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Them Old Cotton Fields Back Home

John is a freelance writer, ghostwriter, storyteller, and poet. He always tries to include a message or social commentary in his writing

them-old-cotton-field-back-home

Cotton Fields

"When I was a little bitty baby
My mama would rock me in the cradle,
In them old cotton fields back home;

It was down in Louisiana,
Just about a mile from Texarkana,
In them old cotton fields back home.

Oh, when them cotton bolls get rotten
You can't pick very much cotton,
In them old cotton fields back home."

~Credence Clearwater Revival~

I can feel a song coming on.

— Rance Darlington

An unexpected and unseasonal deluge of recent rain had ruined half of a local farmer's cotton crop. Rance, and his wife Marion, had asked if Kathy and I would like to accompany them in picking cotton suitable for spinning. they had approached the farmer for permission and he had replied, "Just go for it!"

So, late one afternoon we set off with our supply of bio-degradable plastic shopping bags (good to reuse at times like this) and set off to the farm in a small rural community called Byee.

"Look at those cotton fields!" I exclaimed as I stepped out of the car and surveyed what appeared almost endless rows of cotton before me.

"I can feel a song coming on," my friend Rance said and he began to sing the first couple of lines of Cotton Fields (Them Old Cotton Fields Back Home). I'm not sure who sung it originally, but I know Credence Clearwater Revival, and Johnny Cash did versions. Anyway, I couldn't help but join in singing along to the catchy lyrics.

Spinning Wheels

Spinning Wheels

The Cotton Picking Crew

Four of us went cotton picking,

Just for something new.

Armed with plastic shopping bags,

We're the cotton picking crew.


The crop was ruined from too much rain.

The farmer gave the nod,

"Just go for it," was all he said.

He didn't give a sod.

them-old-cotton-field-back-home


Much was full of sticks and grit,

Too difficult to clean,

But bolls half closed or higher up

Were perfect for our means.


Kathy and Marion are spinners,

They spin yarn on their wheels,

Then weave, knit, or crochet it,

Depending how they feel.


We spent an hour or maybe three

Walking up the rows.

Time flies when you're having fun,

So how long I don't know.


We tried to choose the cleanest bolls

And pick grit from the rest,

To make it easier at home.

It was slow and quite a test.


As we picked and bagged the cotton

A country song stuck in my mind,

Mississippi Cotton Pickin' Delta Town

By good old Charlie Pride.


Then Rance mentioned another,

Them Old Cotton Fields Back Home.

We sang these over in our heads

Until darkness turned us home.

Mississippi Cotton Pickin' Delta Town

"In a Mississippi cotton pickin' delta town
One dusty street to walk up and down
Nothing much to do but hang around
In a Mississippi cotton pickin' delta
town…"

~Charlie Pride~

There must be a poem in this

— Rance Darlington

Boll Weavil

Being on the cusp of winter, the days are shortening and darkness fell early, forcing us to gather up the bags of cotton we had already picked and head for home. As we were walking back along the rows toward the car, Rance said, "There must be a poem in this." He knows I have published books of poetry, so he says this to me quite a lot :) It has actually inspired me to write a few poems that I may not have considered otherwise. Anyway, the above poem "The Cotton Picking Crew" is the result, so thank you, Rance.

Comments

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 28, 2017:

No Shauna we didn't wear gloves as we only picked for a couple of hours before dusk. I could see how they would be needed if you were to spend a whole day picking. Glad you enjoyed the poem.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 28, 2017:

Love your poem, John. Did you wear gloves to pick cotton?

When my mom was growing up in Missouri, they'd get out of school for a few weeks in April or May to help the families pick cotton. Mom says it was grueling work and very hard on the hands (scratches, etc.).

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 23, 2017:

Thank you, Lawrence :) Cheers.

Lawrence Hebb on June 22, 2017:

And a great little poem it is too!

Loved it.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 13, 2017:

Thank you for the addition of your fine poetic comment. Fortunately we picked it late afternoon when the sun was no longer blazing. Blessings back.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on June 13, 2017:

John,

Picking cotton ain't no fun

especially in the blazing sun

It hurts too much to straighten up

Got to pick enough to take to the gin

Dirty and sweaty making you want to curse

Which is a sin

Beautiful hub, brings back memories of "The Last Hoedown."

