Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cotton Pickin’

I used to spend my early summers in North Carolina. Every year was the same thing: I would look for a job in town the first few weeks, which were always pretty scarce. One year I took a position in the cotton fields.

It didn't seem too bad at first: the pay was pretty good for outdoor labor. I was to follow the massive machines that mechanically lifted the majority of the cotton crop and pick up remnants the great machines left behind. How hard could it be? And $6.00 an hour at 18 years of age seemed like a tidy sum at the time.

But it ended up being damn near unbearable. It was inhumanly hot. The sun bear down on us like napalm-smeared bayonets. I don’t think I’d ever sweat so much in my life.
My co-workers ran the gambit: students like me, older folks who had been let go from jobs at local factories who were struggling to make ends meet, and young, drug-addled burnouts.
The days dragged on like weeks.

We all had one thing in common though: we were all black. So you can imagine a long, linear crowd of us in the soul–burning sun, gathering cotton and dropping them into canvas bags, being watched over by the (for the most part) white supervisory staff.
My mind would drift and I felt like was like traveling back in time. Was it, all those years ago, like this? Am I experiencing retroactive déjà vu? Probably not, I concluded. But it still really, really sucks.

I think I lasted a week.
I ended up spending the rest of the summer making $3.35 at Burger King.

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