For 13 years, the Texas Cotton Ginners’ Association has provided an opportunity for college students to experience the cotton ginning industry firsthand through its summer intern program.
For 2020, two students — Amos Emanis, Texas A&M University, and Oscar Barajas, South Plains College — were chosen from a roster of well-qualified applicants. This year, the Texas Cotton Ginners’ Trust also hosted an intern — Zach Stovall, Texas A&M University. In July, Emanis and Stovall reported on how their experience was progressing. In August, Barajas shared details about his last two weeks as a summer intern and wrapped up with a surprise twist to the outcome.
“During the first weeks of the internship, we were given the opportunity to assemble the press at Hillje, Texas. It was a great learning experience that allowed us to understand this phase of cotton processing.
“In Danevang, we installed a humidifier at the gin in three days. It was great to see how the humidifier functions. We were asked to assess cotton tarps for rat and field mice destruction. It took us about four weeks to process the tarps as we checked them very thoroughly, replaced the ropes, cleaned and rerolled each one.
“After the tarp inspection, we began sign painting at Davevang. This entailed spray painting white backgrounds on plywood and hand painting black letters on the signs for large, round cotton module lot spaces. We returned to Hillje to paint more signs where were three times the number of signs for the round module lot spaces. We spent two weeks painting the background with white spray paint and hand painting black letters to designate the lot spaces.
“Painting in less-than-ideal circumstances was a real learning experience. The way paint behaves in windy, hot conditions is a stark contrast to painting in a shop with air conditioning and ventilation.
“Painting outdoors was extreme and worked against proper paint application with the lettering. It tended to make the best effort look juvenile. This was hard to accept, but we had too many signs to stop when the conditions were windy and difficult. I learned about perseverance and determination in the process.
“Since July 8, we have been sampling grain in Hillje. This entails meeting trucks that arrive all hours of the day to probe the trailer’s grain shipment and extracting 50 grams of grain. We place the sample in the grinder and test for moisture level and bushel weight. We then send it through a chemical screen to check for aflatoxin. The trucks then go to the weigh station to unload the corn at the grain elevator. This was a much easier than the field work and extremely engaging.
“Some parts of the internship require grit, and it all requires thinking on your feet and having an interest in agricultural leadership.”
“The internship has been a great experience. This summer, I have had the opportunity to travel the state and see 95 different gins. I have been very lucky to tag along with Luis Garcia, Wally Davis and Jerry Multer as we perform pre-season inspections, safety audits and member calls. They each taught me a lot about safety regulations, how the gin works and the industry in general.
“I have gotten to see a lot of different gins and talk to a lot of managers. Each gin is unique, and I feel like I learned something new at every stop we made. I asked many questions throughout the summer and wrote down a lot of what I learned. I liked hearing how problems were fixed inside the gin and how improvements were being made. I wanted to learn as much as I could, so I can better myself for my future career.
“I will finish my internship at Smith Gin Co-Op in Odem, Texas, before heading back to College Station for the fall semester. For the next two weeks, I will be working inside the gin as they start up and begin the season. I’m looking forward to this experience.
“I have worked on building and repairing gins, but I have never worked inside a running gin. I’m eager to learn all that I can and be a useful hand.”
“My last two weeks as an intern have been very interesting; this internship has never disappointed me. The first week was like a scavenger hunt. I was told to help another co-worker named Dorcus (hopefully I’m spelling his name right). He is the electrical employee of the gin, and he showed me what my job was going to be like for a couple of days.
“I had to check the infrared spark detectors on all the lint pipes and, after checking, if the glass covering the sensor was damaged, I had to replace the glass, which I learned to do by myself. After that, we were setting a metal cattle guard for a steep road next to the gin so vehicles could pass without getting stuck after it rained.
“During my last couple of days, I realized how much you learn in this industry. And the gin has mobile homes for seasonal employees where they can stay if they don’t have a place to go, which I thought was nice. For my last three days, I learned how to put tile on floors, which is perfect timing because my mom has been nagging me to put tile in her home, but I never knew how. Like Taylor said, ‘It’s crazy what you learn out here.’
“As my last day is approaching, I told Taylor, Mr. Wilson and Mr. Nelsen that I had to go look for work somewhere else because I would not be able to put many hours in, meaning I couldn’t afford to pay my bills. I asked them if I could come back when cotton starts coming in and work part-time since I would be able to put in more hours.
“While I was stressing out about finding another job, especially in this pandemic, Mr. Wilson called me to his office and asked if I wanted to continuing working at the gin. Of course, I said yes but there was no way I could afford my bills. Then he said he was going to extend my internship until the season starts! I really was shocked; I couldn’t believe what they were willing to do for just a first-year intern!
“As I talked with Mr. Wilson, he said they recognized my effort and would like for me to keep working for them. This meant a lot because they really did recognize my hard work. I can’t wait for cotton season to officially be an employee at United Cotton Growers! Thank you to Mr. Nelsen and Mr. Wilson for making this possible.”
TCGA contributed information for this article.