Blessings my friend.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 02, 2017:

Thanks, Flourish, maybe I will post a photo of it when my wife spins some.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 02, 2017:

Neat poem. I'd love to see someone actually turn it into yarn!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 02, 2017:

Haha, thanks Paula. Always great to get your comments. Cheers.

Suzie from Carson City on June 02, 2017:

Jodah......You always entertain. Now, how do I get this song out of my head for the remainder of the day?? LOL. Your friend is right....if there's poem somewhere, Jodah wrote it!! Paula

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 02, 2017:

Thank you, Eddy. Great to get a comment from you and glad you enjoyed this.

Eiddwen from Wales on June 02, 2017:

Brilliant john I absolutely loved it and here's to so many more.

Eddy.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 01, 2017:

Thank you, MsDora. Bless you.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 01, 2017:

The topic and the photos brought back memories of cotton-picking stories, and your poem sealed the deal. Good read!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 30, 2017:

GalaxyRat, most people today have never had the experience of picking cotton first hand, so you and I are among the privileged few. Thanks for reading and the kind comment.

GalaxyRat on May 30, 2017:

I love it, it's awesome. Not too long ago, I went to the Hermitage with my family, and we picked some cotton. I kept the cleanest in a bag, and it's tacked up on my wall.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 30, 2017:

Devika, thank you for reading and commenting. Glad you found this interesting.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 29, 2017:

Wow! A beautifully laid out hub! An interesting one about the cotton fields I had some idea of that history.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 29, 2017:

Yes, it was a great experience, Alyssa. Thanks for the kind comment.

Alyssa from Ohio on May 29, 2017:

What a memorable experience. Wonderful poetry!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 29, 2017:

Hi Jo. I would never have imagined writing an article/poem about cotton picking either had I not had the unexpected opportunity to actually do it. The cotton was not suitable for commercial use, but fine for a small scale spinning.

Jo Miller from Tennessee on May 29, 2017:

I never expected a cotton picking tribute from someone down under. Cotton picking is done by machines here now, but was associated with slavery and sharecropping in our country.

Great article, and I love the idea that you're using this otherwise useless product to make new things.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 29, 2017:

Thanks, Larry. I actually enjoyed the picking.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on May 28, 2017:

I've never picked it personally. Great read!

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on May 28, 2017:

John, your poem really hit home. I'm from the cotton pickin' South about 100 miles from Johnny Cash's hometown. I really appreciate your tribute to cotton picking and to the songs. The history of the song goes back to the 1940s with Lead Belly and then Harry Belafonte in the late 1950s. It had a great revival during the rockabilly days. Great stuff, my friend.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 27, 2017:

Thanks Clive. You are so right that cotton picking would not bring back pleasant memories for certain races, in regard to slavery etc.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 27, 2017:

Yes, Mike, although I am now living in town it is still rural so there are farms all around. This town, Murgon, is actually called the beef capital of the South Burnett, but there is also cotton, peanuts, dairying etc. I hope you enjoy the music selection.

DEBANGEE MANDAL from India on May 27, 2017:

Wonderful pics

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on May 27, 2017:

Hi John - Seems you can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy. I guess, I should complain less around here, as I have not yet been asked to pick cotton. I am listening now to your musical selections.

Great bit of inspiration for all of us.

Clive Williams from Jamaica on May 27, 2017:

Very Nice. But picking cottons was not all good for all races. Just saying.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 27, 2017:

Rasma, thank you. It is good that I got you singing along. I almost bought a piece of land at a town called Tara here in Australia. Don't know if they have cotton fields there though.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 27, 2017:

Linda, it is good that I was able to transport you to a cotton field in your mind. Thanks for reading.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 27, 2017:

Thank you, Venkat. Glad you enjoyed this.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 27, 2017:

Eric, you are too kind. I think it is the ultimate compliment if a child enjoys something we write and want if re-read to them. The fact this prompted him to ask you questions is even bettering. Thanks, my friend.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 27, 2017:

Eric, you are too kind. I think it is the ultimate compliment if a child enjoys something we write and want if re-read to them. The fact this prompted him to ask you questions is even bettering. Thanks, my friend.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on May 27, 2017:

John - I have never seen a cotton field, but your words took me there. Thank you for sharing this experience.

