Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A story about cotton {A Tale for Tuesday}

Today I'm sharing a story that I published on my blog in November 2011. The post is complete with comments that were left for me {including one from my mom! }, as well as some gratitudes for the month of November. I've been blogging for almost six years now, and there are a few stories that I think are worth sharing again. I hope you enjoy this little piece of history, both from my blog and my childhood.
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{cotton field in Scottsdale, Arizona}
November 5, 2011

I grew up in a small town in California's San Joaquin Valley - a vast agricultural utopia. My uncle was a cotton farmer, and most of the kids I went to school with were farmer's kids. Me? I just grew up there.
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When I was young, we lived on a country road that faced a large field. Crops in the field would rotate from year to year, and my favorite was always cotton. I loved the color of green on the fresh stalks, and then - as if it were a miracle every time - cotton. I was always amazed at its organic awesomeness - the way the seeds were wrapped tightly inside that soft natural cotton ball growing right there on a plant!

At the end of our road, right on the edge of the cotton field stood an old shack - a small building where Hiawatha Jones lived. In hindsight I realize he was a farm hand - he tended the field and looked after irrigation and the likes. My younger siblings and I were goofy little white kids, and we were in awe of Hiawatha, an old black man with a swagger {read: drinking problem}.

One of the things we loved to do as kids was to fish for crawdads in the irrigation ditch at the end of the road, past Hiawatha's home. Our great-uncle Homer would tie a piece of liver on a string for us, and we'd sit on a board that was perched across the irrigation ditch and dip the strings into the water. Slowly pulling the string up after a minute or so would result in a crawdad (or two or three) hanging onto the bait. We'd collect the crawdads into a bucket and exchange them at the local liquor and bait store for 2¢ a tail. That traded for a lot of penny candy back then!

One day while we were crawdad fishing, minding our own goofy business, along stumbled Hiawatha Jones. He wanted to cross the ditch so we accommodated him by stepping off of the board and allowing him to walk across. Well, his balance wasn't all that great and he fell off the board and into the ditch water! My younger sibs panicked, but I - being the oldest - took charge. From the ditch bank I held out my fishing stick to him, allowing him to steady himself and helping him out of the muddy water.

Now, mind you, the water in the ditch was merely waist high on Hi, yet to this day my brother Ron still tells this story and starts, "Remember that time you saved Hi's life?" We laugh every time like it's a brand new tale.

These days when I think about Hiawatha Jones I wonder what his life must have been like in that little shack at the end of that road, right on the edge of that cotton field - with goofy neighbor kids who stared at him wide-eyed and feared him for no reason other than he was different. And my elderly great-aunt Floy, who knocked on his door from time to time to deliver plates of  food for which he was always grateful.

And I wonder if I'll ever see a field of cotton and not think of Hiawatha Jones,
Aunt Floy and Uncle Homer,
and crawdad fishing with my sibs.

♦ ♦ ♦
 
November Attitude of Gratitude:
* I am thankful that I grew up in a rural area and share these zany memories with my awesome siblings.
* I'm also thankful for the same rural area, and the opportunity to experience cotton growing in a field.
* ...and crawdad fishing.

34 comments:

Cheri said...

Part of my youth was also spent in a very rural area - I remember walking to the meat packing plant to buy fresh ground beef in a five pound bag, picking huge blackberries from the bushes along the road, playing and swimming in the creek, and fishing with a branch from a tree and a string in the local pond (no crawdads though). But I never saved anyone's life...

Ruth said...

A story worth waiting for! You painted such a vivid picture ... butm what exactly is a crawdad? Something like a shrimp or prawn?

Beverly said...

I hope you never lose those memories that you connect to a cotton field. I, too have lived by a cotton field and fished for crawdads, it seems so very, very long ago. TFS!

Fiona@staring at the sea said...

What a cool story and I'm happy to find out what a crawdad is.
It's so interesting to read about childhoods lived in (what seems like) another world.

furrypig said...

I would love to see a field of cotton it sounds amazing. My son goes crayfishing in the summer locally with cubs but they use pieces of bacon or ham or maggots apparently!

Mom said...

Oh, Deb, you captured this time in your life so perfectly! Makes me wonder what kind of mother I was to let you kids go perch over a ditch full of water....So thankful you lived to tell about it! And I also remember I never thought of Hi as much of a threat so he was never a problem. Ahh, the "good ole days"! I was instantly transported back in time--such a simple life! Beautifully written!

Thankful for:
1. Deb for saving Hi's life
2. Memories--so many of them precious!

Love you! xo

Alison said...

Great story Deb...i saw my first cotton fields while we were travelling in 2008-and was AMAZED by them..I'd heard of them of course, but somehow I was really shocked to see them !!
Alison xx

Sian said...

Wonderful. wonderful story, Deb. It was worth waiting for - no doubt about that! What I loved so much are all the evocative details which really conjure up your countryside for me so well. I felt like I was watching a movie!

Valerie Lynn said...

Those were the days--huh? I remember being so scared of him but he was really a nice man!!! Thanks for bringing back those great memories. Love you!

Irene said...

