October 28, 2011

Cotton Gins

Going to the gin was always a great trip for me. At an early age I realized what an accomplishment that getting enough cotton picked to make a bale of cotton was. There had to be two-thousand pounds on the wagon for there to be enough for a bale at the Lexington Cotton Gin. This was not picked cotton this was bowled cotton. The chore of picking it out of the bole when gathering was done away with before we moved from up-north. I knew that the pulling of the whole bole of cotton was easier, because my grandmother said it was. Made sense the cotton weighed more with the bowl. We got three cents a pound when we picked first picking, and six for second picking. This was the money we used to buy our school clothes. My grandmother paid my brother, two cousins and I just as we were hired hands. Picking the cotton was one of the most horrible chores that we did the whole time I was growing up. We picked by hand when the whole Whitehead/Newton Town area was beginning to use cotton pickers. Grandmother said every time she saw a picker in the field next to us, that the machines left more than they got. It is a wonder she did not have us going behind the machines scavenging what was left. She was really great at finding us something to work at.
The trip to the gin was the best part of picking cotton. The wagon was rigged up by my daddy's never ending ability to patch anything that was broken. It had boards from the barn that had fallen off and were not needed to keep the rain off the hay in the barn. There was never a board found anywhere that he did not pile up to use for a patching of a fence or wagon. When there was two thousand pounds of cotton on that old wagon it bulged out the sides. The sides where rounded on what was straight before the cotton was packed in. The boom of cotton season was exciting to me, because of the adult talk that I never missed if I could help it. The lines at the gin was so interesting to me. Grown-up talk was that we need to get there as early as possible so we don't have to wait in line. I can remember if there were twelve trailers in front of you and you got there at five in the evening the wait was going to be midnight before the ride back home in the warm cotton seed. Cotton seed was dumped into the wagon after the cotton was removed. This was a barter system that we used for payment. Cows loved cotton seed, so with the cotton crop came a treat for our cows. At the gin in Lexington there was the secretary Mrs. Green. She was as nosey as I was and we became fast friends. I am a child mind you, but I spent many hours gossiping with the lady in the little white shack that was the office of the Lexington Cotton Gin. When she left for the night there was always an adventure to find somewhere outside. One time there was an owl that had died laying on the loading dock. I had never seen an owl ever, let alone one huge as this one was.  The area around the old gin still is a favorite place for the owls to hang out. The Lexington Gin closed when farmers began to not plant as much cotton. Soy beans took the place of cotton for many of the younger farmers in the East Lauderdale communities. When the gin closed that we had always went to it left us with one other location to take the cotton. The gin in Anderson was just as close, but the trip with the old Ford tractor and wagon wasn't as convenient. Going to Lexington meant staying on the same road and not getting on a major road. Anderson was almost a straight shot, but it did mean that the tractor had to turn onto Hwy. 207. The hill going into Anderson was larger than the hill before you reached where the old dump used to be located.
Going down a big hill on the way to the gin was dangerous, because the wagon weighed more than the tractor and would push the tractor. At the time I did not realize how close to disaster we came on the way to Anderson to the gin one day. As we often did the four of us were on top the load of cotton riding to the gin. This day we had each brought a puppy from a litter that was the perfect age for us to want to snuggle and play with. Each of us had a pup on the top of the load of cotton. The cotton was piled higher than usual, because we were at the end of the field for the year. It was already late in the year and cooler than usual. We were almost to Anderson where the big hill that goes down into Anderson is. Daddy was driving the tractor with four kids and four dogs riding the wagon. We had almost got to the bottom of the hill when the load pushed the tractor enough to knock it out of gear. A tractor in neutral is going to go faster anyway, but add a heavy wagon and it is going to be uncontrollable. Daddy fought getting the tractor back into any gear to slow it down. The tractor was whipping from one side of the road to the other as he forced it back into gear. We all held on for dear life and finally as if a mirical happened the tractor slowed enough to stop as we reached 207. That day I did not realize how much danger we were in, but I now thank God that Daddy had the strenth and sense enough to get the tractor back in control.

1 comment:

  1. I picked a little cotton when I was a kid in Texas. I knew right away that was not a job I wanted to pursue :-)

    Take care and have a Wonderful Week :-)

    Please note: My blog's new URL is - http://theoldgeezerblog.blogspot.com/ Thank you, ~Ron :-)