Memories of our county – Picking Cotton

Nannie Maude Reynolds
Shares memories and thoughts about Winston County’s past.

I never liked to pick cotton. There is nothing pleasant about it. It is either too hot or too cold. The weather is in the process of changing from summer to winter and you either freeze your fingers off with frost on the cotton or you sweat yourself to death;  Sometimes both in the same day. We used to have to stay out of school for the first month of school each year to pick cotton. I loved school and hated to have to miss days. I prayed for rainy days. We raised cotton for the market. It was our only source of income and it had to be done. Daddy and Mama picked along with us. When the babies were too little to leave at the house alone they drug them on their cotton sacks behind them. We kept a great big woven oak basket at the end of the rows to empty our sacks into when they became full. We got into the baskets and tamped the cotton down so that the basket would hold more. Daddy would pick those baskets up onto his shoulders and carry them to the cotton wagon at noon and night. His and Mama’s sacks were made from canvas and they held 40 -50 lbs. of cotton. Daddy would take them to the wagon when they needed to be emptied. As we became stronger we also carried the big sacks of cotton on our shoulders. Our sacks were made of burlap and were called tow sacks. We packed the cotton into the bottom of the sacks and sat on them as we picked when our backs became so sore we could not straighten up. Mama always quit picking when it was time to start dinner (Lunch). She would take the baby and Bud with her and we picked on until she called us to dinner. We were back in the field right after lunch and milking time called us home at night, six days a week. I had a hard time picking 200 lbs. in a day. Dot could pick cotton a lot faster than me. I seemed easy for her. She never lets me forget that either. Many times I have been stung by a stinging worm. I do not know what kind of worm it is, but it is green and has spires all over it. Every where one of those spires touch you makes a whelp.  It is very painful. Our fingers became so sore from being stuck by cotton burrs that we sometimes cried with the pain.  When the cotton was picked and we were through, there would be a little scrap cotton in the fields. Daddy let us scrap the cotton and have the money we made from it. Once when we lived near Papa and Granny we scrapped cotton. Mama helped Dot and me pick the cotton. Bud stayed with Granny at the house while we picked. We got $2.00 for our cotton. Mama bought Dot, Me and Bud a sweater for 50cents each and I heard her say years later ”I wonder what I did with that other 50 cents.” Needless to say, Times were hard.
The cotton was packed on a wagon. Daddy built frames to fit the wagon bed which extended above the height of the wagon bed. When we had around 1300 lbs. of cotton in the wagon, Daddy hitched Trim and Ada up to the wagon took it to the gin. At times he let one of us ride with him to the gin. It was a great experience to get to ride with Daddy to the gin. After the first bale of cotton went to the gin, we always ate oil sausage for supper.   It got to be a tradition with us. We looked forward to eating oil sausage. Daddy bought a gallon and Mama made biscuits and we enjoyed them. I love the farm, and farm life, but I did not like picking cotton.
There are times when we face difficult situations and many times we would rather be doing something else. We may find things painful and tedious. We realize that in these times God is teaching us. He teaches us patience and perseverance, and if we are faithful, in the end we are rewarded with pleasure, satisfaction of a job well done and our Father’s presence.

Nannie Maude Reynolds