Quick trip to the gin
Carolyn B. Edwards
If you read last week’s column, you know that I am not exactly fond of cotton, anyway the production of it as it was on the farms in the ‘40s, ‘50s and 60s.
It was just plain hard, hard labor, literally back-breaking. I often thought it was the main reason all the farmers I grew up knowing had big families. There was no way to make a living on cotton if you had to pay workers.
In my growing up years, I can recall three or four times when the crop was so heavy we had to have help getting it in.
One time we hired a huge squad of Hispanics from the Valley. They came - moms, dads and what seemed like a hundred kids - camped out in our wash house for a week, and got all of the first picking done before they moved on north to follow the crop. They made tortillas on old plow discs over campfires and candles out of tallow.
Another hot summer, we had a half dozen Blacks from town picking alongside of us for two weeks. Someone dropped them off at the field first thing in the morning and picked them up again as the sun was going down over Sestak's hill.
Some summers, momma would ask the tantes and onkles if they had any spare kids who wanted to earn a little extra money. Then we’d have a cousin or two who helped us for a few days at a time. The city cousins liked to talk too much and slowed us all down. We got more work done when the country cousins pitched in, because they had to do their own chores before dark.
Momma paid a penny a pound and I guess the average was about 200 pounds a day. One summer, when the cotton was thick and heavy, a cousin and I challenged each other to pick 400 pounds in one day. I could barely move for two days afterward, so my overall average was pretty low for that week.
We had to use the money for our school supplies, and rarely got to spend it on something special.
If daddy was home, it was always his job to take the bale to the gin in town. It always took him hours and hours. “There was a long line,” he explained, after getting back home well after dark.
He often worked as an itinerant ginner, starting in early summer with gins in far South Texas, and moving north through the season, finishing up in the Panhandle in the early fall.
One summer when he was gone, momma said my older sister and I could take the bale to the gin when we got it filled. We hit the 2,000-pound mark shortly after noon and we were so excited about getting the whole blistering hot afternoon off as we anticipated the long long line at the gin.
We drove up to the gin and saw no other trailers, so we pulled right in. In less than 10 minutes, the trailer was all cleaned off. We looked at each other and started to laugh!
We returned home in less than an hour and had to go back out to the fields.