Blogs » Politcs Plus » Remembering my (5)cotton picking days



I'm not going to lie and say that I grew up working hard and knowing the value of a dollar. It was about this time of the year when I started counting down the days until that final school bell rung for the end of school for three months and the beginning of countless hours of playing baseball. I had some chores like raking leaves and mowing the lawn with an old fashioned reel mower. You would only let the grass grow at your own peril. We helped each other get those unimportant chores out of the way, so we could have more time for baseball. That was pretty much my schedule, until my parents decided that I should get a taste of what they went through.

It was in the summer somewhere between the years 1955 and 1958 when my parents thought I should spend some a little time with my cousins in El Campo, Texas. I liked my cousins, and I always enjoyed visiting with them. My parents knew my cousins spent the latter part of July picking cotton. My parents told me that after I completed my little league baseball season, I would be spending the remainder of my summer picking cotton with my cousins. I knew it wouldn't be as fun as baseball, but it would be something different and back in those pre-teen days; different was always fun........So much for pre-teen wisdom.

I remember being rousted in the wee morning hours to eat breakfast before I began my first day of picking cotton. I must've thought that the field would be lighted because it was still dark outside. Anyway, I got up and dressed in my shorts, pullovers, and sneakers. I can still remember the laughter I got when I entered the kitchen. I looked around, and everyone was wearing either coveralls or jeans, with long sleeve shirts and boots. My aunt let me use some of my cousin's old clothing. Then off we went stacked like sardines in my uncle's old pickup.

When we finally arrived and just before I dismounted, my aunt handing me a tattered old sack that hung to the ground. The sack had been through several seasons because patches were everywhere. As we were approaching the zillion rows of cotton, my aunt quickly ran through a few do’s and don’ts, and told me if I needed water, it was at the end of the row. I took her word for it because I couldn't see it; all I could see; were rows and rows of cotton. ...My aunt said that she would look for an extra hat, but I told I didn't need one. At that time, the young city slicker in me wouldn't be caught dead in a Johnny Hayseed hat. It started out pretty good. I struck up a conversation with a couple of good looking young girls, but it wasn't long before their dad started yelling at them to catch up, because he didn't want them to turn out like the worthless person, they were talking to. It loses a lot in the translation. My aunt and uncle didn't tell me that I was supposed to pick two rows at a time, or that the cotton hulls were sharp. The cotton gloves that they gave me weren't much help. I just knew that my baseball season was done far for the rest of the summer. My hands were so sore from getting stuck by those hulls. Not so for my cousins, they left the hull clean as if the cotton didn't belong. My uncle jokingly said that I probably left fifty pounds of unpicked cotton on my rows. I remember my uncle teasing the man who weighed the sacks of cotton by accusing him of having a rigged scale but the man responded by accusing my uncle of weighing down the sacks with rocks and dirt. I assume there was a lot of trust back then, because that joke never became stale; it would get a laugh every time.

It must've been an eternity but my cousin finally came to get me for lunch; It was then when I learned how far I behind, I was. I must've been 300 yards behind the empty sacks they had left in place. Lunch wasn't all that great, but I was hungry and thirsty. I've could've sworn we had just gotten there but there was my uncle yelling at us to get back to the fields. I didn't think twice when my aunt brought me the hat I would use for the rest the day. As the sun started to go down, I looked up and saw my cousins walking towards me finishing up my row. They whole family gathered just to laugh at how little my sack weighed at the end of the day. I only lasted five days because my uncle called and told my parents that I was costing them money, having to go back and finish my rows. On the 50 mile trip back home; I took my lecture with a smile and looked forward to mowing the lawn and cleaning the garage.

Every so often, I go back to El Campo to attend funerals, and you would be surprised how many times my" five days of cotton picking" come up. I 'm sure they have added some things because no one could have been that bad. I must've been the talk of the town.

I haven't seen people picking cotton in ages, and I doubt that they still do. If people still pick cotton, I can imagine another young city slicker like I was, would be multitasking. He would be picking with one hand, texting with the other. He would also be all decked out in a camouflaged military outfit complete with Kevlar fingerless gloves.