Monday, the last day of September. The calendar says fall, but the thermometer says August. It’s a gorgeous day, and a side benefit of my business trip was an afternoon drive through my native northeast Arkansas. I’ve probably driven from Marked Tree to Memphis 10,000 times. I can remember when it was a two lane road, then a four lane bypassing Marked Tree, Truman, and Bay on its way to Jonesboro and beyond. Now it is officially an Interstate. Memphis to Jonesboro is such a quick trip that nobody needs the old Travelair Motel in Marked Tree anymore.
The harvest is underway. Lots of cotton is ready, and I pass rice fields that have already been cut and burned, and others that are just about ready. Long cylinders of plastic-wrapped cotton lay in the fields, ready for ginning. Some of the beans are turning, but many are still trying to finish growing, taking advantage of the heat that makes up for shorter days.
Soon, more fall like temperatures will come, probably ushered in by rain. There’s an urgency to the harvest, to take advantage of these warm, dry days to get as much done as possible.
This cycle has repeated, through wet years, and dry; warm years and cooler ones, early frosts and delayed frosts, since my ancestors oversaw the logging that exposed the rich topsoil to farming activities. It is a blessing to see it played out year over year. As the day drew to a close, and I neared my destination, a sliver of a moon appeared in the western sky, determined to set early. In a few weeks it will become full, and while technically a hunter’s moon, will no doubt be of an aid to those still gathering their crops.
I have tremendous admiration for those who still work the land. It is hard, and largely thankless, other than the satisfaction of interposing oneself into the rhythms of sowing and reaping. Take a minute and thank a farmer. And take time to slow down or stop, and watch the harvest. It is the genesis of so much that we take for granted.
Finally, before you go, take three minutes and listen to Levon and the boys singing about the Southern Tenant Farmers Union: