17-Nov-2001 -- This is my second confluence to visit – and I'm sure it will always be my favorite because it is on the banks of the Mississippi River. My intrigue with this area must be related to my childhood enjoyment of reading Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Butch, my best friend, volunteered to drive and keep me company. We came from East Texas and drove through Louisiana, Arkansas, and into Mississippi to get to the point. The trip was easy along state highways (since Butch was driving) until we got off the highway, near the point.
The most unexpected thing I found on our trip was the grandeur of the levee along the Mississippi River. I have seen TV news about levees in danger of breaking and the destruction that results, but, I had no concept of how tall the levees are or how far they are from the normal banks of the river. I would guess they are at least two miles on either side of the river.
It took us several attempts to find the right road to get up and over the levee and to the confluence. The levee roads were made from loose rock and a road ran along the top for as far as we could see north and south. Every so often there were roads that went up and over the sides. The intersections at the top of the levee were "blind," and out in the middle of nowhere, there was lots of unexpected traffic.
After we went over the levee, we drove through a beautiful Pecan orchid before we finally got to the cotton field where we found the confluence. It was at least 1/2 miles inside the levee. Fortunately, we found more than the cotton field – we found the cotton farmer. He told us that the field floods every spring, washing new nutrients into the soil, and as soon as the water recedes and the dirt dries up, they plant the fields. The fields were completely dry by November, because the dust billowed behind any vehicle the moved. My blue truck was dirt colored after this adventure.
The photos show the cotton fields after their first harvest. The farmer told us the first picking usually causes more cotton buds to open and a second harvest is customary – but, yields are obviously much less. The bales shown in the photos are the size of a semi truck and are hauled to a river port and loaded onto barges for transport or they may be shipped via rail.
The harvest process we watched involved three machines. A combine (not seen in these photos) picks the cotton with a huge comb looking mechanism on its front. The combine dumps its load into the "dump cart" that brings the cotton from the field to the baling machine. Several loads from the cart are compressed (like a car crusher) to form the bails. When a bale is complete, the tractor drives forward, leaving the bale on the ground and the tarp is pulled over the as the bailer moves on to the next spot.
We couldn't see the river from the confluence point, the farmer told us it was at least a 1/4 mile through a thicket to get to the river and probably full of snakes – we decided to drive back to the south to get a photo of the river. Another first for me was the green bug catchers. There were thousands of these things all along the edges of fields throughout Arkansas and Mississippi. Farmers and agriculture officers check these devices regularly for the presence of bugs that destroy crops. I assume they use this as a tool to decide what measures are needed to control the bug population. We saw one crop duster in Arkansas.
All in all, it was a fun trip and meeting the farmer was a real pleasure. He must of thought we were crazy – driving several hours just to say we have been to this point on the globe. Maybe we are??? But, we made a little bit or history.