Richardson: Cotton picking time

I remember back in 1954 about this time of year middle to late October.

I can not say I picked much cotton, I did try picking for one day and and at the end of the day I had picked almost 40 pounds, not very much. I could do mush better working in tobacco.

But this is another story of growing up in the 50s.

By Howard Richardson My Life Retold

By Howard Richardson
My Life Retold

It was time to pick cotton, we had some people picking cotton and each afternoon just about time for it to be getting dark we would go the the field with the tractor and trailer and weigh the cotton that each person had picked that day and pay them for each pound that they had picked. I believed it was about ten 10 cent a pound. Then we would each sheet of cotton unto the trailer and take it to be put in the barn to keep it dry until we were ready to take it to the gin.

On Friday afternoon we would all the cotton on the trailer tie it down and cover it with a canvas to keep it dry. Then on Saturday morning about 6:O’clock am we would leave to drive the tractor to Hamlet to the cotton gin, when we got there we would get in line to have the cotton ginned in the order that you arrived at the gin. While you were waiting you could look around see how the gin worked talk to other people, see old friends make new ones are any thing but you had to be ready to move up in line as each load of cotton was ginned.

Later when it was your turn you had to empty each cotton sheet on the cement floor so the suction could pick it up and move it to the gin. Where the gin would remove the cotton seed and any trash that happen to be in it. Then the gin would pack the cotton into bails of about 500 pounds each then the inspector would come by and take a simply to check and grade, the better grade the better the price. Then he would figure up how much the cotton was worth and pay you for it. Then if you were lucky you might get a coke and maybe a bar of candy. To eat on the way home.

I remember one as what I think was the best of times was one Saturday morning my dad told me I was the one that was going to take tha load of cotton to the gin that morning and have it ginned and bring the check home. I really thought I was grownup at the old age of 13 years old. But I found out it was all just in growing up. And a lot of hard work. In growing cotton. In order to start all over again.

Richmond County native Howard Richardson is author of “My Life Retold,” available on

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