Magazine article American Forests

Two Tree Planters on a Mississippi Porch

Magazine article American Forests

Two Tree Planters on a Mississippi Porch

Article excerpt

As the Conservation Reserve stimulates new planting of millions of acres of trees, these men recall another project and its progeny.

"I have been out there some days, like when the snow was this high, and wished I was my mama's baby girl." One day after his 79th birthday, Burnie Goolsby is laughing about the old days. He, John Arrechea, and I sit on Burnie's porch while the rain comes down.

"I was the lead man in the lead row," Burnie goes on.

"Then rest of them, 10 or 12, they'd walk along at my side, staying at the right planting distance, six to eight foot or whatever. You'd move two steps, take that dibble-bar, work a hole, and put that little tree down in the hole and tie it."

By "tie" he means that once the pine seedling was in place in its wedge-shaped hole, the dibble-bar was stuck into the ground about six inches behind the seedling and used to close up the hole. You closed the second dibble hole by mashing it with your heel.

Burnie has a dibble-bar on the porch and shows us how he'd done those things. His movements are so confident and natural that John and I look at one another and smile. Here is a good man remembering a kind of work he loved.

Between 1948 and 1968, some 621,341 acres of northern Mississippi were planted in pines as part of a program called the Yazoo-Little Tallahatchie Flood Prevention Project, or Y-LTP. Administered by the Soil Conservation Service and the Forest Service, the Y-LTP had as its goal the stabilization of land eroding at outrageous rates because of generations of forest cutting and cotton planting. For a fine discussion of the Y-LTP, see Ed Kerr's "Comeback on the Yazoo-Little Tallahatchie" in the July 1973 issue of American Forests.

John Arrechea was the Y-LTP's last Project Manager. When the Oxford, Mississippi, Eagle, John's hometown newspaper, invited him to write a story on the Y-LTP, he managed to avoid filling it with phrases like "interagency cooperation," "concerted education program," and "floodwater structures" - surely terms that fill a project manager's dreams. Instead John wrote about people. In the September 13, 1985, edition of the Eagle, he praised . . .

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