Cotton…A Legacy of the American Spirit
It’s been a crazy week, but we could not let the controversy related to cotton go without giving a little perspective from a Native and very proud Texan…..
Being a sixth generation Texan has instilled many characteristics in who I am as a person. Many of these character building blocks can be construed as consistent in all American’s that have a Southern DNA. There might be a few key points that would rank high on this list, but certainly one would be our historic ties to farming and more specific, Cotton Farming. My Grandfather grew up on the Cotton Fields of West Texas in the small farming community of Wellington, Texas. It was a hard, but very proud life, of people working together to support their pursuit of the American Dream. These were very strong, tough, and upstanding people whose love of God was first and Family came close behind.
In the early 70’s, my Grandfather insisted that he take me to Wellington to get a clear understanding of my family history, and yes, to also understand what it was like for a kid in the early 1900’s trying to help their family survive in somewhat less than ideal conditions. Off we went leaving Dallas in our rearview mirror and soon seeing nothing but open plains and a lot of cold weather! No, I was not very old at the time and really had no idea what we were doing, but soon I would come to realize that this trip would be a foundation stone in the journey that helped to shape who I am today.
Wellington, Texas was just a blip on the map then, and really isn’t much bigger today. Farming was, and continues to be, at the heart of the community ecosystem. The Summers are hot, but the Winter’s are brutally cold! This became very apparent as soon as we arrived at the family homestead overseen by my Grandfather’s older brother, Hobart. The place was right in the middle of thousands of acres of cotton in full bloom….and waiting to be picked. We hit the ground running and soon we were in the middle of the fields with a bag and an old pair of gloves. It did not take long to realize that cotton and uncovered hands don’t mix. Cotton stalks can cut you up quick, and add in the sub zero temps and you will never want to do this without a good pair of gloves!
Now would be a good time to tell you that picking cotton is not fun, period. Those that have done this prior to equipment being invented were a tough lot. Many around the world still pick cotton just like this, in fact, I was just in India in June where people do exactly this to make a living….hard work! Trying to pick quickly and efficiently in very adverse conditions would rank pretty high on the list of the toughest jobs on the planet. It’s a way of life, but through hard work, you are able to pay the bills and support your family.
It’s been a few years since we last visited our old family Cotton Farm in Wellington, but the memories of working in the field and getting an up-close understanding of how hard these people worked to survive has never left my mind. This wasn’t about a particular ethnicity, but about American’s seeking a better life for their families and having the work ethic and drive to overcome all obstacles to achieve their dream. My experience was more of a teaching session, but that time freezing in the fields with hands bloodied by cotton stalks, and sore limbs frozen underneath multiple quilts on a West Texas porch at night, will never leave my mind. It’s an honor to come from the root stock of proud American’s that helped to tame the harshest of environments so that future generations could experience what we are blessed to have today! Get those cotton stalks, wreath’s, and center pieces out and display them proudly. Many of us would not be who we are today without the foundation this crop developed within our ancestral tree. Kind of gives new meaning to “The Touch, the Feel, of Cotton!”
Sam Smith is an established Branding and Marketing Executive that has spent the last decade leading multiple international non-profit’s and ministries to record results. He shares his passion at OptimizingMinistry.com