Wednesday, August 23, 2006
As I drive down our country roads I've been noticing how many of the cotton boles are popping open and it's only mid-August! There was a time when mid to late September was early for harvesting cotton but with the new varieties and this awful heat we've been having, those cotton pickers will be hogging the highways and byways sooner than usual this year.
I can remember cotton pickin time on Grandpa's farm when I was a kid and it sure was different from what it is now. Huge, half million dollar machines do the work in a few weeks today that used to take months to be done by hand back then, of course the farms were MUCH smaller then. Grandpa had 80 acres and I believe about half of that was in cotton.
His cotton pickers arrived in the back of a couple of old pickup trucks wearing long sleeves, long pants, and sometimes gloves, to keep the stalks and burrs from scratching and clawing at their skin as they dragged their long sacks down the row middles as they picked. A good picker could oftentimes pick 300 pounds of cotton a day. They were paid daily, in cash, for every pound of cotton that was weighed out on the scales hanging from the back of the old one bale trailer PaPaw had. He kept a pad and an old stub of a pencil in his pocket to keep a running tally of the number of pounds each picker weighed out during the day.
After the trailer was full and "tromped" (packed down) by a kid or two from the group, or us if we were out of school, Grandpa would putt along, towing the trailer behind the tractor, on to the nearby town gin which was about a mile away. The pickers kept on picking so as to have sacks to start a new load when he returned.
About the only thing that hasn't changed much in my lifetime of living around cotton fields is the price the farmer gets for his cotton. Doesn't seem right since the price of cotton clothing sure has changed.