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Thoughts in a church on a Saturday afternoon

Life can take some funny twists and turns. I was thinking about that while attending the wedding of Jamie and Greg Owens in Wiggins, Miss., on a recent Saturday. Jamie and Greg are the sister-in-law and new brother-in-law of my daughter, Schuyler.

I used to drive by Wiggins on my way to meetings on the Mississippi Coast without giving it much thought other than that it was the hometown of baseball legend Dizzy Dean.

My perception of Wiggins began to change after my daughter returned from the 1991 International Science and Engineering Fair in Orlando, talking about a young man she had met from Wiggins. That chance encounter turned into a long-term courtship that ended with their marriage three years ago.

Wiggins is about as far as you can get from Clarksdale and still be in Mississippi, but it has become a much more familiar place because of our co-in-laws, Jimmy and Mary Webb, and their families and friends.

This was the end of a big week for our families. On the Monday before the wedding, Schuyler completed her requirements for a master's degree in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Georgia.

I've seen a draft copy of her master's thesis, but I can't tell you much about it other than that it has something to do with AZT-1 and AZT-2 proteins in Arabidopsis plants.

People complain about the quality of the educational system in this country, but they don't realize how much more the kids coming out of colleges and graduate schools know than they did 15 or 20 years ago.

I could write volumes about the challenges my daughter faced in getting her master's. Now that this chapter in her life is drawing to a close, I'll just say that someone needs to rethink the system of indentured servitude that prevails in most graduate schools.

But I'm very proud of my daughter for her grit and determination and my son-in-law, Jacob, for his patience and understanding in helping her make this part of her dream come true.

Driving back from Wiggins, through the mid-section of Mississippi and into the Delta at Greenwood, I was struck by the changes brought on by this year's weather conditions and the new farm bill.

In other years when I've returned from the Mississippi Ag Industries Council annual meeting and other meetings in July, irrigation systems have been running at full speed, delivering much-needed water to crops in the Delta.

This Sunday, however, the flexible irrigation tubing was lying flat along the turn-rows and the center pivots were idle because of the rains that have fallen across the Delta in recent days.

I was also struck by the number of fields in the hill areas — and to a lesser extent in the Delta — that didn't get planted either because of the lateness of the farm bill, the lack of financing or the inability to cash flow due of the poor price outlook at planting.

I'm sure the owners of that land are also wondering about the strange twists that the economic conditions of 2002 have brought to their lives.

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