Ray began checking cotton in 1949 as a college student. After we married in 1952 and he served in the Navy for two more years, Ray set up a consulting business and started knocking on doors. Franklin Parish was the largest “cotton patch” in
Louisiana so that’s where we went. We moved to Wisner because his first customer lived there.
As the business grew, Ray hired local young men and recruited college interns to check cotton. Since we lived in a little, bitty town, there was no such thing as rooms to rent or places to eat so we gave room and board to all of our cotton checkers. We had rooms, a couch and my mama had a trailer behind our house so we had places to put them up. We later bought a “crew house” to accommodate everyone.
One young man went off with the crew on his first morning to a field about 45 miles from town. His mama was sitting at my kitchen table that evening waiting for everyone to come in. When the crew got home, they realized they had left her son in the field and had to go back to get him. He was not happy and wanted to quit on the spot. But his mama talked to him about it, and he stayed with us for five more years. Another time, our preacher’s son was checking cotton close to town and wasn’t where he was supposed to be when the crew leader came to pick him up. We looked and looked and finally got up the nerve to call his mama to tell her we couldn’t find him. As it turned out, he had walked home and had been there all afternoon!
The Lord has blessed us, and we are grateful for that.”
At one point, I was cooking a hot breakfast — biscuits, pancakes, grits and eggs — and a hot supper for 18 people around the clock. I put out lunch choices in the morning so the young men could make their own sandwiches to take to the field. I also washed all their clothes. I remember the time I thought I had a huge amount of spaghetti on the stove and went in to put the kids to bed. One of the young men knocked on the door and said, “Mama D, we are out of spaghetti with eight more mouths to feed.” I will never forget that night.
I enjoyed getting to know all the kids. I called them kids because they stayed right there at the house, but they were young men. They would get wet from the dew early in the morning and walk most of the day so I knew when they came in the kitchen at night whether they were blistered or not. I would give them some salve and then make sure they carried dry clothes to put on during the day. That’s something they all had to learn. When their girlfriends had a birthday or they needed something for their mamas, I also would help them order flowers.
Long before computers, I used an adding machine to keep all the books, do the payroll and pay bills. I wrote and recorded all the checks by hand and then posted them in a journal. That was a lot of bookkeeping. As soon as I heard there was a computer on the market, I got one. Of course all the young men respected me because I wrote the checks and furnished the food. That made a difference!
Ray and I have four children: Tony, June, Peggy and Jesse. Both of the boys checked cotton for Ray when they were young and even on weekends while they were in college. Thank the Lord that Jesse came back to Wisner and joined Ray in the consulting business after he graduated. Eventually, we installed a stove, washers and dryers in the crew house, and Jesse said the time had come for me to stop feeding everybody.
Through the years, I have enjoyed raising our children, getting to know the young men who worked for us and — like Sarah in the Bible — supporting my husband in everything that he has done. I love being married to Ray and watching him receive honors for being a good consultant.
We pray a lot and take pleasure in our responsibilities at the First Baptist Church. The Lord has blessed us, and we are grateful for that.
– Dorothy Young