I was in the office early last Tuesday morning, quickly burying myself in work, hoping to get a huge portion of it done before the mid-morning Board of Regents meeting. I was also still stinging from the “We don’t do pink” incident with Boyle. But I would get over it, I knew.
Keeping a straight face, Elaine said, “Thanks for what?”
Boyle was flustered, as the majority of the audience knew about his computer illiteracy. As he nodded at the president in thanks, once again his face turned a slight shade of pink. This time mine did, too.
“No, Steven, Charlie, Susan, Ricky and Elaine should have been recognized. They did all the work,” I said with resignation. “But thanks for wearing pink, Windy. It means a lot.”
“Not exactly well, no.”
“Well, he hasn’t fired you yet, has he? That’s a good sign he’s realized you were right and he was wrong.”
“Here’s hoping. I’d hate to be fired right after buying a new house.” I said ruefully.
“Where are we going and what in the world are we doing?” I asked yesterday as Colin picked me up, dressed in roughly the same type of attire. His truck’s exterior was filthy again.
“By hand? By our own hands? Picking cotton with our bare hands? Whatever for?”
“I do. Church, remember?”
“No? I can’t imagine anyone not pulling it at least once in their lives, but Colin was a novice at one time too, weren’t you, dear?”
“I was, but I learned quickly. Tom and Russ sort of threw me out there and said pick, so I did. I’m such a city-slicker and did such a poor job on the first few plants they had to come behind me to do it right. There’s definitely an art to it.”
“That’s right,” Russ said, walking up to put his arm around his diminutive wife of more than 55 years. “It symbolizes how it takes all of us, working together, to have a crop. A healthy crop to will provide for all the workers and their families throughout the year. And even though this has been a really tough year, we’ve still feel we’ve been blessed.”
“What’s the difference?” I asked.
“On our way!” Colin laughed, grabbed my hand and lead me to the field.
Colin handed me a pair of leather gloves. “You’ll need these,” he said. “But pick the first couple of bolls without them to get the feel for it. But not yet,” he warned as I reached down. “Wait for the gun.” And with that, a shot rang out and the pickin’ commenced with shouts and whoops of spirited competition.
“I’ll show you,” Colin said, expertly pulling the fibers from between the sharp pricks without incident. Not to be outdone, I tried it, gingerly putting my hand into the plant. My fingertips reached the underside, gathering my first wad of cotton. I moved my thumb around feeling the weighty seeds deeply impeded in the fiber and wondered about the patience needed to pull them out by hand.
You can’t imagine how soft it is. I grinned with my success, and Colin smiled with me, as I popped my first boll into the sack. Then we attacked the plants with determination.
Colin said proudly, “Today the South Plains is the largest contiguous cotton growing region in the world.’