My Papa, Edgar Doyle, picking cotton

MEMORIES OF AUTUMN

By CHRISTINA DOYLE SPEAR

 A

utumn was harvest time when the crops were gathered and stored for winter and cotton was picked as the main money crop. Mama took my brother C.E. and me to the field to pick cotton even after Papa stopped farming. We each had our own child-size cotton sack to put the cotton in. It was made of heavy duck with a wide strap to go over the shoulder and a metal ring on one corner of the bottom of the sack to hang over the hook of the scale when the cotton was weighed.

At first we picked on Mamaís row but when we were older we had our own row. When the sack was full we took it to the wagon where it was weighed on a beam scale with a weight called a pea. The weigher knocked off so many pounds for the weight of the sack. He kept a record of how much each person picked and paid us at the end of the week.

We were paid at the rate of a penny a pound. I tried very hard to pick 100 pounds a day so I would make a whole dollar but never was able to pick that much. I could pick more than 50 pounds in the morning but got too tired in the afternoon to pick enough to make 100 pounds.

School didnít start until early October when most of the cotton was harvested. We never missed school to pick cotton but sometimes we picked on Saturday.

There were other chores to be done in connection with the harvest. When it rained we sat in the barn on a nail keg and picked off peanuts or shelled dried beans and peas, or shelled popcorn or corn to be taken to the mill for cornmeal. We picked up sweet potatoes and pulled gourds and pumpkins.

We never worked on Sunday. After church we went for walks in the woods to look for pretty colored leaves, wild muscadines, hickory nuts or black walnuts.

The fun things we did in autumn were to parch a pan of peanuts to eat while we played Rook or make popcorn balls or sorghum taffy.

These were happy times in spite of the hard work.

(The author is a member of the White County Historical Society.)