2013-11-13 / Editorial

Don Lively

LAID BY

Wow, that was fast. When I left for work one recent morning the two small ields near the wooded enclave were still busting with fully opened cotton bolls. A total of close to thirty acres, they were as white as a glacier field high in the Rockies. The defoliant had done its job, the leaves were gone, and what was left was row after row of soft, white fiber ready to be picked.

That was morning.

When I came home that afternoon both fields had been picked and several huge, circular bales (do they call those huge things bales?) were sitting, tightly packed and ready to be picked up, hauled to a gin house to eventually become Levis or Fruit Of The Looms.

Yep, that was fast.

Times have certainly changed since when it would have taken ten humans a week to pick those two fields.

I, myself, have picked cotton by hand. I know I risk being accused of fabrication, but it’s true. I picked cotton. Not much, granted, since I was somewhere south of eight years old, but all these decades later I can still remember stuffing the cotton into a Croker sack strapped over my shoulder. I probably picked less than fifty pounds total in my life but, I did pick cotton.

But then Daddy bought one of the first mechanical cotton pickers in the county, a onerow at-a-time state of the art harvester. But even then the job of picking thirty some odd acres would have taken considerably longer than a half day.

Yes, the ways and means of farming has changed but the smells, the sights and the sounds remain pretty much the same.

Tis the season.

Not THAT season, that’ll be here in another month or so.

Roasting turkeys. Being thankful. Pondering on how spending thousands of dollars on gifts honors the birth of Jesus. Popping a champagne cork to ring in the New Year.

All that will be here before you can say Jingle Bells.

I’m referring to the season that will make or break many folks around our neck of the woods.

Harvest.

We’re praying hard that this year’s will be as good as last’s.

As I’ve documented here many times, I’m not a farmer. I loved growing up in the country but it was more because of the woods and quiet nights and whippoorwills and fresh air than it was the row crops and span sprayers and Ford tractors and land plaster.

That being said, I do love harvest time.

A few months back, when the corn was being cut, I remembered back to when Daddy kept pigs on our farm. We had one room in the old weathered barn where we kept the hog food, thousands of ears of dry, unshucked homegrown corn.

One of my chores was to feed the pigs by throwing corn into the lot. One early evening Daddy and some of his cronies were gathered in the back yard when he sent me to go throw some corn. I asked how many ears to throw. One of his friends, probably with encouragement from a brown bottle in a paper sack, and apparently thinking that I couldn’t count or that I’d get tired first, told me to throw “ a thousand ears. They all had a good laugh while I headed to the barn. I threw over nine hundred ears before Daddy and his buddies decided they better check on me. They spent the next hour helping me toss eight hundred ears back into the corncrib.

Driving by those freshly picked cotton fields reminds me of when big brother Urb, Cousin Little VZ and I would play cowboys in the high sided trailers filled with cotton. The Sons OF Katie Elder. I never got to play the John Wayne of Dean Martin part which shows how the brotherly/cousinly hierarchy stood back then. But I didn’t mind cause I usually got to be some bushwhacker getting shot and falling into a gulch. In westerns it was always a gulch never a plain old ditch and in our case the gulch was filled with tons of soft cotton.

I’ve also recently spotted plenty of peanut fields with the nuts freshly turned to face the sun and the natural drying process. We spent many an evening laying in the peanut trailers eating raw ones till our stomachs bulged. To this day I still prefer fresh peanuts over boiled or roasted.

Harvest season brings back the memories, no doubt.

Memories of life on the farm.

Life in the country.

I do love harvest season.

Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of Howlin’ At The Dixie Moon. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.com and visit www.DonLively.com.

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