You’ve seen those adorable little girls’ clothes made out of cheerful cotton prints. They’re everywhere, from upscale children’s boutiques to outdoor craft shows, and I love them. I love the contrasting patterns and the coordinating colors. I love the exuberance of swirling paisley and whimsical florals. I love the simplicity of form that let the fabrics shine. I love the ribbons and ruffles and the sweet girlishness of it all. And I’d often wondered, “Why aren’t there clothes like this for grownup women? I’d sure buy them!” Then I came across a booth in an antiques/gifts/clothing co-op that had both girls’ and women’s handmade clothing in this style and when I saw them side-by-side, I realized why adult women generally don’t dress like 6-year-old girls. It’s just too … too … cute. But I loved the aprons, and those easy breezy cotton skirts? Perfect for a summer shopping trip — possibly to somewhere that has real grownup clothes.
Woo-hoo! It finally happened: I got published!!! Well, sort of, anyway. But not for writing. See this book cover? Look on the far left-hand side, the second photo down, where the “3” is. See that photo of a cotton field? That photo, my friends, is mine. It came from me and my trusty beat-up old Kodak EasyShare that rattles around in my purse and usually is smeared with lipstick and coffee. The photo’s also on page 113 of the book, with my name. Spelled properly, too. Surprised? Me, too! What happened is that several months ago, I got an e-mail from someone named Sam Crowther. He said he was writing a book about growing up in Texas and needed a photo of a cotton field. He had found a blog post I’d written about cotton fields and wondered if he could use the photos. I have to admit that at first I was suspicious. Sounds like some sort of scam, right? But then I googled “Sam Crowther” and found out he’s a real person from an upstanding community-minded family and he actually did grow up in San Angelo, Texas, where his grandfather owned the hardware store. So there. I gladly gave Mr. Crowther permission to use the photos and then promptly forgot all about it, until this book arrived in the mail a few days ago, and there I am — well, my photo, anyway. I’m serious here — I totally was thrilled to see a photo I’d taken printed right there in a real live book. Amazing! Who says that blogging doesn’t actually lead to fame and fortune??? And I’m serious here, too: Mr. Crowther’s book is a fascinating read. He tells wonderful heartwarming stories of his small-town childhood and other anecdotes of his life that I’m betting you’ll relate to. E-mail him at Crowther firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
I don’t know what time it is in your part of the world, but here in northwest Alabama/northeast Mississippi/southern middle Tennessee, it’s cotton-picking time. Cotton is a top crop in Alabama, and the counties in my corner of the state are among the top producers state-wide. (I looked that up at www.alfafarmers.org just to impress you all with my knowledge.) Cotton’s history in the South is a long and at times not an honorable one, but people all over — white, black, rich, poor — still have memories of back-breaking work in late-fall heat. I remember my maternal grandfather reluctantly sharing his less-than-happy cotton-picking experiences as a boy growing up near Jackson, Mississippi. Today, it’s pretty much huge machines that do the work, from what I can tell. And while it’s true that I know next to nothing about the cotton industry, I do think it’s encouraging that in our wireless nano-techno get-it-done yesterday world, sometime’s it still as simple as putting seeds in the ground … and hoping for the best.
It’s cotton-picking time in northwest Alabama. When we first moved here 13 years ago from middle Tennessee, my young daughters thought the cotton looked like snow on the fields this time of year — and I still think that! Farmers are in the midst of harvest right now, so the rest of us share the roads with hardworking traveling tractors and escaped flying cotton strands. Of course, everything’s all computerized and digitized in 2008, but many people who grew up country around here still remember picking by hand. I love driving by a mechanically harvested field with folks who know from experience
where the phrase “in high cotton”* comes from. They shake their heads and say in that “back-in-my-day” tone of voice, “Daddy would never have allowed us to leave the fields with so much cotton like that.”
But I love living someplace where tractors and cotton and dirt and gin (not the liquor!) reports on the morning radio are important.
* “In high cotton” means that the cotton plants are high enough so that you don’t have to stoop or bend over to pick it.