February 17, 2017
Many years ago, in the 50’s, Mi Papa y Mama worked in the fields. He mainly moved pipas/linias (moved irrigation lines). But, when he wasn’t doing that they both worked in the fields. Which was determined by the time of the year. It may be hoeing weeds, thinning, picking fruits, etc. Mi Mama was recognized as a “champion cotton picker.” Which meant she was very fast and agile. Mi Mama was known to pick 500 lbs. or more of cotton per day. In addition to what Mi Papá made. This was their way of life.
As a teen-ager I picked cotton two or three times with my sister Manuela, and we though we would literally die. A neighbor had taken us, Doña Valvina. I have a few pictures of Mi Mama with us as children and we looked like we were from a third world country. We lived in “campos,” (agricultural camps) our clothes were either too small or too big and our haircuts were when we whacked our own hair!Not something I am proud of, but I am not ashamed either. Most of you who know me know I feel very strongly that it is all of our experiences that make us who we are. And, I feel deeply committed to the woman I am today. I “talk the talk” and “walk the walk” because of my experiences, not something I have read in a manual. Unfortunately, Mi Mama married Mi Papa and “fixed his papers” since he was from Mexico. Mi Mama was born in Chicago. I will never understand why, but will leave it at, she was “in love,” or temporarily insane! Without dwelling on this part of the story since it is not about Mi Papa, but picking cotton. He plays a small role in this story for historical significance. Picking cotton is very difficult work. You have a belt buckle around your waist with metal hooks attached on each side. The canvas cotton sack is slipped over the hooks. You drag the sack between your legs as you fill it with the cotton. The cotton bulb was prickly also. Besides it being hot, dusty and you are stooped over for hours. Once you filled the cotton sack you ran up to the front and had your cotton sack weighed, you receive a little stub indicating the poundage. And, then you rush off to the ladder leaning against the trailer and lift your sack up to the trailer and dump all the cotton out. And, when I say rush, I felt compelled because I saw everyone around me rushing. You can imagine my young sister and I. In retrospect, this was probably more like a comedy scene. We didn’t want to put too much cotton in the sack because we wouldn’t be able to carry and lift the sack of cotton up the ladder to be dumped into the trailer.We mustered all the strength we had and dragged the cotton sack to the end of the field. Where we would have our sack weighed. We could just taste all the money we were going to make!It weighed approximately 150 lbs. now the task of taking it up the stairs. There was no one there to help. And, the other workers were running to make their money. Finally, someone felt sorry for us and did us the favor of dumping out our cotton. Thank goodness or we might still be there. Now, we were not running as we felt no sense of urgency. We made every excuse to not return; we had to drink water, then we had to go the bathroom, more water, finally we went back. Deciding to make this an adventure. I Thank God, our family was not depending on our earnings.We returned back to our row and continued to pick. As my sister, Manuela went in front making little piles of cotton for me as I came along and picked them and stuffed them into the cotton sack. Whistling, humming, singing and joking the whole time we repeated this cycle once more. We made a total of $3.00 that day. I gave my sister one, I kept one and Doña Valvina wanted a dollar for gas, for having taken us to the cotton field. Unbelievable, since we didn’t want to be there anyway. She invited us!My sister and I bought a Twinkie and a soda pop at the lunch wagon and there went our hard earned money! We arrived home empty-handed. Mi Mamá was cool and explained it away as a good lesson. It was.
Thank you Father