fieldwork

If you’ve got a 100-foot tape measure you might as well use it. So we did.

W walked ahead until the tape ran out and we continued down the trunk line (the main levee alongside the main canals used for flooding the rice fields) 100 feet apart, and the tape singing along the ground between us, until we’d measured the length—1000 feet. Granted, somewhere between 400 and 600 we lost count, and again around 800—apparently this was my job—but we are pretty sure that 300 was at “the second tree before the big tree” and 700 was “the crooked little tree past the gator sign.” so we’re sticking with 1000.

That levee today has about a 10-12′ wide top, wide enough for a cart to load up the rice at harvest time. It is just high enough to hold back the water at its peak from the Bulltown Swamp on one side from the canal and then the rice fields on the other. These inland rice fields weren’t affected by tides as the plantations on the coast were and though the swamp had it’s height limits, the rise and fall of a blackwater swamp reacts easily and quickly to rainfall. I think this is because the organic matter in the water creates a bottom surface that can be fairly impermeable, not allowing water to seep in as much as it might in sandier places. (but don’t take my word on that). This levee W and I were measuring was just one of the larger divides in a sea cordoned off by dikes and levees forming square fields between. Our trunk line ends at what is or was once the main channel of the swamp (the lagoon), which I failed to swim for the large sum of 3-some-odd dollars and so we do not know how far the levee continues on the other side. I did, however, earn myself $1.78 for stepping out a little ways into the tall (snake-infested surely) grasses of the the dike dividing the recreated rice fields, although I still need to collect said earnings.

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