Cotton Field

It was the dog-days  of Summer. No more trips to the river  for fear of the dreaded disease lurking in the muddy bottom. Fish fry’s at Johnson’s Ferry were over for the year.From the  porch I peeled peaches and read scripture to Grandma,  from there I could see the field hands that had been  picked up before dawn and carried in the back of the  truck to  gigantic polka dot fields beneath the blistering sun.  Fastened around their necks were  long sacks of burlap that trailed six feet behind them. Some  wore  gloves but  most were  without and  plucked the miniature clouds of cotton from the prickly  bristles with bare fingers, swooping in and  out like small birds, their backs bent nearly to the ground. I  begged to join them  and  after many rejections  I was sent off with the rest. Soon I begged and pleaded to leave the field. The hot sun blistered my freckled skin and the  bristles tore at my flesh. My tender fingers resembled small sausages. I pleaded to be  rescued from this torture. My fellow harvesters chuckled and a few laughed out loud and called me “little cotton face”.  My pride hurt but not as much as my damned fingers. I dropped the sack and ran back to the farmhouse and hid. Now when I see the field laborers it sends a sinking feeling to my gut, a literal pain knowing the tenacity needed to endure their plight. I once joined a young boy on the tractor,  both of us needing a playmate. My grandfather snatched me off and threatened to thrash me.  Bewildered by his wrath I cried until I ran dry.  Years have passed since my childhood but the wounds inflicted by the old south remain with me still  like pink scars on  white skin from the day I picked cotton.

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