December has arrived if we are ready or not. We have had a touch of winter weather even though the season does not officially begin until Dec. 21. I am sure we will see a lot more before spring arrives.
There is still a small amount of the cotton in the fields to be picked. When I am driving by with the car heater on full blast, I think about the stories I have heard about “pulling bolls” for Christmas money.
I have never personally experienced pulling bolls, but I have heard many members of my family and others talk about going to the fields after the main harvest and getting the leftover cotton in the fields. Evidently they just stripped the bolls/burs left in the field leaving only the stalks. I have heard them say it was hard on the hands and the back. It was a cold, hard job for only a little bit of return, but back in the day nothing went to waste.
The cotton pickers of today get the cotton all in one sweep. The days of hand-picking cotton is history – never to return. Cotton sacks are used for displays in today's museums.
I don't want to experience the pulling bolls in freezing weather, but I think we could all take a lesson from our grandparents and be a little less wasteful.
I don't know about everyone else but at my house we probably throw out almost as much food as we consume.
My grandparents did not waste anything. I suppose people who lived through the depression never forgot how hard life can be.
Going back to pulling bolls. The workers could pull more in weight than the fluffy cotton in a day but the pay was not as good. During the last days of hand-picking I think pickers got about $3 per hundred pounds. Think about it – three cents a pound. In the early years, it was even less.
I picked very little cotton when I was 12 or 13 years old, but I still remember how hard I worked for that little bit of money. The person next to me would pick two or three hundred pounds and I would end the day with 60 or 75 pounds. I know I worked just as hard, but for for some reason it did not work for me.
My dad did tell me it was because I tried to gin it while I was picking it. I am not sure what that means but I did not like to have leaves, dirt, or any part of the stalks in my sack.
I did not mind chopping cotton in the summer time. At least we all got paid the same $5 or $6 a day.
We only had three black and white t.v. channels, no video games and no air conditioning, so we did not give up much going to the fields.
I may not have my figures just right but I do remember it was hard work for a little bit of money.
My dad paid us just like everyone else working in the fields, but he reserved the right to tell us how we could spend our money. The majority of the cotton chopping money was used to buy school clothes. He would let us use some of it on the weekends to go to Tipton Theater in Manila. We were not allowed to buy pockets full of candy – which we would have liked.
The last harvest I remember picking cotton by hand was done after school. Grandpa Chipman would pick up me, my siblings and cousins after school and we would ride in the back of his pick-up truck to the cotton fields. Most afternoons, it was a truck full. He would stop by the country store and tell us we could spend a nickle each. Then he took us on to the fields and let us pick cotton an hour two before dinner time. A few hours was plenty of work for most of us.
I would venture to say the cotton fields were an inspiration to young people as they set their future goals. I never remember one person saying picking cotton was something they wanted to do for the rest of their life.
Like other jobs, hand-picking cotton became obsolete as technology improved. Thank goodness for the mechanical pickers and no more pulling bolls.
I would guess with the chemicals and new cotton varieties chopping cotton has improved but it is still done by hand using a hoe. I guess some things never change.