The In late November the sugar cane fields are burned to purify them from blight. The traveler to the countryside can see clouds of white smoke on the horizon. Upon closer view, workers walking behind flame tractors light the fires preparing the fields for spring planting like their forefathers did generations ago.

During the cane cutting season mills are working overtime, their great stacks are rolling with smoke and steam, turning the cane into sweet syrup. The stacks, which can be seen for miles in the flat Louisiana landscape, are painted with the name of the mill down its concrete stack, Lula, Westfield, Alma, and others.

Cane loaders and trucks clog the rural highways often spilling raw cane in the road. The photographer checks in at the front office asking permission to photograph. "Sure but stay out of the way and donšt get run over."

With that good advice, he dodges wet muddy ruts finding a vantage point "out of the way", the photographer sets up his large format camera on a tripod.

Suddenly, speeding, bouncing, a tractor pulling a trailer with high sides full of cane is heading toward him requiring a quick escape. He steps in a puddle of water with mud covering his shoes, and then sets up again after the danger has past. No point in trying to keep the equipment clean. That will have to come later.

Working quickly the photograph is made. There are photographs to see everywhere. There is urgency that this will all be gone at one point in the future. In a few years the photographer will return. Instead of finding a thriving industrial landscape he will find only a quiet factory with much rust. After exhausting his film he drives back on the highway throwing mud from his tires headed for home in Baton Rouge.

A. J. Meek




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