Every Summer the fields turned into silvery white which we called “Summer snow.” It was a bitter-sweet sight because we knew hard work lay ahead, and back to school.
It was a time to repair the burlap cotton-picking sack, re-enforce the work knee pads and gather up the quart mason jars to put well water in. In the cotton field it was extremely hot. There was no weatherman telling us to stay home for the day because the heat was too dangerous, as we have today. Just get up and go we were told.
We started early at daybreak. The cotton stalks would scratch your warm, tender skin, and the wet morning dew would assault your clothing. The cotton rows were long and unending, as the sun rose higher into the clear, blue cloudless sky, sending rays of sheer heat and energy onto the cotton-pickers below. Young girls wore wide-brim hats to protect their faces from the sun, and long sleeve shirts to protect their arms. They wanted to give the impression that they had never worked a day in the cotton field as a common laborer. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it was common knowledge that a summer tan and securing a future husband didn’t go well together.
As the sun rode higher to the lunchtime level, the cotton-pickers headed to the persimmon trees. the hound dog had been there for hours resting in the shade. A cotton sheet was spread out and tins of sardines, cinnamon buns, Vienna sausage, and NuGrape sodas were added to the lay out.
The mason jar of water had lost its taste and vitality. It had taken in the dry, tasteless quality of the cotton field itself. And the strong, hot sun itself had the pickers and the cotton field in her grasp and refused to let go.
Some women you pick from four to five hundred pounds of cotton per day, while most menfolk could only manage half as much. As the day stretched on, we dreamed about the school clothes we planned to get from the Wish Book Sears and Roebuck catalogue, or maybe that special Christmas gift for Mom or Dad. When weigh up time came, we were bone-tired, hot, and ready to soak in that number two wash tub filled with refreshing, cool, well water located behind the house.
As we left the cotton field riding on a trailer, we realized we would never pick the 200 lbs., which was our goal, but we would never quit trying. Warm buttermilk biscuits, fried chicken with vine-ripe tomatoes, along with fresh butterbeans and blackberry pie awaited us. Mom would welcome us to her cozy kitchen with an open door and a ready smile.
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