three current rice farmers, Garrett, Bob and Brent. Garrett is now in his second year of college, but working hard on the rice land.
It is always a pleasure for me to walk on the land on which I was born and raised. Dorothy's house on the hill stands in the location of the old house in which I was actually born in the front room. It stands among tall trees, most of which I actually planted when I was in high school, trying to raise larger pecans than those we used to pick up in Jacksonport.
Looking down the hill from Dorothy's house is Bob and Suzanne's house, along with some of the large farm equipment of today's agriculture.
Out behind Bobby's barn are the three grain trucks that I saw put to use last year in the rice harvest. Beyond them just this side of the trees is the grass airstrip that Brent has put in so he can run his air operation directly from the farm.
On the other side of Dorothy's house is the new hanger/shop/office suite that Brent has under construction for his agriculture business. My immediate comment was "Hey, that's right in the middle of our baseball field!" since Philippe and I and the Burlisons spent a good portion of our youth playing baseball there.
The framing for Brent's office suite is underway. He has a state-of-the-art design for computer and web communication for his high-tech agriculture business. Field test data can be uploaded and then downloaded to machines in the field for the application of fertilizers and weed control chemicals.
Bobby walks toward the controls for the big hangar door. Now the building materials occupy the floor, but this will be hangar space for at least two planes, and three in a pinch. The end of the airstrip is right outside the door.
Another impressive sight for me was this large beautiful wheat field right across the road in front of Bob and Suzanne's house. Growing up, there had been a pond there where we played with frogs and tadpoles. And we would hear timber wolves in the woods in the distance, whereas now coyotes are more common.
I rode with Bobby up to inspect their rice acreage on the Black River north of their house. We could see that the water was already up over the far ends of the fields, the White and Black Rivers were due to crest 2 to 5 feet higher.
There were a half dozen geese swimming at the far end of the field.
As we drove toward the fields further back, we saw water which Bobby interpreted as direct backup from the Black River. We also saw a bird with gold on the back of its head that we could not identify.
Bobby drove on down this very wet and slippery field road to the back field where you can see a riser for pumping water onto the rice field - which was certainly not needed now! Only with considerable gymnastics with the 4-wheel-drive pickup did Bobby get us out of a couple of places.
This was the road we came in on, so we now had to go back out the same way! The amount of mud of Bobby's mirror tells you a bit of the tale of how much mud we got into!