I worked for the cotton industry for 23 years before coming to Farm Press. Prior to that, I lived and worked on a cotton farm my entire life, minus college and a couple of stray years.
Cotton is in my blood and it always will be. I love the people and the stories.
I've told more than a few people that my first book will be, Everything I Know I Learned on the Way to Chandler Gin. For years I rode with Dad in hopes we'd stop at Last Chance Tavern or the Esposito's store in High Town. It was my only chance to get a strawberry pop and some corn nuts in my regular life.
Those rides in themselves were opportunities to meet interesting people and live small segments of their stories along with them.
I remember the clank and tug of the cotton trailer as we pulled it through farmland, open desert and small communities. That lurch as you slowed the truck and the long whining pull as you accelerated with a ton or two of tromped cotton behind you. Mostly for me it was comforting. Chatting with Dad about everything and nothing. Sipping on a Nehi strawberry pop – the best kind.
If we were lucky, maybe there would be a tamale lady at the gin and we could by one or two, or even a dozen.
Mostly, everyone at the gin was friendly and happy to see you. Henry Schneider would always ask, "How you breathing?" We shared a common malady, an asthmatic reaction to cotton dust. But, we both did what we had to do. You really didn't think about it, you just do what needs to be done – I'd like to think it made me resilient.
One day Dad was heading up to the Gin, which was about 25 miles away from the farm. He'd occasionally pick up a hitchhiker just for the sake of conversation. This particular day, an older, kind of rough looking guy was standing on the side of the road with his thumb out.
Dad slowed the heavily laden truck and trailer and offered the guy a ride. The guy climbed into the truck and Dad accelerated, lurching up to speed with the reluctant trailer.
They talked for a little bit and Dad asked, "Where are you going?" The guy who Dad realized may have been coming off of a bender, told him where he was heading.
Dad said, "But that's in the opposite direction!"
The guy looked out of the window and said, "Oh, I must have been standing on the wrong side of the road."
He went on with Dad to the gin, they both had a pop, chatted some more and Dad drove him back to where he had picked him up and dropped him off on the right side of the road.