Monday, October 10, 2011

....In Them Old Cotton Fields Back Home*

Whenever I visit Cleveland County in October, I love seeing the fields of cotton, and it reminds me of my "cotton picking" days as a kid back in the fifties.  There's not as much cotton grown there these days though.  And now the cotton is picked by machines not by hand.

A Cleveland County field of cotton in 2011.

In the forties and fifties, cotton was a major crop in Cleveland County.  Since the farmers depended on all the family to pick the cotton, school would dismiss for six weeks in the fall so that children of farmers would be available to help harvest the crop. School was in session for six weeks during the summer to compensate for the time off.

Although we lived in the country surrounded by cotton fields, my father was not a farmer.  In cotton picking season I picked cotton for neighbors and got paid for it. That's how I made money to spend at the Cleveland County Fair each fall.  I may have been the only kid in Cleveland County who loved to pick cotton.  If I had been obligated to pick, perhaps I would have felt like my friends who "hated" to pick cotton. 

 As a kid I thought the cotton plant was beautiful in all of its stages, and as a botanist I came to understand the life cycle of the plant.  In the summer the plant produces beautiful yellow flowers.
Flower of the cotton plant.

 Once the flower is pollinated it turns pink.

Cotton flower pink after pollination.
 The ovary of the flower  develops into the cotton boll which botanically speaking is a "fruit".
The cotton bolls.
 When the "fruit" or boll is ripe it opens  to expose the seeds which are surrounded by the beautiful white fibers that we know as cotton.

A mature plant showing the bolls opened and seeds with the cotton fibers attached.

  Sometimes we would sing the following song while in the fields picking cotton.

Jump down, turn around
To pick a bale of cotton
Jump down, turn around
To pick a bale a day. 

 Chorus:Oh Lordy, pick a bale of cotton,
Oh Lordy, pick a bale a day. 

I would love to have just one October day as a kid again in "them old cotton fields back home" so I could pick me some cotton.

*  This post is dedicated to my good friend, Libby, who still cannot understand that as a kid I loved to pick cotton.  : )

My friend Libby (on right) and me, probably juniors in high school, scanned from high school yearbook.

Check out this link for a tale about picking cotton:

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