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on May 27, 2017:

This was a great hub. Got me singing and made me think of the cotton fields at Tara in Gone With the Wind.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 27, 2017:

The first song I sang in a college town rock and roll bar. They would put me up there for some none rock and roll. I think I sung the original JC version.

You're danged lucky you didn't need to pick a quota of bails. that will cut your fingers to the bone.

Look at me going on and on. Thank you very much for this that I shared with my son, producing more questions than a 3rd grade class of 30 about the moon landing.

You are awesome John. My son still asks me to read your Betelgeuse.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on May 27, 2017:

Very interesting and entertaining. The poems are great and those composed by you are also very nice. Thanks, John, for this nice treat.

whonunuwho from United States on May 27, 2017:

Brings back memories of days gone by. Well done my friend. Blessings to all. whonu

MICKEY MOUSE from our World on May 27, 2017:

I never worked on a farm. But I know it is full of hard work. Quite laborious and all the sun's heat eating our head. Rain can be a blessing but it can also become a problem if it rains heavily. Sometimes I think it is fun to own a farm full of animals. But it is really a tedious life to run a farm.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 27, 2017:

Bill, this was the only time I have picked cotton, and there was no pressure. I can't imagine having to do it all day, day after day for a living.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2017:

Very nice response to the challenge of sorts. Have you ever picked cotton, John? No way would this boy do that day in and day out...I'd come home minus half my blood and permanently bent over. Tough work for tough people.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 27, 2017:

Welcome back, Ruby. I am glad you can relate to my experience at picking cotton. It is not easy but I wouldn't discount ever doing it again. I'm pleased that you enjoyed the Boll Weavil song too.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on May 27, 2017:

I'm listening to the video ' Boll Weavil ' and tapping my toe's. I went with a bunch of friends to pick cotton in Missouri. My son Jackie was little and he picked more than I did, then we both laid down on the sack, never again!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 27, 2017:

It is always great to receive your comments, Val. Yes, the oppressed or those exploited always managed to find ways to overcome the hardships by directing their attention to song and the like. Glad you liked my approach.

Val Karas from Canada on May 27, 2017:

John---What a beautiful way to describe those times when nothing around but only human soul could inspire for a song; that same soul that has kept refusing to succumb to the hardships of any kind.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 27, 2017:

Praveen, glad this reminded you of the Sleeping Beauty story. Yes, there are many different types of spinning wheels for spinning cotton, wool, alpaca, and many other fibres and levels of fineness.

MICKEY MOUSE from our World on May 27, 2017:

Thinking about cotton reminds me of the story of sleeping beauty. There are different kinds spinning wheels used to spin cotton.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 27, 2017:

Thank you for sharing that, Mark. I am sure that picking cotton all day everyday would certainly not be done for fun.. At least some popular songs arose from it.

Mark Tulin from Ventura, California on May 27, 2017:

It's always nice to acknowledge those who worked on the fields. A lot of sweat and blood went into that work. Every time I pass the crouching workers in the fields of California I think of all the pain they must be experiencing in their body. Same with those who picked cotton in the south. They had to write songs to ease their suffering. It definitely wasn't out of joy.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 27, 2017:

Thank you, Tim. You are right, it isn't all that easy and I wouldn't want to do it as a full time job like they did in the past. I would like to have included more of the history of cotton but it is so long that was a big undertaking.

Tim Mitchell from Escondido, CA on May 27, 2017:

Nice! Thanks for sharing the story of inspiration and your experience. Cotton has a long history and most don't know how hard it is to pick.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 27, 2017:

Thank you, bro. I appreciate your kind comment, and it was the first too. Take care.

manatita44 from london on May 27, 2017:

Nice incentive...excellent lyrics and great poetry.