Recently my friend Daren met a West Texas cotton farmer at a meeting in Chicago and was impressed with her Facebook page where she’s taking people through a year of growing dryland cotton on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert through her Facebook page — Kissed a Farmer. What came next? Obviously he had to introduce us! Now that I’ve connected to Suzie Wilde online, I’m trying to figure out whether I’ve met her and her husband Daniel. Afterall, the cotton industry is pretty small. The Wildes live in San Angelo (that’s in West Central Texas) and farm cotton, wheat and milo. Daniel has been growing cotton for 40 years and comes from a long line of Texas cotton farmers. Suzie is the daughter of a second generation cotton ginner from the southern Rolling Plains of Texas. Here’s a bit of her story and you really should like the Kissed a Farmer Facebook page so you can follow it throughout the year. (Since I wrote this post, Suzie started a Kissed a Farmer blog telling the story of their cotton farm.)
If I ever write my autobiography, the first line will be, “My earliest memory is of cotton.” My playpen was in the front room of a cotton gin office. I knew the farmers who brought their cotton to my dad’s gin so well that I thought of all of them as my “uncles.” I always loved the clink-clank sound made by the big black weights of the old manual scale when a trailer load of cotton pulled over the deck. When I heard that sound, I knew one of my “uncles” was about to come in and if I was lucky, they would buy a 5 cent soft drink in a thick green glass bottle from the old red soda machine and give me the first sip.
Being the daughter of a second generation cotton ginner, and now married to a multi-generational cotton farmer, I consider the excitement of that first load of cotton as the beginning of the best time of the year, time to harvest cotton! The local newspapers will run a little story each year of the farmer who harvests the first bale of cotton in the county, sometimes with a photo of the farmer and ginner standing with the actual bale of cotton.
Somewhere in my old photo albums are a couple of those yellowing newspaper clippings of my smiling dad standing beside one of his smiling customers with that coveted first bale of the year. The black and white photos from back in the 50’s and 60’s of proud, smiling farmers and ginners with their first bales line the wall of a steakhouse that now occupies the hull of an old cotton gin not far from here. I stop there every chance I get just to reminisce.
I love to ride along with my husband and watch the basket of the cotton harvester fill up with that beautiful, fluffy white fiber for the first time each year. We may not have the first bale in the county, but the smiles in our field are just as big as the ones in those old black and white photos when our first basket gets full.
My seasons are not marked by a calendar, but by watching all the different colors that paint across the fields of cotton throughout the year. Bright crayon green as it peeks up out of the ground in the spring. Soft butter yellow flowers that turn baby girl pink, then just briefly a gem stone purple before falling off as it produces the boll in the summer. Deep olive green and rusty red leaves as fall approaches. Crispy brown and bridal gown white as the bolls pop open to dry in the sunshine, waiting for the best time of the year, time to harvest cotton. I have been wrapped in the the fabric of our lives quite literally my entire life, and what a beautiful, colorful life it is.
You can read more stories of people sharing how cotton is the fabric of their life or read about how cotton is produced by checking out some of the other things on the blog.