Robert and I had been friends for less than a month before his father introduced us to Mike. Mike played fiddle in the old breakdown style that was very popular at square dances and on radio shows like the Louisiana Hay Ride.
When Mike saw Robert and I play guitar and sing, the bond was instant. For the next two decades, we were inseparable.
Mike always had a hunting cabin and against their better judgment, my parents dropped me off at the dilapidated shack with no front door, running water, or indoor plumbing. The hills and hollows around Saulsbury, Tenn., were teeming with wildlife and bagging any limit of game seemed easy.
Mike was a good cook. We ate what we harvested and hardly ever went hungry. There was, however, one particular morning we were a little worried. We had hunted from daylight until noon and had nothing in our game vests.
As we made our way back to the cabin, the dogs caught a scent and took off on the trail. I can still hear their voices echoing through the woods. Before we knew it, we had more squirrels than we could carry and one of Mike’s dogs even ran down a racoon. We went from having nothing, to having enough to eat the entire weekend.
I recently drove to Lexington, Miss., to spend some time with veteran crop consultant Virgil King. He has been working in cotton, corn, and soybeans since he was a young boy. As I walked into his office, I could see some of the impressive mounts he has accumulated through his years of hunting. I also saw a few guitars and an old five-string banjo.
I thought about Mike that particular day and wondered if Virgil had ever looked at a field of corn, soybeans, or cotton and thought there was little chance of a good yield based on what he saw at that point of the growing season. He told me estimating corn yield is difficult, even after pulling every fifth ear from a 1/1000 of an acre block, counting the number of kernels per round, including the average row length and using a formula to calculate potential yield.
King explained how estimating cotton yield can be just as difficult because of the factors associated with lint turnout and actual weight. He has learned not to make guesses on a producer’s yield before the pickers or combines roll.
I’m betting many farmers have looked at their cotton, corn, or soybean crop in the middle of the season and tried to estimate a field’s yield. As we move toward the end of another harvest, I hope all producers are as pleasantly surprised at their yields this year as I was that day when we thought we would have nothing but ended up with a bountiful harvest.