Charles Joyner on preparing the land for rice cultivation
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Q: What was involved in trying to clear this virgin land for rice cultivation? What kind of labor did that require?
A: Clearing a rice field for cultivation was a mammoth task. The first thing one had to do was build a dike around it, even before you could clear it, because it was under water. Building the dike was tough enough, then you had to build a sluice gate so that it could be drained and become at least partially dry before the trees and stumps could be cleared. And this was very heavy work because the ground was very soggy and boggy and you couldn't have the help of draft animals very easily.
Oxen were used and sort of boots were made for them, to keep them from bogging down. Horses and mules, the hooves were too tiny not to bog. So it was much more hand labor than one would ordinarily think. And when you consider that it is also very steamy, with the humidity and the hot sun, and the animals -- the snakes and the alligators -- that would have been trapped in here. [It] was a very, very difficult and physically exhausting process.
Professor of Southern History and Culture
Coastal Carolina University
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