grew up on a typical small household cotton farm within the Forties and Fifties. We grew about 10-15 acres, relying on the season. We did all the pieces by hand — chopped to skinny the stand, hoed to regulate the grass, cultivated with a rolling cultivator pulled by two mules and hand picked over each acre two or 3 times.
I started severely serving to my household decide once I was 5 years outdated with a selfmade sack. By the point I used to be six I may decide 100 lbs. in a day. About 1958, once I was 16, I started at day mild and picked till nearly darkish to see how a lot I may hand decide in in the future. The overall was 551 lbs. A typical day in good cotton can be about 250–275 lbs., paid on the price of $2/hundred lbs.
A few of my favourite recollections of this era of my life are driving about 4 miles in late afternoon to the gin in a mule drawn wagon pushed by my granddad, sleeping on the cotton wagon after darkish underneath the celebrities and ready in line for our flip to get the cotton ginned.
In later years, after we had been caught up with our crop, we rode at dawn behind an open pick-up truck about 20 miles to “rent out” to select for giant landowners within the Tennessee Valley. This was in late October or November when it was freezing chilly solely to have the temperature attain 80 levels Fahrenheit by midday.
The household and whole subject crew would drink water out of 1 three- to four-gallon galvanized bucket with the identical steel dipper. A few of the ladies can be snuff dippers. Competing to select on the terrace or water furrow rows the place the highest soil was deeper or the cotton vegetation had extra moisture and bigger bolls. Taking a fast break from selecting to run to the home through the 1956 World Sequence to see if Don Larsen’s excellent sport was nonetheless intact.
Taking one of many first battery-powered moveable radios to the sphere and putting it on high of my decide sack with a purpose to hear the nice wins of a Shug Jordon coached Auburn group coming from behind to beat Tennessee in 1957 and 1958. At the moment, I didn’t even know the place Auburn was situated in Alabama. Nobody in my household had ever been that removed from house or to the Auburn a part of the state.
Later in my Extension profession, one among our county brokers organized a cotton-picking subject day with the native colleges. I used to be the visitor speaker and ready a set of “Tips on how to decide cotton” guidelines for the event:
1. Don’t ever place two arms on the identical boll.
2. If a boll or burs come off with the lint, put it in your sack.
3. Don’t attain for a similar boll however one time. If you happen to miss a lock, depart it.
4. Fill each arms to capability earlier than combining all cotton into the correct hand for putting into decide sack. (Assuming you’re proper handed).
5. The left hand begins selecting once more whereas proper hand is putting cotton into decide sack.
6. Alternate on specializing in the correct and left hand as they attain for extra bolls.
7. A hand picker might carry one, two or three rows directly. Two is normal for adults and one for kids.
8. Have a weigh-up when you’ve picked 30 to 50 lbs. Pulling greater than 50 kilos in a sack reduces the effectiveness of the picker.
9. Preserve nearly all of the cotton shook or packed within the backside of the sack.
10. Don’t gaze on the sky, cease to speak with an individual on a close-by row or take a break to take a seat in your sack. This might result in a scolding from an elder in case you are a teenager.
For 10 minutes that day, the varsity superintendent, Charles Cole, and I had a hand-picking contest. He was selecting his cotton actual clear. I used to be selecting for essentially the most kilos by my guidelines, and I gained!
In 1940, as Ben Robertson mentioned in Purple Hills and Cotton — An Up Nation Reminiscence, “… our Nice Aunt Narcissa said as soon as in public that she didn’t care what anyone in Washington or anyplace else on the planet mentioned about cotton, it was nonetheless the best crop that heaven ever gave to any county.”
— Ron Smith