Yokna Patawpha Bottoms Farm
Farm Manager Jeff was heading to an organic farming conference for the weekend, so he made up a To Do list for us to complete in his absence. By 11:30 that morning we had most of it done:
Then we headed out to the field to tackle the last two tasks we could do that day – picking up sticks in the new plot, and pulling and bagging the drip tape lines from six rows.
We hit the drip tape first, laughing as our techniques for pulling the tape in evolved – from Kristin’s pioneering “Texas oil pump” move through several of my arm swinging refinements to Kristin’s finale: the Butterfly Hose Reel, a tactic she’d learned somewhere that created a neat braid-like coil of hose and looked like some kind of ninja ballet.
The stick mission was simply cleaning up the small branches left behind during our previous, much more epic Field Clearing task.
Afterward, we convinced Doug to walk down to the river with us. The little dirt driveway from the house down to the Yokna Bottoms field merges into one other driveway, belonging to the next door neighbor. If you go down partway, you arrive at the chicken coop and fields.
If you continue past them, ignoring the Keep Out and No Trespassing signs, you get to the neighbor’s field and secondary cabin structures, at the opposite side of their property from their main house up by Doug’s. A dead end dirt driveway – but once upon a time, this rutted driveway had been the main road to Oxford.
At the Ping Pong Party, we’d learned, vaguely, about the history of the bridge across the river that had washed out and never been replaced due to weird local politics. What neither of us had realized was that the washed-out bridge road was just a little ways down the farm’s driveway – or that the bridge itself was still rusting out down there.
Also – Faulkner is a big deal in Lafayette County, Mississippi – especially here in Oxford, where Faulkner spent most of his life. Apparently, the spot where the bridge once was had been the real-life location Faulkner had in mind for the key river crossing scene in “As I Lay Dying” – set in his not-so-fictional “Yoknapatawpha County” (and now you get the weird name of this farm – in the bottoms (flood plain area) of the Yocana River, in the heart of Yoknapatawphaland.
Ignorant of the historical and fictional context, we’d seen the river in satellite views of the area, and only our respect for our host and his neighborly relationship had kept us from exploring our way past the tempting warning signs:
Today, when Doug mentioned taking a walk, I pounced at the opportunity, and got him to escort us down to the river through the neighbor’s land, so he could talk to the neighbor if needed. We left the dogs in the house, so they wouldn’t anger the neighbors by chasing off deer – but Widget snuck out past Nate and shot out after us like a little white bolt – she caught us halfway there, so we carried her in until we were sure the coast was clear:
Doug filled us in on the Faulknerian history while we walked toward the river, past the neighbor’s cabin. As the road dipped down, dropping into a side channel of the main watercourse, he mentioned how years ago, the guy he’d started the farm with had found a huge dead box turtle in this side channel.
While Doug went ahead to see if the neighbor was in his hunting stand along the main river, Kristin and I poked around in the little gulley – and found a giant dead turtle of our own.
Then Doug gave the all-clear and we went on to the river, which was down beneath us, beyond a steep, wooded slope. It looked daunting at first glance, but being native river-bluff billy goats, we picked out a zig-zagging path safely downward to the river’s edge, among the defunct support beams.
Tomorrow would be the day of the house party / concert / drum circle – we went to bed early.