Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Last Cotton Field

The K-Bar was actually more of a farm than a ranch. Papa was a dairy farmer from the midwest, (born in Iowa, raised in Missouri and Wisconsin,) and after going broke in West Texas during the depression, (The Great One,) he moved his family east. In Angelina County he operated a dairy and small cotton farm.
The cotton operation was small. All the plowing was done by horse or mule, the planting, chopping and harvesting done by hand. After World War 2 cotton prices fell and boil weevils flourished in humid East Texas. By the mid fifties most of the cotton production had left this area and had gone west. Papa believed in cotton, and did not give up. He kept his cotton allotment and continued to work it as a cash crop. By the early sixties he was one of the last cotton farmers in the county.
Before giving up and accepting the fact that the cotton industry had changed permanently, he wanted his grandchildren to experience the joy of cotton, (the plant, not the cloth.) This field was his last one that he worked. He plowed with Old General, had a hand planter so he didn't have to bend over, used the hoes to thin the stand, (chopping) and then expected his elementary school (and younger,) grandsons to help pick and harvest. This field was between a pond, (the West Pond,) Hottel Creek and a swamp-all of which were much more interesting than picking cotton by hand. Even though Mama had hand sewn some tow-sacks for cotton sacks for the kids, Papa found it much easier just to pick the cotton himself.
The final issue was getting the cotton ginned. At one point there were cotton gins all over Angelina County-including one less than a hundred yards from this field. However, the last gin in the county had closed by the early sixties. Papa then had to carry his cotton to Nacogdoches to be ginned, but the gins in that county soon closed as well. The last place he went was in Crockett, but the hundred mile round trip was not worth it.
The last cotton field is now know as the West Meadow. It is sandy creek bottom soil and can really grow grass, but when it has been ignored and not mowed for a year or two, it grows weeds and pine saplings well too.

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