August 26, 2009 Edition

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Opportunities to remember

Dewitt Rowlett
Guest Columnist

I recently spent a week with my nephew in Swifton to help him recover from surgery. It was a nostalgic week in my hometown in spite of the hectic days of helping him get in and out of his bed and chair.

One morning, bright and early, I had stepped outside to watch the people next door working frantically at getting an old car started and I heard the spring sounds of birds chirping wildly. Images of my early years out at Possum Trot raced through my mind.

I was reminded of the chilly spring mornings when we were getting ready for a long day in the cotton fields. There is a certain feeling that comes over me at the sounds of an early country morning. I can hear past the chirping birds and remember other sounds that are not so pleasant.

The sound of the hoes being filed would make the chilly spring morning even more chilly. As a young lad, those 10-hour days walking up and down the cotton rows to the tune of 50 cents an hour were simply not my cup of tea.

I stood outside my nephew's house and listened - yes and remembered - just five miles west out on the old gravel Possum Trot road lies that 140-acre farm where my dad raised cotton and soybeans. The place where I learned to work for a living in spite of my disdain for that type of toil.

My cousin now farms that land, and it is mostly rice these days. I am not familiar with farming rice, but I betcha there is no one out there with a hoe walking up and down those long rows for 10 hours, earning only a meager five bucks.

Sheeeesssh, I am breaking out in a sweat right now.


Out at Possum Trot when I was a boy it was a sure sign of rain when the road grader ran. No matter if there wasn't a single cloud in the sky, if that road grader ran it would rain within a few hours.

During cotton chopping or cotton picking season I almost worshipped that road grader. When I saw the black diesel smoke and heard the roar of the engine I knew without a doubt I was gonna get a day or so off from the back breaking labor out in that infernal cotton patch.

Here on the Ponderosa that magic is still alive - only these days it is not the road grader, no sirree. It is the garden tiller that has the power to summon the rain.

I didn't realize this until one morning recently right after I used the tiller. I got to thinking and I played back the last few months in my mind. I realized each time I fire up the large tiller, we get a gully washer and a toad strangler, if I fire up the little tiller, we get a shower or two.

Dewitt Rowlett of Vilonia is a native of Possum Trot Community, five miles west of Swifton. He writes of his life in rural Arkansas and is gaining quite a fan club of people who are of the nostalgic persuasion. Comments can be sent to him through e-mail at

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