Fall is going to drop on us here in a few weeks. I know it will still be hot and some of us will still be pushing our crops.
But, the official start of the harvest season gives one hope. It’s the hope of shorter days and cooler nights. It’s the hope of an abundant harvest and a successful wrap-up to a growing season. It signals, in theory, that time, after harvest, when you can breathe before starting a new season of growing.
One can see the effects of the long, hot work of summer. I love the final stages of crop maturation as the kernels fill and the bolls burst. When there is an inclination an of a cooling trend, whether it’s indicated on the calendar or in the air, I’m in a good place.
There’s a distinct smell when frost first hits cotton. It’s bad if the crop is not where it should be before harvest. But, a frosty morning, when the timing is good and the smell of cotton wafts across the field, it’s a wonderful, almost tactile, sensory memory.
As a kid and even years later, as spring took hold, I knew I wouldn’t have to pick up hot irrigation pipes or chop weeds on the ditch banks. Although, I knew that the season for pulling a stalk cutter through a dusty, dry field or turning the soil over the old crop was a dusty, dry job, I could bundle up in a comforting old coat and be warmed by the heat of the tractor engine.
We used to run cotton Roods on our farm, picking up the cotton from the ground that the picker missed on cold frosty mornings. Slotted belts pick up dusty, dirty cotton from the ground and blow them into the machines’ baskets. If the breeze was going the same direction as the tractor, you’d be in a cloud of heavy field dust and debris half the time.
The best tractors for pulling the Rood machines are the old single-row front tire tractors. They cut through the stalks like butter. However, I always insisted on using the newer two-row fixed axle front end tractors.
The front suspension of the tractor spanned the rows, the stocks would be pushed forward and spring back upright as the front tires passed. If a hard, dry premature boll was still attached it would hurl the rock-hard boll back at you at lightening speed. If it hit you on a cold day when your ears were cold, even under your wool cap, it would feel like you’d been shot in the head. It could darn near knock you out!
But, the warmth of a diesel and trash cotton fire in a 55-gallon drum is soothing. And, the smell of the grease gun covered in picking debris is reassuring. It means that fall has arrived.