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Them Old Cotton Fields Back Home

Updated on May 29, 2017
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Cotton Fields

"When I was a little bitty baby
My mama would rock me in the cradle,
In them old cotton fields back home;

It was down in Louisiana,
Just about a mile from Texarkana,
In them old cotton fields back home.

Oh, when them cotton bolls get rotten
You can't pick very much cotton,
In them old cotton fields back home."

~Credence Clearwater Revival~

I can feel a song coming on.

— Rance Darlington

An unexpected and unseasonal deluge of recent rain had ruined half of a local farmer's cotton crop. Rance, and his wife Marion, had asked if Kathy and I would like to accompany them in picking cotton suitable for spinning. they had approached the farmer for permission and he had replied, "Just go for it!"

So, late one afternoon we set off with our supply of bio-degradable plastic shopping bags (good to reuse at times like this) and set off to the farm in a small rural community called Byee.

"Look at those cotton fields!" I exclaimed as I stepped out of the car and surveyed what appeared almost endless rows of cotton before me.

"I can feel a song coming on," my friend Rance said and he began to sing the first couple of lines of Cotton Fields (Them Old Cotton Fields Back Home). I'm not sure who sung it originally, but I know Credence Clearwater Revival, and Johnny Cash did versions. Anyway, I couldn't help but join in singing along to the catchy lyrics.

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Spinning Wheels
Spinning Wheels | Source

The Cotton Picking Crew

Four of us went cotton picking,

Just for something new.

Armed with plastic shopping bags,

We're the cotton picking crew.


The crop was ruined from too much rain.

The farmer gave the nod,

"Just go for it," was all he said.

He didn't give a sod.

Source


Much was full of sticks and grit,

Too difficult to clean,

But bolls half closed or higher up

Were perfect for our means.


Kathy and Marion are spinners,

They spin yarn on their wheels,

Then weave, knit, or crochet it,

Depending how they feel.


We spent an hour or maybe three

Walking up the rows.

Time flies when you're having fun,

So how long I don't know.


We tried to choose the cleanest bolls

And pick grit from the rest,

To make it easier at home.

It was slow and quite a test.


As we picked and bagged the cotton

A country song stuck in my mind,

Mississippi Cotton Pickin' Delta Town

By good old Charlie Pride.


Then Rance mentioned another,

Them Old Cotton Fields Back Home.

We sang these over in our heads

Until darkness turned us home.

Source

Mississippi Cotton Pickin' Delta Town

"In a Mississippi cotton pickin' delta town
One dusty street to walk up and down
Nothing much to do but hang around
In a Mississippi cotton pickin' delta
town…"

~Charlie Pride~

There must be a poem in this

— Rance Darlington

Boll Weavil

Being on the cusp of winter, the days are shortening and darkness fell early, forcing us to gather up the bags of cotton we had already picked and head for home. As we were walking back along the rows toward the car, Rance said, "There must be a poem in this." He knows I have published books of poetry, so he says this to me quite a lot :) It has actually inspired me to write a few poems that I may not have considered otherwise. Anyway, the above poem "The Cotton Picking Crew" is the result, so thank you, Rance.

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    • Jodah profile image
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      John Hansen 2 months ago from Queensland Australia

      No Shauna we didn't wear gloves as we only picked for a couple of hours before dusk. I could see how they would be needed if you were to spend a whole day picking. Glad you enjoyed the poem.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 months ago from Central Florida

      Love your poem, John. Did you wear gloves to pick cotton?

      When my mom was growing up in Missouri, they'd get out of school for a few weeks in April or May to help the families pick cotton. Mom says it was grueling work and very hard on the hands (scratches, etc.).

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 2 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you, Lawrence :) Cheers.

    • profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 months ago

      And a great little poem it is too!

