When I was a toddler, I got lost in a cotton field, literally. The brilliant white cotton seemed very tall to a little black-haired girl dressed to withstand the heat of a Louisiana afternoon in a red-checked pinafore. I wasn’t frightened at all as I roamed through the field, intrigued by the soft white bolls that brushed against my face and the rough branches that scratched my arms. I soon heard people calling my name, then my Mom scooped me up and returned me to the patch of grass where I had been playing before I wandered away.
That is my first memory of “white gold,” but by no means my last.
My Dad farmed cotton for many years before he passed away, often partnering with his good friend, Tommy “T” Dennig, in east-central Louisiana. I’ve observed the cyclic nature of cotton and lived through the prosperous years as well as the “down” years. But even when the market was less than kind, I never heard cotton farmers talk of giving up on the crop they loved. It was always, “Wait until next year. The price will come around.”
As an adult, I lived next door to a fascinating elderly gentleman named Mr. Mac. He was a World War II veteran who had served in the Navy, a retired businessman, a loving husband and father, a huge fan of the Kentucky Derby and a really good Gin Rummy player. Mr. Mac taught me the significance of having a “sterling” friend. He said that throughout life those friends that you consider “sterling,” – noble, honorable and of the highest quality – will stand by you under any circumstances. I will never forget Mr. Mac and the subtle life lessons he taught.
So no matter what the price of cotton, it will always represent white gold to me. And the people who are part of my cotton past, present and future will be treasured much like the soft patina of sterling silver.
If you have comments, please send them to: Cotton Farming Magazine, 7201 Eastern Ave., Germantown, TN, 38138. Contact Carroll Smith via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.