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Possumhaw: Them old cotton fields


Shannon Bardwell



"There are few sights so pleasant to the eye, than a wide cotton field when it is in bloom. It presents an appearance of purity like an immaculate expanse of light, like new fallen snow. " 


-- Solomon Northup, African American musician, farmer, writer (1808-1863) 




A week ago, around every bend a field of cotton edged the road. The crops were defoliated, so stalks stood brown holding fluffy white cotton, like cotton candy on a stick. The fields are beautiful, lying in row after row as far as you can see. I grew up in the Delta, so seeing cotton fields reminds me of my childhood. Our house was in a new subdivision carved out of a cotton field. For a short time, the cotton still grew across a ditch just out from the backyard. I heard sounds of machinery and watched lights into night. I'd push up my bedroom window and watch and listen. The sound was soothing and the lights mesmerizing. Some seasons the cotton pickers worked all night long. They had to get the cotton in before the rain. Soon the cotton field was gone as subdivisions expanded -- phase one; phase two ... 


And so, here in the Prairie, we watched as weather reports predicted Hurricane Nate, coming our way. The cotton fields were bursting. The harvest was ready, and the rains were coming Huge machines appeared down the roads and over into the fields. First one row, then another. The cotton was rolled into huge white bales, wrapped in yellow or pink plastic and set in a line north of the road. On Sunday, by the time church was over, a single cotton picker had maybe 20 bales done and had crossed the road to the south field -- one man, one picker working every day, all day long. 


In another field, two pickup trucks edged along the woods to the center of unpicked cotton. A family got out with a camera. Last chance for Christmas pictures taken in Southern "snow."  


Sam and I headed out Highway 45 South where the roadsides were covered with bits and pieces of white stuff. Sam asked, "What is that?" 


Then he remembered, "Oh, it's cotton." 


"Back home," I said, "they just called it money." 


When I see the cotton all pretty and white and looking so real and natural, it makes me want to go buy something pure white and 100 percent cotton, no polyester, no "perma press." I wonder where cotton grown across my road will end up? 


We enjoy cotton growing all around us even though we are always a little disappointed it's not corn or soybeans. Deer don't eat cotton. I'm sure that's good for the farmers, but we enjoy sitting in our little corner of the woods in our camouflage viewing stand and watching the deer grazing on the hardworking farmers' soybeans and corn. Fifteen or more deer migrate to the fields at twilight. They don't come so much for cotton.  


Last night we saw a doe and two fawns kicking up their heels down by the pine trees. The little ones ate my lantana. I know they did.  



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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