      Loved it.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you for the addition of your fine poetic comment. Fortunately we picked it late afternoon when the sun was no longer blazing. Blessings back.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 3 months ago from Texas

      John,

      Picking cotton ain't no fun

      especially in the blazing sun

      It hurts too much to straighten up

      Got to pick enough to take to the gin

      Dirty and sweaty making you want to curse

      Which is a sin

      Beautiful hub, brings back memories of "The Last Hoedown."

      Blessings my friend.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks, Flourish, maybe I will post a photo of it when my wife spins some.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 months ago from USA

      Neat poem. I'd love to see someone actually turn it into yarn!

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Haha, thanks Paula. Always great to get your comments. Cheers.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 3 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Jodah......You always entertain. Now, how do I get this song out of my head for the remainder of the day?? LOL. Your friend is right....if there's poem somewhere, Jodah wrote it!! Paula

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you, Eddy. Great to get a comment from you and glad you enjoyed this.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 months ago from Wales

      Brilliant john I absolutely loved it and here's to so many more.

      Eddy.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you, MsDora. Bless you.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 months ago from The Caribbean

      The topic and the photos brought back memories of cotton-picking stories, and your poem sealed the deal. Good read!

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      GalaxyRat, most people today have never had the experience of picking cotton first hand, so you and I are among the privileged few. Thanks for reading and the kind comment.

    • GalaxyRat profile image

      GalaxyRat 3 months ago from The Crazy Rat Lady's House

      I love it, it's awesome. Not too long ago, I went to the Hermitage with my family, and we picked some cotton. I kept the cleanest in a bag, and it's tacked up on my wall.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Devika, thank you for reading and commenting. Glad you found this interesting.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Wow! A beautifully laid out hub! An interesting one about the cotton fields I had some idea of that history.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Yes, it was a great experience, Alyssa. Thanks for the kind comment.

    • Alyssa Nichol profile image

      Alyssa 3 months ago from Ohio

      What a memorable experience. Wonderful poetry!

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Hi Jo. I would never have imagined writing an article/poem about cotton picking either had I not had the unexpected opportunity to actually do it. The cotton was not suitable for commercial use, but fine for a small scale spinning.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 3 months ago from Tennessee

      I never expected a cotton picking tribute from someone down under. Cotton picking is done by machines here now, but was associated with slavery and sharecropping in our country.

      Great article, and I love the idea that you're using this otherwise useless product to make new things.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks, Larry. I actually enjoyed the picking.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma

      I've never picked it personally. Great read!

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 3 months ago

      John, your poem really hit home. I'm from the cotton pickin' South about 100 miles from Johnny Cash's hometown. I really appreciate your tribute to cotton picking and to the songs. The history of the song goes back to the 1940s with Lead Belly and then Harry Belafonte in the late 1950s. It had a great revival during the rockabilly days. Great stuff, my friend.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks Clive. You are so right that cotton picking would not bring back pleasant memories for certain races, in regard to slavery etc.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Yes, Mike, although I am now living in town it is still rural so there are farms all around. This town, Murgon, is actually called the beef capital of the South Burnett, but there is also cotton, peanuts, dairying etc. I hope you enjoy the music selection.

    • Debangee Mandal profile image

      DEBANGEE MANDAL 3 months ago from India

      Wonderful pics

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 3 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hi John - Seems you can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy. I guess, I should complain less around here, as I have not yet been asked to pick cotton. I am listening now to your musical selections.

      Great bit of inspiration for all of us.

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 3 months ago from Nibiru

      Very Nice. But picking cottons was not all good for all races. Just saying.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Rasma, thank you. It is good that I got you singing along. I almost bought a piece of land at a town called Tara here in Australia. Don't know if they have cotton fields there though.

    • Jodah profile image
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      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Linda, it is good that I was able to transport you to a cotton field in your mind. Thanks for reading.

    • Jodah profile image
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      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you, Venkat. Glad you enjoyed this.

