Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Cotton In My Sack



I have a confession. . .I have never picked cotton long enough to fill a 'pick sack'. . .or even get enough to feel the weight of it as the bag is pulled behind me. . .Chop cotton--yes--I've done my share of that. . .No picking it, though. . .

When I was growing up, we still used cotton pickers in the fields, along with a small mechanical picker. . .Every Fall we had people come in to pick. . .many from Mexico and spoke little English. . .That vision of pickers in the field comes to mind every year about this time. . .




Once during my Senior year in High School, we went to several fields to pick cotton. . .The farmers had given us certain areas to pick so that we could raffle off a bale of cotton for class money. . .A bale back then weighed about 500 pounds. . .A lot of cotton. . .There were only a few girls in the class. . .more guys. . .so some of us females talked the guys into pulling the long heavy bag, while we all picked. . .It was still hard, back-breaking work. . .But ever since, I've intended to actually pick at least half of a pick sack. . .


 The morning came when I had to make a decision to try my hand at cotton picking with a six foot long bag. . .It was early dawn as I walked out to the field behind our home. . .Cloudy. . .Threatening rain. .  .


I have to admit, it was a little daunting as I looked out over the fields, trying to put myself in the place of the pickers and what they must have felt looking at those acres and acres of cotton before them. . .I was lucky. . .I had a back-up. . .I was doing it for fun, too. . .not as a matter of survival. . .


In the early light, I headed for the field. . .with visions of my all time favorite book by Lois Lenski. . .thinking about all those tenants and sharecroppers of the past. . .



This is proof positive that I actually did pick. . .but you'll note, I'm sure, that there's not much in the sack. . .or off the rows. . .And then. . .it began to sprinkle. . .Time for breakfast. . .

After that little shower (which was NOTHING). . .the skies cleared. . .I thought I'd give it another try. . .if nothing else than to get some good photos. . .With the cleared skies and warmer morning, the wind decided to pick up. . .I was spending more time holding onto my hat than picking cotton. . .


And those endless rows of white were getting no shorter. . .

 
I DID get the pick sack somewhat stuffed. . .


This is where I have a second confession. . .In the end,
I was cutting whole limbs of cotton. . .for my 'plain and simple farmhouse decor'. . .
A pick sack fills up quickly that way. . .

I certainly did not regret the experience. . .but by 10:00 I was tired. . .the wind was hard to stand up in. . .the bolls were cutting my fingers. . .my back was hurting from bending over. . .and I was hungry. . .
Time to call in the RECRUITS. . .



 
Mr. Roy Gaines made quick work of my endless rows of cotton with his John Deere. . .


As I sat in my rocker on the porch drinking coffee and watching. . .
I counted my blessings that my days of picking cotton by hand were over. . .(grin)


 




Friday, October 21, 2016

A Weekend of Broom Making



It's always a treat to share our knowledge about a traditional craft. . .so we jumped at the chance to spend two days at the Parking Archeological State Park, teaching one hundred Home Schoolers and their parents how to make a SIMPLE WHISK BROOM. . .We were part of several stations set up across the park that they visited during Home School Days. . .This year students learned about corn. . .making hominy. . .grinding corn. . .cooking kettle corn. . .making a corn shuck doll. . .and several other activities. . .


True, our whisk brooms weren't actually made of corn. . .although the straw is called Broomcorn. . .It is actually from the sorghum family. . .We fudged a little. . .In times past, though, many brooms WERE made of corn shucks, so we had photos of those for them to view. . .

Photo by Mel Harvey


  It was a perfect Fall weekend for Broom Making at the old Sawmill Schoolhouse, located in the park. . .In fact, the weather was so nice that we moved everyone outdoors to enjoy some of the last of our warm days. . .John gave each group of about 25 a little history about brooms and broom making. . .as Mel (Park Interpreter) and I kept him straight on his facts. . .He seemed to have a mindset that it was the Amish who perfected the flat brooms that we know. . .It wasn't. . .It was the Shakers who claim that honor. . .By the last workshop, we were still correcting him. . .It was all in fun. . .
Once our students had a little background. . .we began the broom making process. . .

Photo by Mel Harvey

with lots of one-on-one assistance. . .if necessary. . .

Photo by Mel Harvey

As with most crafts, broom making isn't hard if you have the right tools. . .See the board of twine on the ground? . . .That's the secret to a good tight broom. . .As the twine is wrapped around the bundle, the board keeps it taunt. . .
We had children from 5-15 years old trying their hand at it. . .The real prize was the finished product that each one took home with them. . .once John did the trimming. . .







Photo by Mel Harvey





I think all were happy with their creations. . .Lots of smiles and laughter. . .

I know that we had a really great two days. . .
We always enjoy working with everyone at the State Park. . .
They are a super bunch of people. . .

Mel learned to make a whisk broom, too, and ended up assisting us the last day. . . 


MEL HARVEY, PARK INTERPRETER


After the last group left. . .John and I headed over to the Visitor's Center picnic area for a quick snack before traveling. . .Others joined us. . .One brought the remainder of the kettle corn. . .and before we knew it, we almost had a party!!!!

Too quickly the sun began to set in the West, and it was time to head home. . .
with more memories of a wonderful weekend for our scrapbook. . .



By-the-way. . .
We've been invited to teach another workshop at the Park in May 2017. . .
for the Women's Weekend. . .
They'll be learning to make a Turkey Whisk. . .
Maybe we'll see you there?