The delightful weather that we usually experience from about Thanksgiving on into Christmas brings back memories of days gone by when gentleman Bob White Quail was the great favorite of outdoor people in this region. In fact, all over the Southeast he ruled as king. For many families, hunting quail was almost a way of life.

Much of my family was in that category. I recall that my Dad and his uncles and a cousin or two spent nearly every decent day from opening day until the season closed in late February hunting birds as if it were life's aim rather than a shooting sport. Back then the hill country of north Mississippi was ideal for quail, and the nearby Delta was almost as good.

It was almost unthinkable for that generation of men to hunt on foot. Fine riding horses were plentiful, and there were kennels of bird dogs, both pointers and setters (the dogs often obtained the status of family members).

Hunts back then - the late 1920s and on into the 1930s - often were all-day affairs. The great numbers of quail bagged were almost unbelievable. I recall that on lots of hunts each shooter often brought down 25 birds, which, I believe, was the legal limit at the time.

I never did understand what they did with all of those birds, since modern refrigerators and home freezers were rare. I do know that everyone in the neighborhood obtained quail as gifts. Non-hunting families often insisted that the hunters take boxes of shells as a sort of payment that maybe was not quite illegal. When I came along rabid about hunting, several wonderful ladies in the little town of Charleston, Miss., were happy to keep me in shotgun shells in exchange for a "mess" of quail.

A bit after that fantastic hunting period enjoyed by my family, I was fortunate enough to spend high school days with the necessities of bird hunting nearly every day. I was allowed to leave school about 2:30 p.m., making it easy for me to get home in time to mount my horse or mule that the farm hostler had already caught and saddled. I'd find four or five coveys of birds before nightfall.

Much of that time I had the finest bird dog of my life - a little solid white setter that truly did it all.

One of the finest experiences I can recall of that period was a day when I re-introduced a fine old gentleman to bird hunting years after he had given it up.

Mr. Ben Franklin Shields operated a small cafe called Cozy Corner, where many high school kids ate lunch. Mr. Ben had lost his left arm from just below the elbow in an accident years before, but I can assure you he did not miss it when it came to shooting his little Sweet Sixteen Browning.

One day I suggested that he go with me the following Saturday, and he agreed. We drove down the valley road in my Dad's old Plymouth to a spot right on the main road that was adjacent to the Delta. There a huge grown-up weedy field tapered off from a pine-studded sloping hill covered with sedgegrass and wild lespedeza.

Shot, my little setter, was on birds before we had our guns loaded, but he held them staunchly until we walked them up and bagged two each on the rise. There began the most fabulous hunt of my life.

That fine little setter found and pointed five big coveys in the same weedy field and the sedge-covered hillside across the road. I have no idea why all of the birds had congregated in that little piece of ground of not more than 40 or 50 acres.

Both of us were shooting well. We bagged 22 quail, two woodcock, and a cottontail rabbit. Mr. Ben was so elated by the hunt that he immediately went back to bird hunting regularly. He even began raising bird dogs that gave us many more fine hunts in the next few years.

Great days, gone by but not forgotten.

USDA HAS announced the regulations for how it will distribute $100 million in cottonseed assistance program payments for the 2000 crop of cottonseed.

Last month, USDA published a final rule governing the 2000 cottonseed assistance program. The Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000 directs USDA to use $100 million of Commodity Credit Corp. funds to provide assistance to producers and first handlers of cottonseed.

"As that program seems to have been successful in accomplishing its intended goals and there is no indication that Congress was dissatisfied with the prior program," the rule language said, "it has been decided to operate the new program in the same manner as the old."

The major provisions of the 2000 program are as follows. The CCC will announce a period during which U.S. cotton gins may apply for cottonseed payments. To participate, the gin must complete an application form providing: (1) applicant name, address, contact person, etc.; (2) bank account information for direct deposit; (3) the gin's five-digit identification code; (4) the number of bales ginned from the 2000 crop; and (5) the weight in pounds of cotton ginned.

At the close of the application period, CCC will estimate the total quantity eligible for payment and calculate a national payment rate. Payments to gins will not be subject to limitation. Applicants must agree to share any payment received with the producer "to the extent that the revenue from cottonseed sale is shared with the producer."

Applicant's payment quantity shall be calculated by multiplying the applicant's weight of lint for which payment is requested by the 1995-99 Olympic average of estimated pounds of cottonseed per pound of ginned lint for all domestic ginners. The total payment quantity shall be calculated by multiplying the weight reported by all applicants by the 1995-99 Olympic average of estimated pounds of cottonseed per pound of ginned lint.

According to the National Cottonseed Products Association, USDA currently estimates the 2000 crop of cottonseed at 6.558 million tons, which translates to a payment of approximately $15.25 per ton. The 1999 payment rate was $12.23 per ton ($4.77 per bale).