Monday, October 3, 2011

When I was a little bitty baby


When I was a kid in rural Georgia, my mom used to sing us a song as a kind of lullaby entitled Cotton Fields.  Later my three sisters and I learned to sing this old blues song as we drove places in our old red Chevrolet pickup truck because it didn’t have a radio, and after a short while we were generally tired of talking to each other.  I thought that it was an old folk song until later in life I realized it was a blues song written by Huddie Ledbetter, whose stage name was Lead Belly, and that a number of musicians had covered the song including Credence Clearwater Revival, The Beach Boys, Harry Belafonte, Charlie Pride, John Fogerty, Elvis Presley, the Highwaymen, Elton John, Paul McCartney and even the ever-popular Engelbert Humperdink.  My favorite version by far is by Johnny Cash.

The ironic thing about this song is that although I grew up in Georgia, and have lived longer in that state than any other, it wasn’t until I moved to West Tennessee that I saw my first real cotton field up close and personal.  In fact, we live so close to cotton fields that we can sit on our own porch and watch the progress of the crops.  I never truly understood what a remarkable plant the cotton plant is.  I have never seen a field transition so dramatically from one season to the next:

Cotton Field and BarnCotton field before defoliant application

Cotton plants with bolls just starting to open                                Leaves starting to dry


Cotton Field ready to harvestAfter the harvest

            Cotton plants after defoliant applied                    Cotton field after harvesting (note all the wasted fiber!)


Cotton ModuleCotton Module being transported










   Cotton module weighing 10 metric tons (22,046 lbs)          Truck hauling cotton (notice the cotton littering the road!)


I am convinced that the cotton plant is definitive proof in the existence of God.  Here’s why:

  • The cotton plant has up to 16 bolls per plant, and 40 seeds per boll!
  • The cotton in the boll is lily white.  It does not need to be bleached.  It comes out of the boll as soft as a cotton ball.
  • It takes less than 24 plants to make enough cotton for a pair of blue jeans.  You can grow 24 plants in a 5 foot by 5 foot patch of land.
  • You can grow cotton in many areas with no irrigation!
  • The cotton seed husks are used for cattle feed while the centers are used to make cottonseed oil (a cooking oil)

Cotton bolls ready for harvest              lint and seeds from a boll (one of five in the boll!)

                     A cotton boll ready for harvest          The lint from on section of a boll (there are five sections per boll)

My son, Max (pictured above) has been obsessed with cotton balls and cotton swabs since he could crawl.  He calls them fuzzies, and even at age 4 he has to have a fuzzy in his hand (or within eyesight) at all times.  A cotton module is a dream come true for him.

Max also enjoys picking up the cotton that blew out of the trucks that hauled it away and landed in our yard:

Cotton litter from the cotton trucks

Cotton left by the cotton trucks hauling the cotton modules to the gin


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