Mine are starting to come up and I’m always reminded that as much as I love them, they don’t belong in a cotton field. We had hired men until I was about eight, then we let one of them go because I certainly could do as much as one of them could. When my sister was eight, we let another one go. We kept Tip until my folks sold the farm, because he was pretty handy at a lot of stuff. Growing up, I thought Tip, Shorty and Mac were ancient. They were in their 20’s. My folks were the ones who were ancient. My mother was 35 when my sister was born; my Da was 42. Looking back, I do not know how they kept up with it all.
Anyway, my Da took great pride in a tidy farm. Our farmyard was squared away. We had sheep to keep the weeds down. Our yard was tidy. Our crops were tidy and I spend HOURS acting as point while my Da was planting. He’d aim the tractor at me and by the Jaysus, there was no dancing, whirling or hopping around. I had to stand as still as a stick so his rows were straight. Now, when I drive past the miles of farmland, I always check to see if the orchards are tidy. Are they plowing up the mustard between the rows at the right time? I can tell when harvest will be by the birds in the field and the time the fruit colors up. It’s just bred into me, I guess.
So with my deliberate Morning Glories coming up, I remember crawling down the rows and pulling up the heart shaped plants out of the cotton. Later on, come July, there were great big huge water-sucking weeds that came up and I had to yank them out of the ground. But in the sweet springtime, it was Morning Glories. We had literally thousands of acres, plus a creek that ran through the back of our place. We had cotton and walnuts, prunes, alfalfa and pasture. One year we had black eyed peas on five acres and I swear, we ate black eyes for years. I think Tip and half the population of Porterville came out and picked those peas.
I love the smell of cotton. I loved irrigating the fields and setting pipe. I loved checking the bolls with their tightly packed fibers that needed the long hot summer to unfurl into fluffy balls. During cotton picking season, my Da would be gone before we woke up and didn’t come home until long after we were in bed, so my mother would take us out to the field to play in the trailers filled with just picked cotton. If we were lucky, he’s have time to take us to the gin to drop off a trailer. In late September, I will still pull over to the side of the road and stand, smelling the tightly packed stacks of cotton, lining the fields as far as I can see.
In my world, each season was marked by different chores. In November, I helped pull calves. (Da wouldn’t make Mom watch the cows suffer and I had little hands.) Thanksgiving, we picked up all the downfall walnuts to sell for Christmas money. Every weekend, we ran cattle, because my sister and I were available to do the driving and rounding up. My mother did all of the vaccinations and doctoring; Da did the de-horning,castrating and branding. I think we drove zinc slugs and carved out suckers on the walnuts during Christmas vacation. Easter was for picking up brush. Summer was for everything. Late August, we harvested the prunes. After that was the cotton and then the walnuts. Between times, we fed the cows twice a day and cut, raked and baled hay. We hired high school boys to stack the hay in the big barns but I was driving tractor by the time I was eight. It was something to do and besides. we only had three channels on television and two of them were the same. I was twelve before I saw a color tv (at Diane’s house) and probably in college before I actually watched anything (Mod Squad. It came on right after the news and we all
We lived way out into the country off Henderson Road. Our driveway was a county road but we were the only ones who lived on it, so any car coming down the road was either lost or coming to see us. We had a screened in porch with a porch swing on it, along with some really cool binoculars. We’d sit and watch the cars go by (one of the things I’m looking forward to at the hotel is sitting on the veranda is watching the cars go by) and because we were so far out, we could recognize every car (“Oh, that’s Imogene. She must be going to Town and Country.” “Oh, that’s Louis Henderson. Look how crazy he’s driving. He must be drunk.””I bet MaryJane is on her way to work!” I think that MaryJane was the only woman I knew who worked at a real job.)
When I look back, it seems like all we did was work, but we were outside and I for one, am very easily entertained. I always had a horse (I got Jingles when I was three; Champ when I was eight and Rockhead when I was twelve. They were all working horses and sometimes I wonder what the heck my parents were THINKING letting a three year old hop on her pony and trot off with a mason jar full of iced tea for my dad. I could be kept busy all day long, riding back and forth with iced tea.) I was very inquisitive, which is why I think I am still so tuned into the crops and seasons. Any question I had about anything, either my mother or my Da knew the answer to. If they didn’t they knew who would.
So there you go. I love Morning Glories but they have no place in a cotton field.