Pickin' Cotton is hard work. Cotton still remains to be a key crop in Southern economy. If you travel in the Southern Delta states during late summer, you would be amazed at first glance what looks like a blanket of snow. Actually it would be rows and rows of cotton ready to be pick and taken to the cotton gin for processing. Now cotton picking is done with huge machinery, that speed time and efficiency. But I can still remember workers lining the fields to pick these puffy cotton boils. This job once done by black slaves in early American history, but evolved into what we Southern called "sharecropping" in which black farmers and landless white farmers worked the huge Southern Cotton plantations. Cotton plantations required a vast labor force to hand-pick cotton.
Now to pick cotton you must have a cotton strap around your shoulder and it need to be at least 20 feet long. You process in in a bent over posture to pluck the cotton that has blossomed out, as many a each hand can carry, and you toss it into the cotton sack. You have to wear gloves so that the dried bristles off the plant do not cut your fingers and wrists. If you are good at it, you could pick up to 500 pounds of cotton in a twelve-hour workday, from sun-up to sun down, taking off only an hour for a big lunch. You then load these huge sacks onto a wagon that would take it to the gin to be processed.
My family was one such family. My grandparents were sharecroppers in the Arkansas Delta. They would work a land in a certain area in the day and build and have church at night. I remember listening to my grandmother tell stories how my dad as a kid with his cousins pickin' cotton, and also getting into trouble because they would get bored. Many of hard working fathers and mothers with children would move slowly down these cotton rows, spending long hours to earn a small living. But for the most part, happy and content for this was their way of life.
When I was was 5 years old, my parents bought a farm on the river-bed land of the Arkansas River. Our house for many years sat right in the middle of cotton fields. I still in my heart see those rows and rows of cotton.