Thursday, May 30, 2024

Texas Cotton — 10 Generations Of Trotters

By Nancy Trotter

Our family’s roots run deep in farming, specifically cotton. For some, “farming” may just be a word, but for 10 generations, it has been a lifestyle for the Trotter family.

My name is Nancy Willingham Trotter. I was born in Dallas on May 30, 1937. When I was a year old, we moved to my mother’s hometown, Comanche, Texas. After fighting in WWI, my father was too old to be drafted in WWII. He joined the Corp of Engineers to put up lights in the Panama Canal. After the war, we moved to Merkel, Texas. As a young girl, I picked cotton by hand. After three years, we moved to Comanche, where I graduated high school. I then moved to Lubbock to attend nursing school.

I met a girl named Claudette, who later became my sister-in-law. Her brother’s name was Billy. After being discharged from the Army, he came home to Lubbock to farm. We got married in 1957. We lived in Lubbock on the Home Place Farm bought by W.B. Trotter in 1919. In 1958, we moved to Dimmitt to farm 160 acres. Billy had a tractor, 2-row Oliver and Boll Puller. Tractors did not have cabs, and there wasn’t a defoliation process. We had to wait, hope and pray for a good freeze.

In 1961, Billy’s father, Ferd Trotter, rented 320 acres near Hale Center, Texas. That January, Billy, our two children — Lizette and Terry — and I moved to a farmhouse near Hale Center. In May, we had another child, David. In 1963, we moved down the road to a bigger house that I still live in today. We rented this land from 1963-1997, when we bought it. This farm is where we raised our kids, Duroc pigs and witnessed how much farming has changed. In 1976, we bought the East Place that is right across the road from our house. Our grandson, Travis, has farmed the Home Place and East Place since 2022.

We used 2-row strippers that blew cotton into trailers that we pulled behind them. We hauled the trailers of cotton to and from the gin. In 1971, we enclosed the trailers. In 1981, we upgraded to a 4-row stripper that had an attached basket and got our first module builder.

Planting, irrigating and harvest seasons are our busiest times of the year. Everything comes second to our livelihood and God, the creator of it. Some would say it’s like gambling. Weather is the main factor that is uncontrollable. Rain, wind and hail are a few weather conditions that can be beneficial or detrimental to the crop.

Larger, more efficient equipment has minimized manual labor and allowed us to farm more acres. However, farmers today are learning to farm more acres with less rain and irrigation water. They have tribulations to work through just as we did years ago. As input costs of seed, chemicals and supplies go up, there’s a dependence on Mother Nature to provide rain and accommodating weather conditions to make a profitable crop.

Farming families know it’s a team effort. Even I have changed irrigation water. In 1980, I fell in an irrigation ditch and got completely soaking wet. I drove home pants-less praying that I didn’t get pulled over. I have also plowed. I was the farmhand to the farmhand. Meaning I was to listen to my son, who was the farmhand to my husband.

My husband, sons and grandsons have a love for farming. Our son, David, started farming in 1984. In 1993, Billy and David became partners (B&D Farms), to farm more land. Together they hired our nephew, Michael Agan. He is still a big part of our farming operation today. When Billy retired from farming in 1999, he left an admirable legacy for his sons and grandsons to follow. Our son, David, and his two sons, Travis and Kole, still farm today. Travis and Kole are the 10th continuous generation to farm cotton.

This past harvest I got to ride in the strippers with David and Travis and boll buggies with Dawnielle, Wyatt and Kole. I will forever cherish that experience. From Billy‘s father using a team of horses to plow and me picking cotton by hand to my son and grandsons farming approximately 6,800 acres, a lot has changed.

This is a challenging lifestyle but growing and harvesting a great crop brings us a happiness that few things can match. I’m proud to wear cotton because I know firsthand the amount of work that goes into it. Dedication, time, prayers and a lot of hard work are just a few things it takes to live this dream. I couldn’t be more thankful to be a part of such a significant industry.

— Nancy Trotter
Hale Center, Texas

Cotton Farming’s back page is devoted to telling unusual “farm tales” or timely stories from across the Cotton Belt. Now it’s your turn. If you’ve got an interesting story to tell, send a short summary to We look forward to hearing from you.

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