Where are the Cotton Fields?

Pearl Harris

I miss seeing the beautiful cotton fields that we used to see all over Union Parish. For several years now no cotton has been planted in our parish. There was a time when cotton fields were everywhere. When the cotton had blooms on it the fields were pretty, but nothing compared to what they were in the early fall when the bolls opened and the cotton was ready to pick. It was as pretty as snow in the winter. My Dad had a small farm where he planted some cotton. Of course, we had peanuts, potatoes and other fall crops. In the fall everyone would get a cotton sack and pick the cotton by hand. I was not old enough to pick, but I always went up and down the rows with the rest of the family. One of my brothers would let me ride on his cotton sack. The sacks were long enough to drag on the ground. When I would get tired I would sit on the soft sack and ride along. My sister wouldn’t let me ride on her sack. She thought because she was a girl she should not have to pick cotton – it was pretty hard on your hands. The schools even postponed their openings in the fall so the boys could help on the farm. Some of the larger farms had tenants who lived in small houses on the farm. I always liked to hear them singing as they worked in the fields. I loved to hear them sing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” or they would make up their own tunes. At dust everyone would bring their sacks to the barn to be weighed. You had done a pretty good job if you picked 100 pounds or more. After the cotton was weighed it was put in a wagon with the side planks on the sides. When the wagon was full, my Dad took it to the cotton gin to be baled. It was fun jumping on the cotton in the wagon before he left for the gin. After it was baled he sold it to the cotton buyer. I remember when he brought the money home – sometimes he got $100.00 bills. I seem to remember they were larger than our paper money today and they were sort of a gold color. He didn’t get to keep all the money, he had to repay the man who had loaned him money to buy the fertilizer and seed. I guess that was the money used to buy sugar and flour and any other things that were not raised at home. Times have certainly changed in my lifetime. They have machines to do all that work now – but farming is till a hard business to be in. Sometimes the farmers make money and sometimes they lose money. It is still very interesting to see the cotton harvested by machines, but I’m glad I lived in the era and could see all the progress that has been made in the last several years.

After I married, my father-in-law, Will Harris bought cotton for Mr. G. E. Lindsey. He (Lindsey) built all those warehouses in Bernice. As well as I remember, the government had some kind of program that bought up the cotton and it was stored in those warehouses. I can just see Mr. Harris cutting samples out of those bales of cotton and pulling it through his fingers to see what grade it was. I worked up there for a while, typing up contracts between the farmers and Mr. Lindsey. I remember one farmer, “Papa Bennett” would bring one bale at a time. They all had numbers (like SS #’s) and I memorized “Papa” Bennett’s number. I don’t know whether the government buys and stores cotton or not. But Mr. Lindsey had a lot of people employed. That was back before WWII.

Things have changed so much in my lifetime. Sometimes my mind wanders and I think about what will happen in the next 90 years. But one thing I know – I’m sure that God is still in control and has a plan for us – and for that I am grateful.


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