More Questions Than Answers

Another hot day.  Another early start.

Fish farms.

3C271A29-2284-428B-8DCB-BF6564CAD47CFlat land.  Really flat.  For miles and miles.

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We pedaled to the left of the rumble strip for about 50 miles, crowded by 65 mph (105 kph) motor traffic.

Most of the pavement on four-lane US 82 is good.  But the shoulder was not bikeable, and the few aggressive drivers were periodically terrifying.

The stress of speeding motorists pushed us to an alternate route, on which Jeffrey stopped to talk to Roger, Justin, and Matthew.

79A95078-646E-4C8C-8398-74F217A37BA2Roger (at left) was working on a machine that feeds agricultural chemicals to other machines that distribute them over crops.  Justin is a crop-duster pilot, a real daredevil because he flies his plane near the ground, where there is no margin for mechanical fault or pilot error.  Matthew manages this 3,000 acre (1,200 hectare) soybean farm.

FF496B98-88F2-4F16-A457-20E9725F9820

76E355E6-8215-420C-9566-567D5813F144

Takeoff!

The men listened respectfully to Jeffrey and agreed that it’s unfair that the U.S. government doesn’t provide lawyers to help poor asylum applicants deal with our complex immigration system.

Jeffrey was full of farming questions. Roger and Matthew explained the advantages of crop dusting: it’s expensive, yet it’s fast and lets inputs like fertilizer be applied at the most useful time. And here, at the northern edge of the Mississippi Delta, the fields often are boggy and easily damaged by heavy equipment; crop dusting allows a light touch. Matthew said that he minimizes chemical use to protect human health, save money, and preserve the land, but until science comes up with alternatives, farmers must stick with what works.

All three admired our bike.

The most practical thing Jeffrey learned from this encounter was that about a half mile west on this “alternate route, the well-paved road turns to gravel that is hard to traverse even in a truck. Matthew said we’d be much better off on the busy highway.

By the time we returned to US 82, traffic had lightened a little.  Despite occasional aggressive-driver scares and a (cooling) headwind, we made good time to Indianola, where this sign caught our eye.

6AC14497-85E8-48E4-A01A-220B34132020In the past couple of days, we were in the world’s Sweet Potato Capital and Cotton Capital.  Is Indianola the Pecan Capital?

No. But it’s near Itta Bena, where B.B. King was born.

Pecanists (L to R) Molly, Landry, and Caitlyn (who just got her nursing degree and soon will take the RN licensing exam) already supported human rights.  Now they’re fans of Human Rights First.

721DB72D-15A1-418B-85E7-969C40B8414EWe continued west in scary traffic and foul heat.  We stopped at a joint in Leland, where one can buy fish bait, ice, cigarettes, ammo, food, and minnows.

Mike and Gustavo remarked at our bike and shook Jeffrey’s hand.  So did others.  Some gave us blessings after they read our Human Rights First sign (and perhaps because they know what motor traffic is like).

This evening, Jeffrey and David dined in Greenville at Doe’s Eating Place, winner of a James Beard award.

A8B74B0C-EB4F-427E-8314-0B73CF60C07BThey had a long, delightful conversation with Kay and Sam, born and raised Mississippians who know business, agriculture, local history, and human nature.

56E99778-53AE-466E-A809-5219F2F5FFF3Kay and Sam share our aspirations for our neighbors and for America, even if we may not entirely agree on the means to achieve them.  They have an uncommon grasp of the complexity of life.  And they are generous: they paid for the humans’ dinner, which Jeffrey will transmute into a donation to Human Rights First.

After dinner, Jeffrey spoke with Joe—for 23 years the restaurant’s security guard; in light of the neighborhood, his equipment includes a semiautomatic pistol—about the plight of unrepresented asylum applicants.

Joe wasn’t surprised that putative refugees are not guaranteed counsel.  That’s what happens to the little guy.  Joe talked to Jeffrey about his experience with people whose English is weak; bewildered Jeffrey had to rely on David, whose ear is better tuned to Southern accents, to interpret.  It reminded Jeffrey of how it is to be out of one’s depth, they way it is for unrepresented asylum seekers.

Jeffrey learns a lot every day we’re on the road.

One thought on “More Questions Than Answers

  1. You are now in the “heart”of the Deep South. I have a volume entitled “The Most Southern Place on Earth” about the Mississippi Delta. A good friend of mine up here (Adirondacks) grew up there and says the Clarksdale Music Fest in April celebrating the Blues and other regional music is the best!

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