What a great story, you made me chuckle. Have driven in South Texas with fields of cotton in bloom. It is a beautiful sight. My husband tells me stories of my mother-in-law picking cotton with him by her side as a young boy and her hands wrapped with pieces of cloth to protect her from cuts.

Carrie Rosalind said...

Cute story. :)

I'm grateful for:
1. NOT living in a place where there are ditches and cotton fields and most importantly, crawdads.
2. The fact that the car to the side of me slowed down enough for you to take that AWESOME picture.
3. You. <3

Amy said...

I grew up in a rural area as well, but it was vastly different to your experience.
You have painted a beautiful written picture today, I've really enjoyed your Tale for Tuesday!

Irene said...

Fantastic storytelling. What wonderful memories of being young, innocent and free. It was so descriptive I could almost feel the cotton balls blowing in the wind! Great to have a Tuesday story to read too!

ArtyMarti said...

Great story. So often we fear those people who are different, and don't try to understand them. You have wonderful childhood memories

Lizzie said...

Ooo, a great story! I remember living in the country for a while, watching the things growing in the farmer's fields next to our cottage. We were there during a very bitter winter - we didn't go fishing, but I did save my sister when she jumped in a snow-pile, which turned out to be a deep ditch filled with a snow-drift!
Love your story Deb. And I also wonder what life was like for Hiawatha. Perhaps though, he didn't mind it as much as you might think - it may have been ok to him. Still, it's good that your aunt (and probably other neighbours) looked out for him a bit. I'm sure he liked that.
It would be cool if you could still earn your pocket money by fishin' for "crawdads"!

Maria Ontiveros said...

Deb,
This story took my breath away. It so captures a time and place - I love it. I remember the woman who lived with us and helped out (who was from Mexico), and I wonder what her life was like back then in the early 60's and whether it would be very different now. I was a suburban girl, so I remember orange groves and not cotton.
Rinda

Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita said...

Love this story deb! and I love your big fluffy white cloud photo!

Becky said...

This was worth waiting for! A lovely story :)

Gail said...

Definitley worth waiting for - what a lovely story.

Wine Club said...

A wonderful story, You take to me to my happy days of life. It was worth waiting for. I enjoyed it.

Susi said...

Great story Deb. My Aunt, Uncle and cousins in Arkansas were cotton farmers. We only got to visit a few times but I remember how I loved seeing the cotton fields each time. The last time I saw my Aunt she brought me a couple of cotton bolls.

Audrey said...

Oh my gosh, you know I love this post, Deb!!!! I grew up in a more rural area and played in the creek almost daily. I did my own share of crawdad fishing but we just played with them and put them back. That is AWESOME that you could sell them at the bait store. I also adore cotton fields. I stopped on the side of a road once so that the kids could feel the cotton....it still amazed me that it grows on a plant like that. Such a nice post!

Sian said...

I loved it then and I love it now. Some stories cry out to be told over and over again

Ruth said...

Fun to read this again ... and I'm still not sure what crawdad is/are!

Alison said...

It really was fun to read this again!
Alison xx

Lin Chao said...

great story. Childhood memory is always with us... I remember we have to walked 30 minutes each way to school, pass through cotton filed, rice filed, and wheat field... one of my most precious memory was peach orchards behind our house: the breathtaking blossoming in the spring while snow still cover the land; the tender dark green leaves; the red and Green mix color of peach and smell of peach in the summer after the rain.... wow, memory and memory... year after year, I was always looking forward my peach blossoming in my dream. While my father was very sick in 2001, I took him with me to visited Hangzhou city, a famous place to enjoy the peach blossoming.... thanks to bring back my happy moments...

Abi said...

Gorgeous story Deb. I was right there with you. Magical.
Also, your sweet card brightened my day. My housemates were so impressed I had a friend in America who would send me a card even though we have never met in real life! It blew their minds! Thank you.

Fiona@Staring at the Sea said...

I was trying to think if I was a regular reader back then and then I started to read your story and it all came flooding back to me! Definitely worth sharing again.

Christa atCedarmereFarm said...

Deb, Your story is so sweet and you wrote it very well. It reads very easily and is full of images. As I read your story, clear images and sounds would pop into my head. You really should seriously consider expanding this post into at least a short story. I would love to read more, a lot more, of what life was like back then in rural America. Also, I think your observation/connection with Hi will be a touching addition to your story of childhood innocence. If you want, I can read your drafts with you as you write your story. Christa

Karen said...

Fabulous story (and a great blog post title, too!) I grew up in rural Ohio and your story reminds me that I should write some of mine down. They are so very different than anything my kids experienced.

Maria Ontiveros said...

What a great repost! I remember it. I loved reading the old comments. Interestingly, this time the story made me think of the drainage ditches in front of my grandma's house (on the street where my cousin Irene still lives)in Houston, Texas; and of my kids catching crawdads in Lake Tahoe.
Thanks for bringing up those sweet memories.
Rinda

Miriam said...

Such a wonderful story so beautifully told Deb. I would love to see a cotton field.

alexa said...

What a beautifully told piece of your life, Deb, and a real piece of social history too. That photo is magical - I have no idea what standing in such a wide open plain is like ...

Gail said...

I remember reading this the first time and I'm equally blown away by your writing and what special memories you have to share with your siblings.

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