Thursday, October 22, 2009

Land of Cotton














SOUTH GEORGIA COTTON FIELD
(Southern Snow)

Good morning, ya'll. Come on in to the 'Net Porch and sit a spell. As daddy used to say, "I'm fine as frog hair split three ways." That may be a Mississippi saying or it could be an Ott saying for he had many. It is a beautiful fall day full of sunshine and warmth and I'm loving it.

You can see from the pictures above that Southern snow is falling over South Georgia. Many of the cotton fields are ready to be picked and the others are not far behind. This picture was taken of a field down the road from us and the cotton is about 5 feet tall. I have enjoyed watching it grow this summer from seed to these beautiful plants full of cotton bolls.

Now I have never picked any cotton but both our parents grew up on cotton farms in South Mississippi. Daddy was literally born and raised on one and mama was for a good part of her childhood. Either her daddy was raising it or she was with her grandparents who farmed and raised cotton. Both of them vowed not to raise cotton when they became adults and they didn't. Daddy grew everything else, but there was never a stalk of cotton planted at our home.

It is rather ironic, however, that our house was built in a former cotton field owned by Mr. Harvell. By the time we bought it there was no cotton being grown on it but it was a bare field with no trees. The old farm house is still there and we used it as a barn, chicken house, and storage place. Now there is everything under the sun in it for daddy never threw away ANYTHING. It is going to be great fun cleaning all that out.

Picking cotton these days is certainly different from daddy's time. They plowed and cultivated it with a mules and hand picked it. Daddy said dragging that big cotton sack up and down those long rows and picking cotton until your hands bled from the hard bolls will make you vow to get an education and get out of that cotton field. This is exactly what he did by the way of Mississippi State. Mama said it would tear your hands up so they would make fingerless gloves out of old socks to help protect them. She said this didn't work too well and their hands would be sore and bleeding. Those times were hard but it was honest work and the whole family helped on the farms no matter what had to be done.

Nowadays the cotton farming is all done with machinery. There are tractors to plant and cultivate the fields, cotton pickers to pick it, and module makers to compact it into great, big rectangular modules. The module hauler truck comes and picks them up and carries them to the gin. A whole new "ballgame."

Our parents, and even in our childhood, carried the picked cotton to the gin in wagons pulled by mules and pickup trucks. They would pile the cotton in the wagon or truck, which had tall sides and go to the gin and line up with the rest of the farmers and wait their turn. It was like a farmer's reunion with lots of talking, laughing, chewing tobacco, spitting and grinning. The children often rode to the gin on top of the cotton and would be covered in the "snowy" cotton. They would run and play and have a great time. If mama came, she would be in town buying groceries.


As your turn came, the mule would pull the wagon under a great big cylinder which sucked the cotton into the gin and there it was cleaned of the seeds and compacted in bales and wrapped in burlap cloth. You counted your profit in how many bales a year you made and like all farming, some years were good and some were bad. In our parent's homes, good years meant all was well but of course the bad years meant scraping by somehow. It was the way of the South for cotton was king.

Going to the gin was a big deal for after the cotton was baled there would be a treat at the local grocery store and in daddy's case, the only grocery store in town. Daddy was raised outside of Bassfield, MS and mama was raised in Bunker Hill, outside of Columbia, MS. That was one of the few times a year he had a cold coke from a case which was filled with ice to keep them cold. Your bottle would be cold and dripping ice water and you would pop the top off using the bottle top remover on the side of the case. We had them when I was a child at the country stores and I do believe those cokes, dripping water were colder than they are out of refrigerated cases today. It was a huge treat for daddy and mama.

Those are long gone days and mama and daddy used to say it was good days but filled from daylight to dark with hard work. Farming was laborious but the way of life for most of our families in the past. Good, hard working farmers whose families lived on the fruits of their labors and it was a good thing. They ate well and always shared with those who didn't have.

With all this hard work, Sundays were still kept as the Sabbath and no work except feeding the livestock and chicken and milking the cows were done on that day. It was a day of rest and for most of our families the day to go to worship. Mama's family to Bunker Hill Baptist Church and Daddy's to their church whose name I can't recall. Maybe my brother will help me remember.

I am proud of my family and every time I go by a cotton field here in South Georgia, I think about the cotton fields of our families long ago. They were good people. We came from good, sturdy, hard working stock and most of them loved the Lord. Thank you, past generations.

Nuff said,

The Georgia Peach
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