As the flood waters slowly retreat around West and Middle Tennessee, farmers are taking another look at what their fields may hold in the way of a fall crop to help pay the bills for this year. Rural Tennessee is still trying to make sense out of a weekend of unheard of rain totals that happened two weeks ago and hundreds of households in some rural counties still do not have drinkable water to use. For the last several days we have heard the water count go from a 50-year flood event to a 100- year flood event and now it is even being called a 1000-year flood event. How they know I have no way of telling, but one thing for certain, it is more water than anyone living in these parts has seen for a while.
In fact, from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Water Resources Division, it was estimated that with an average 2-day rain total of 13 inches across all the Middle Tennessee counties included in the federal disaster declaration, 1.3 trillion gallons of water fell in those two days of that weekend. That volume of water would be the equivalent to about 20 Percy Priest Lakes, less the fish. Also, 2 percent of this total equals the mean 2-day flow over Niagara Falls and 1.3 trillion gallons is approximately 1 percent of the volume of Lake Erie. I have waded a lot of flooded fields following spring rains, but if someone had told me in my lifetime I would have seen water amounts around Tennessee in one weekend that can only be envisioned coming over Niagara Falls, I would have thought they were like Paul Revere’s ride and were a little light in the belfry.
That kind of water volume causes a lot of damage as we saw, and what it did to newly planted and growing corn fields where the water accumulated, is something farmers are trying to figure out what to do next to overcome the results. It is not just a simple decision of starting over. Once they repair the erosion along with the removal of debris wasted into the fields, there will be fuel, equipment, chemical and fertilizer costs along with the labor involved that they will have to absorb all over again. They are now two weeks behind in growing time due to having to plant all over and with USDA just this week projecting a record 15.1 billion bushels of corn to be grown nationwide this year, which is 325 million higher than it was last year, which could cause prices to go down, many Tennessee farmers are having to decide if they replant with corn again or change over to soybeans or some other crop.
Plus, the window to replant corn is closing, says many farmers, if you are going to get a profitable crop out this year. Most farmers want to have their corn planted by the middle of May and their soybeans by the middle of June with the first part of July being the latest. Some of the fields in bottom areas will take a while to dry out which will also depend on the amounts of rain that could come later this month. It is all a watch and see proposition with the possibility of some farmers losing acreage to this year’s floods along with hopes for next year. Everything now depends on timing.
In his book “Appropriate Songs Sung At Inappropriate Times,” my good friend Tom Holland tells the story that demonstrates timing. Here is his story: J. A. Thornton, from Henderson, Tennessee, said that years ago Ross Spears, a noted song leader, was leading singing in a gospel meeting near Newbern, Tennessee (which happens to be one of the state’s heavily flooded areas). Electric lights had been put in the church building over the protest of one old brother who argued that “the things might go out, then what will you do?”
He was insistent that they use the oil lamps. But the folks wanting electricity prevailed. So as a type of compromise they kept one of the old lamps “for emergencies.”
The old brother took the lamp as his own project. He shined the brass base and he kept the lamp globe (chimney) very clean and clear. In the mind of this old brother, this was “his lamp” and soon the brethren so recognized it as “his lamp.”
One night during the meeting, brother Ross Spears was leading the old song, “Let The Lower Lights Be Burning.” When the audience was completing the first stanza, an electrical storm knocked out the lights.
Spears knew that the audience knew the song by memory, so he began singing the second stanza, which says, “Dark the night of sin has settled,” (and it was pitch dark in the auditorium). When they had nearly finished the second stanza, the old “lamp brother” thought it was time to take action, so he got up, struck a match, and started toward his lamp as Spears began leading the third stanza which begins, “Trim your feeble lamp my brother”¦.” Ross Spears demonstrated that timing in song leading is very important to the effectiveness of a song!
Just as in this story written in his book by my good friend Tom Holland, timing is important in a lot of the things that we do. The wrong action taken at the wrong time has often been the downfall of many good men. For our farmers and this flood, planting at the right time all depends on their timing.