I think I have mentioned here before that my father was a cotton farmer. He raised other crops as well but cotton was the money crop. Thus, a lot of my childhood memories, not all of them pleasant, revolve around cotton fields. But time has a way of casting a rosy glow around our memories - some of them anyway. So it came to be that I decided to plant my own cotton crop this year.
Last year, Bob and I visited Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historical Site and toured the Barrington historical working farm there. It was autumn when we were there and there were still some bolls of cotton in one of their fields. With the permission of the historical interpreter who was showing us around, Bob picked a few of the fluffly white bolls and brought them home with him. He later picked out the seeds, put them in an envelope marked "1906 Heirloom Cotton Seeds" and gave them to me.
In addition to these seeds, I had some naturally brown cotton seeds that a friend who is a weaver had given me several years ago. I've no idea if they are still viable, but, this spring, I decided that I would plant a few of the seeds from both collections. I set aside one of the 8' x 4' beds in my vegetable garden to be my "cotton field" and waited for the weather to get hot. Last week, as the temperature climbed toward 90 degrees, I judged that it was time. I prepared the bed and planted my seeds. Afterward, I turned the sprinkler on to "rain" on the bed for a while. Cotton is a dry weather crop but it still needs some moisture to germinate.
Looking at my handiwork afterwards, I thought about what my father, who has been gone for thirteen years now, would say if he could see me planting cotton seeds in my vegetable garden. When he was able to pick himself up off the ground and stop laughing, I think he would probably say, "Dorothy Jean, why in the world are you using perfectly good ground where you could be planting beans or squash to plant a measley bit of cotton that won't do anybody any good?"
"Well, Daddy," I might say, "your birthday is coming up next Monday and so I thought I'd do it as a birthday present for you."
My practical Daddy would probably look at me like I'd lost my mind, but I would just smile.