Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Old Cotton Gin and Railroad

I asked DJ if he could take me to shoot some things that I saw earlier this week. I had noticed that off of Treadaway and South 11th, there is an old cotton gin and railroad tracks. I thought that this would be a good place to photograph. So why a cotton gin? Texas would not be what it is today had it not been for cotton. Anyone that lives in Texas knows that this is true. The outskirts of Abilene are speckled with the snow white soft substance. Anyway, that is not the only reason. My maternal and paternal sides of the family survived off of cotton.

Before and during the Great Depression, my grandmother's family picked cotton in order to put food on the table. My grandmother tells stories of filling up their sacs with cotton. She talks of cut fingers from the bowls and how they would hoe the fields to ensure that weeds do not choke out the tender plants. Grandma shared with us of how her family may not have survived if it were not for the cotton, and she even wrote poems of how how cotton contributed to the survival of her family.

Last Roe to Hoe
It’s been a long day
We’ve lived a good life
Good or bad we made it through
But it’s been a long day
And it’s time to go home
The sun is getting low
Dusty dark is near
So it’s been a long day
And its time to go home
Mom is waiting there
With supper on the stove
Biscuits and gravy, cornbread and beans, and more
Maybe ham or even rabbit stew
It’s been a long day
And its time to go home
This is the last row to hoe.
by Mary Frances Kirepka

Cotton was not only vital for the survival of my grandmother's family, but it was also vital to the survival of my father's family as well. My grandfather and father worked the cotton fields in Haskell County. However, they worked in the Rochester area rather than Haskell. Daddy donned the scar of a plow being put down on his leg when he was a child. He told me that he received over one hundred and seventy five stitches from his hip to his knee. Daddy was raised on the cotton fields and spent his summers hoeing cotton. Because there were nine children to feed, Daddy quit school when he was in eighth grade to help support his large family by working the cotton fields.

Grandma and Daddy weren't the only ones that worked the fields. I remember spending a couple of weeks in the summers hoeing cotton from sun up to sun down. It was a difficult way to make a buck or two, but it was a quick way to make money as well. Sunburned and exhausted, I would return home at night with splinters in my fingers and blisters on my hands. I would have mom help me remove the splinters and I would pop the blisters. I would get up early in the mornings and go at it again.

So you see, the cotton fields that speckle the land in the Big Country hold a special place in my heart. They remind me of how difficult life can be, but they also remind me that I would not be here if it were not for cotton.

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