We left home at 7:30 this morning heading for Okaloosa Island, Florida for our annual Thanksgiving getaway. As we began the drive through South Georgia and on into Alabama, we passed field after field of cotton ripe for harvest, being harvested, and in HUGE compressed bales waiting to be loaded onto trucks to be sent to the local gin.
I couldn't help but think of how simple the process is now in comparison to the hand picking which used to be done by slaves and sharecroppers. If you have never touched the spiky pod which holds the bloom of cotton, you can't imagine how sharp those points are. I can visualize the bloodied hands of those who had to pick the soft cotton from the prickly pod. It must have taken hundreds of people hundreds of hours to pick it and their backs had to ache as their hands became bloodied. I can imagine that many of those bloodied hands even became infected.
How different things are now. The fields are harvested by huge machinery and the cotton in dumped into the back of the equipment where it is compressed into huge bales which are then covered with plastic before being loaded onto trucks to go to the gin. The machines are certainly faster, but not necessarily more efficient, as you see a lot of the cotton left behind by the harvesters. Surely those who picked it by hand, and were paid by the pound if they were paid at all, didn't leave behind as much as the harvesters. There is a lot of waste with the cotton that is left behind...but the time consumed in harvesting is certainly much less...so I guess it all balances out.
It was not difficult to picture how important this crop was to early Southerners and how much has changed since the days when cotton was first grown as a cash crop in this Country. Now most of the cotton grown here is shipped elsewhere to be turned into clothing, towels and other items. Most of the mills which dotted the South have moved overseas and left empty hulks of buildings behind and thousands of lost jobs.
Our Country was built on the backs of hardworking farmers and laborers who helped create and maintain the growing cotton. Times have certainly changed, and we have lost something in the process. We need to grow more jobs in this Country and soon. We need to start small businesses and revitalize the American Dream before it is lost forever. It is going to take ALL of us to do this. We can not count on Congress or the Senate or any Committee to do this...we must all take part in the process.
This year I encourage you to shop locally. Buy products made by local companies, give gifts of a hairstyle from the local beauty salon, oil changes or tires from a local garage, groceries from your local store...and on and on. Let's all start working toward rebuilding the American we grew up with so that our children and grandchildren can share in the American Dream.
Happy Thanksgiving ...