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Thursday, Sep. 1, 2016

Putting flags by the stumps

Posted Friday, November 27, 2009, at 7:05 PM

Putting flags by the stumps is vital if you plan to grow rice. If you didn't put the flags there you probably would not be used as a lifeline on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

BW and I lived in Arkansas for about three years in the last century first in Jonesboro and then Fisher. Fisher is down below Wiener. That's right Wiener! Don't laugh, Indiana has a Frankfort and their high school sports mascot is a Hot Dog, that's right, a Hot Dog. How would you like to stand out in the middle of the basketball court with your bun showing?

That region has the dubious distinction of being the hatchery, incubator, hothouse and wildlife refuge for the largest mosquitoes in the world. Rice has been grown the same way for centuries. Rice fields are flooded to help hold up the heads of the rice plants where of course the grain grows similar to wheat and oats. As most of you astute and erudite readers know, when water is present in massive quantities, the byproduct is the water dive-bomber known as mosquitoes.

Rice farmers would prepare their fields for planting by using an implement named a "Do-all." The "Do-all" was pulled behind a huge tractor and it performed several tasks in one pass. A spring tooth harrow was first then a disk followed by a harrow and graders and a drag that leveled the land and finally a culti-packer.

Now the land was ready for the dikes. The farmer would then use a transit to "shoot" the elevations throughout the field much like a surveyor. An assistant would position himself throughout the field holding a tall stake with numbers on it similar to the ones George Washington and his crew used to survey in the early 1700s. They would locate the areas of similar elevation and mark the ridges. The helper would place markers in the ground to show where the dike should be. Then a tractor with a disk-like implement built the dikes.

When the rice fields were flooded mosquitoes would descend on the land in Biblical proportions like the locusts that plagued Pharaoh. They would literally swarm in huge clouds. People could not remain outside because of the severe bites they would receive. Small children looked like they had chicken pox from the many bites on their arms, legs and faces. Screen wire of epic proportions in excellent condition and mosquito netting were requisites.

Many of the fields had recently been cleared of trees and shrubs. Numerous stumps remained lurking at ground level, ready to hook a farm implement and do it bodily harm. Farmers would mark the stumps with red ribbons attached to long bamboo stakes that stood six to eight feet high. If a farmer did not do this, you could bet that his airplane was designed by the Wrong Brothers.

When one travels through life it is important to look for the flags set by others to indicate trouble spots. It is also important that each of us set some flags for those that follow.

Larry grew up north of Calvertville on a farm and graduated from Worthington High School. He lives in Plainfield and can be reached at Goosecrick@aol.com or (317) 839-7656. Write him at 6860 Sunrise Drive, Plainfield, Ind., 46168. He has written five books.

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