We all are experiencing a time in our society when anxiety and fear have crept in and challenged our ability to maintain a sense of normalcy.
Those who are fortunate enough to be surrounded by family are connecting with one another for the support needed to make it through. Extended family not necessarily related by blood plays an important role as well.
When I sat down with three generations of the Reeves family in Fayette County, Tennessee, recently, I was pleasantly reminded by specific examples of how powerful this support system can be.
William Reeves, the patriarch of the family, initiated the conversation with an account of how his granddaddy Reeves came from Canada to settle atop a beautiful hill in West Tennessee, marking the first generation of a legacy that continues to grow and flourish today.
One story reminded him of another that he recounted with a delightful sense of humor.
At one point, he reminisced about picking cotton with a one-row picker and then pulling the crop to Longtown Gin in Mason, Tennessee, with an old two-cylinder tractor hooked to a trailer.
That memory sparked another of buying a snack of bologna and cheese from the store across from the gin to eat while passing the time waiting his turn in line. And he was reminded that his transportation setup was actually quite modern compared to the cotton arriving at the gin in a wagon pulled by a string of mules.
William’s son, Billy, a fourth-generation cotton farmer, gave a good example of how the extended family supported him during tough times. When he returned to the home place from the coal mines of West Virginia in 1994, all he brought with him was a strong desire to grow cotton.
Billy had no machinery and no history with the crop with which to get a loan from the Farm Service Agency. However, he was blessed with good neighbors — the Stevens family and the Morrison family — who allowed him to farm with them and ultimately helped him get started on his own.
Joey Reeves, Billy’s youngest son, began a career in coaching and education but was drawn back to the farm as well. Family ties run deep.
“I enjoyed my years as an educator, but I realized four years ago that God’s plan was for me to be here. I figured farming was best for me and my wife and daughter. We wanted to be around family more.”
Joey’s brother, Chip, who also is a fifth-generation cotton farmer, says as far as he is concerned, he has been farming since he was born. “It’s all I ever wanted to do,” he says.
Chip also acknowledges the important role extended cotton family has played in their lives.
“We have been fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of good people who have helped us out along the way,” he says.
To learn more about how this remarkable family is rockin’ cotton in the hills of West Tennessee, check out the cover story on page 10.