By Frances Lowery Garner
In this day and time, people tend to think you were very poor or black if you picked cottonwhen you were growing up in the South.
Well, I was neither but I was well versed in the art of picking cotton. I am not ashamed to admit it now nor was I ashamed of it then.
Sure, it was hard work but to those of us who lived on the farm, it came natural. Families and neighbors worked together to help each other gather in the crops and so maybe we were all poor but did not know it.
My daddy was very lenient with my sister and I as we did not receive the same treatment, regarding the hot sun as my older brothers did.
They would have to go to the field as soon as the dew dried and we could wait until later in the morning and after lunch break we could wait an hour or so past the middle of the day.
Usually, we would carry the first jug of water when we went to the field and gave them a cool drink before we started picking and then place the jug in the shade where it would stay cool.
No ice was available as the refrigerator ice was only used for the iced tea at lunch and there was no freezer. Usually before the late afternoon, another trip would be made for fresh water before quitting time.
It was more fun to pick when we had friends helping us because we could talk, sing, and even have a contest to see who could pick the most cotton.
Daddy would weigh up each basket where we had emptied at quitting time and we would be paid by the pound.
We would be very lucky to have picked a hundred pounds compared to Daddy and my brothers picking 250-300 pounds each.
Mama made our picking sacks out of 50 pound flour sacks saved from purchases at Beeland Wholesale in Greenville and sew a long strap on them to go around our shoulder, like shoulder purses are carried today, but the opening of the sack would be below our hip to make it convenient to drop the cotton in.
The men’s sacks would be homemade by sewing guano (fertilize) sacks together and would drag the ground so they could go for a long time before emptying but this would be too heavy for us girls.
In those days the cotton plants were much taller than they are today and you could hide under them if you wanted to sneak a rest break.
Today they are low to the ground because mechanical pickers are utilized and manual labor is no longer used.
In those days school did not start until on the last of September so that the children could help get in the cotton crop and was not out until the latter part of June.
That was good for us in that is was cooler when we started as the only air we got was from the open windows. The boys would not burn up in their new jeans and we were also breaking in our new shoes which had to last through the winter months.
Once the cotton was picked and weighed, it was piled into the wagon that was left in the field until it was full and packed. Someone would volunteer to stand on top of the wagon full of cotton and jump up and down on it until it was well packed.
That was our trampoline and I am most sure that is where they got the idea to manufacture those things. It was fun to jump in the soft fleecy cotton and also provided a way to jump away a very tired back and have a few laughs.
The wagon was not brought to the house until it was completely full and packed tight then it was emptied onto the front porch of the house until enough was there to take the gin where it was baled, graded, and ginned. (To be cont’d)