I got cotton in the bottom land
It’s up and growin’ and I got a good stand
My good wife and them kids of mine
Gonna get new shoes, come Pickin’ Time
Get new shoes come Pickin’ time
Ev’ry night when I go to bed
I thank the Lord that my kids are fed
They live on beans eight days and nine
But I get ‘em fat come Pickin’ Time
Get ‘em fat come Pickin’ Time
My old wagon barely gets me to town
I patched the wheels and I watered ‘em down
Keep her in shape so she’ll be fine
To haul my cotton come Pickin’ Time
One thing I have learned in the few years that my daughter’s husband has farmed cotton, is that it’s just not cotton-picking time until it’s cotton-picking time.
The opened cotton bolls have to be just right when picked. While rainfall is important to the ripening of the crop, it isn’t as desirable during the picking season. If it does rain, the farmer has to wait until the fluffy white bolls dry out before harvesting.
I remember watching in awe as my son-in-law and his father put cotton seeds in their mouths to see if the cotton was ready after a rainfall. If the seed is mushy then it is not ready, but if it “pops” then it’s cotton-picking time.
The term, cotton-picking is used as an adjective around here. People might say, “Well it’s about cotton-picking time,” or “Keep your cotton-picking hands off my stuff.” It has also been used as a somewhat mild form of a swear word, such as in “cotton pick it!”
Besides creating a slang word, the toiling in the cotton fields also inspired a slew of songs. Several of these were written and sung by Johnny Cash who was raised alongside cotton fields not very far from here.
Things have changed a lot since Cash’s early days in the land of cotton. Then people, including my grandparents, worked from sunup to sundown picking the crop.
Today, one can buy a cotton-picking machine that can pick the cotton and spit out a module, all in one fell swoop. And besides that cotton pickers are equipped with air-conditioning and radios, as well as other amenities.
I don’t think my grandparents could have dreamed it.