Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/850

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be covered, it is mixed with, clayey water and dried, when a sufficient quantity of clay adheres to prevent the grains floating off when flooded. With the first method the water is again turned on in the "sprout-flow," when the plants sprout "and appear like needles above the ground"; with the latter one flooding is sufficient. When the water has been on the sprout from four to six days, it is again drawn off; and when the plants are six weeks old, they are lightly hoed, and the hoeing is repeated in ten days.

Now comes the stretch-flow, when the young plants, several inches high, are flooded for two weeks and helped in their struggle for light and air, and, strengthened and invigorated by their native element, grow apace; water kills the weeds, but nourishes the rice. The water is now put down to the "slack-water" gauge, and if, as is generally the case, the plants are longer than the water is deep, the upper leaves float "in long, waving lines upon the surface"—a pretty, refreshing picture, once seen not soon forgotten. The water is gradually drawn off, and eight days after, when the field is dry, the ground is deeply hoed.

Volunteer rice, which is treated as a weed, often springs up with the regular crop. It is both hardy and prolific, and a great pest to the rice-planter. It can generally be removed by the hoes; then again it necessitates replowing and sowing, while sometimes the fields have to be thrown into dry crops for a year or two, or to remain flooded for that length of time. When harvested with the white, this red or volunteer rice greatly reduces its grade, and also renders it unfit for seed.

At hoeing-times a picturesque scene is presented, with say from fifty to one hundred men and women abreast, busily plying their hoes; the former in the utmost négligé of a laborer, and the latter with short, scant homespun dresses and leggins, all with broadbrimmed straw hats, or, in the case of the women, the head kerchiefs of the olden time. In the mouth of each is a stick, on the end of which is stuck, and smoking, a small piece of the punk taken from the heart of the oak. This smoke is for the purpose of driving away the myriads of "pesky" sand-flies that are more than enough to drive one wild, sometimes so thick that they have been known to cast a shadow. A young man, whiling away a summer holiday by a visit to the rice-field, essaying the same but to him untried expedient, and not understanding the manner of procedure, kept puffing away as if smoking a cigar, and soon had the punk in a bright blaze, so that he suffered the unpleasant consequences that await the inexperienced; there is something to be learned even from an ignorant rice-field darkey.

But in writing of rice and rice-fields I must not forget to give some prominence to the ravaging army of birds that feast upon the tender sprout and ripened grain, sometimes almost or quite