    • Jodah profile image
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      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Eric, you are too kind. I think it is the ultimate compliment if a child enjoys something we write and want if re-read to them. The fact this prompted him to ask you questions is even bettering. Thanks, my friend.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Eric, you are too kind. I think it is the ultimate compliment if a child enjoys something we write and want if re-read to them. The fact this prompted him to ask you questions is even bettering. Thanks, my friend.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      John - I have never seen a cotton field, but your words took me there. Thank you for sharing this experience.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 3 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      This was a great hub. Got me singing and made me think of the cotton fields at Tara in Gone With the Wind.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      The first song I sang in a college town rock and roll bar. They would put me up there for some none rock and roll. I think I sung the original JC version.

      You're danged lucky you didn't need to pick a quota of bails. that will cut your fingers to the bone.

      Look at me going on and on. Thank you very much for this that I shared with my son, producing more questions than a 3rd grade class of 30 about the moon landing.

      You are awesome John. My son still asks me to read your Betelgeuse.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 3 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very interesting and entertaining. The poems are great and those composed by you are also very nice. Thanks, John, for this nice treat.

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 3 months ago from United States

      Brings back memories of days gone by. Well done my friend. Blessings to all. whonu

    • Whispering Night profile image

      MICKEY MOUSE 3 months ago from our World

      I never worked on a farm. But I know it is full of hard work. Quite laborious and all the sun's heat eating our head. Rain can be a blessing but it can also become a problem if it rains heavily. Sometimes I think it is fun to own a farm full of animals. But it is really a tedious life to run a farm.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Bill, this was the only time I have picked cotton, and there was no pressure. I can't imagine having to do it all day, day after day for a living.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Very nice response to the challenge of sorts. Have you ever picked cotton, John? No way would this boy do that day in and day out...I'd come home minus half my blood and permanently bent over. Tough work for tough people.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Welcome back, Ruby. I am glad you can relate to my experience at picking cotton. It is not easy but I wouldn't discount ever doing it again. I'm pleased that you enjoyed the Boll Weavil song too.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 months ago from Southern Illinois

      I'm listening to the video ' Boll Weavil ' and tapping my toe's. I went with a bunch of friends to pick cotton in Missouri. My son Jackie was little and he picked more than I did, then we both laid down on the sack, never again!

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      It is always great to receive your comments, Val. Yes, the oppressed or those exploited always managed to find ways to overcome the hardships by directing their attention to song and the like. Glad you liked my approach.

    • ValKaras profile image

      Vladimir Karas 3 months ago from Canada

      John---What a beautiful way to describe those times when nothing around but only human soul could inspire for a song; that same soul that has kept refusing to succumb to the hardships of any kind.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Praveen, glad this reminded you of the Sleeping Beauty story. Yes, there are many different types of spinning wheels for spinning cotton, wool, alpaca, and many other fibres and levels of fineness.

    • Whispering Night profile image

      MICKEY MOUSE 3 months ago from our World

      Thinking about cotton reminds me of the story of sleeping beauty. There are different kinds spinning wheels used to spin cotton.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you for sharing that, Mark. I am sure that picking cotton all day everyday would certainly not be done for fun.. At least some popular songs arose from it.

    • Mark Tulin profile image

      Mark Tulin 3 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      It's always nice to acknowledge those who worked on the fields. A lot of sweat and blood went into that work. Every time I pass the crouching workers in the fields of California I think of all the pain they must be experiencing in their body. Same with those who picked cotton in the south. They had to write songs to ease their suffering. It definitely wasn't out of joy.

    • Jodah profile image
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      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you, Tim. You are right, it isn't all that easy and I wouldn't want to do it as a full time job like they did in the past. I would like to have included more of the history of cotton but it is so long that was a big undertaking.

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 3 months ago from Escondido, CA

      Nice! Thanks for sharing the story of inspiration and your experience. Cotton has a long history and most don't know how hard it is to pick.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you, bro. I appreciate your kind comment, and it was the first too. Take care.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 3 months ago from london

      Nice incentive...excellent lyrics and great poetry.