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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Chopping cotton

Years ago, I learned how to chop cotton. The first step is getting a hoe that works. Those sissy little hoes they have in most hardware stores are more for looks than utility. You have to get a substantial, well balanced and sharp hoe. Have you ever sharpened a hoe? I have many times. Next, you have to learn to tell the difference between the cotton plants and the weeds. The idea of chopping cotton is to remove the weeds, not the cotton. You might think this is easy, but do you know what a baby cotton plant looks like? Neither did I at first. Weeding without know which are the weeds and which are the cotton plants is a disaster. Then, despite all your equipment and all your newly acquired horticultural knowledge, you have to get busy and start hoeing.

Do you have any idea how long one row of cotton can be? Have you ever stood in the middle of cotton field that covered a quarter section? Perhaps mentioning that a quarter section is 1/2 mile on a side helps? Anyway, standing there, at the beginning of your quarter section, you can almost, I say almost, see the other end of the row. Oh, did I mention that they grow cotton in the Gila and Salt River valleys in the summer? Maybe that doesn't mean anything to you, but it means that the temperature at 6:00 am is 95 degrees. OK, get the picture. You have your really good hoe. You have learned the difference between cotton plants and weeds. You are up at 4:00 am to get to the cotton field. You are standing at the head of a row of cotton a half a mile long and there are hundreds of rows to chop and it is almost 100 degrees. Oh, I almost forgot, although you are there to "chop cotton" you are really there to remove the weeds, not chop the cotton. Get the picture?

Now. Start chopping. Hmm. I forgot one more thing. Hopefully, they watered the field a few days before you start or your lovely hoe will most just bounce off of the ground. But, if they watered the field only a few days before, you are now bogged down in mud above your ankles. In any event, you immediately find out that the humidity in a cotton field is way higher than it is in surrounding desert.

If you got this far and you read my blog posts, you are ready for me to tie this into genealogy. Here are the lessons to be learned from chopping cotton that apply to life, genealogy and your future happiness:

1. Work is hard. Hard work is really hard. Chopping cotton is not as hard as laying concrete but it ranks up there with jack hammering and digging ditches by hand.
2. Once you have done something really hard, nothing else seems quite so hard. Think about chopping two or four rows at a time. Sometimes we took four rows each.
3. I didn't make this up. I really did chop cotton and long enough to more than learn how to do it.
4. Genealogy is hard work. It is harder than chopping cotton. It is harder than laying concrete. It is harder that jackhammering out a driveway. Anyone who tries to tell you differently is lying.
5. It takes a while to learn how to chop cotton. It is not fun. It is not easy. It may be spiritually fulfilling but I doubt it.
6. Genealogy takes a lot longer to learn than chopping cotton. Sometimes genealogy is fun, but most of the time it is not. Most of the time it is spiritually fulfilling and it is a lot more spiritually fulfilling than chopping cotton.
7. Both chopping cotton and doing genealogy are useful, productive, and helpful to mankind type activities.
8. I would rather do genealogy than chop cotton.
9. You will not see ads on TV telling you how easy and fun it is to chop cotton.


6 comments:

  1. I am laughing right out loud and loving every word! Number 9 simply made my day!!!

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  2. When my daughter was 15 she got a job at McDonalds. After one week she came home and stated "Do you know what I learned working at McDonalds?'

    What? asked I. "I am not going to spend the rest of my life doing that..."

    It wasn't chopping cotton, but she learned an excellent lesson.

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  3. You have outdone yourself! I want to show this to some of my clients.

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  4. I spent part of the summer after my high school junior year chopping cotton with my grandfather in central Texas. It was 40 years ago and I remember it clearly to this day, including the rabbit families whose home lives I disrupted. This is a very good description of the cotton chopping assignment. It was late July and early August, and we worked from 7am to 11am, broke for lunch, nap and some shade, and then resumed for another 4 hours at 3 or 4 pm.

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  5. My dad put me in cotton fields to chop cotton when I was ten years old. It didn't take me long to decide I didn't want to be a farmer.

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