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Hartselle Enquirer

Living in the short rows

By A. Ray Lee

Columnist

Some mornings I sit quietly on the patio with my coffee and watch the light of a new day creep across Lee Acres where I spent my childhood and youth on a small family farm. I left the farm at age seventeen and did not return to live here until many years later. The land remains the same but its appearance and use have drastically changed. My house sits where the old stockyard and barns once housed the farm animals so vital to our livelihood.

Many recurring projects were required for a successful farm, but at the center of everything was the cotton crop. The very survival of the farm and the family revolved around the all-consuming labor required to produce and bring in the harvest in a pre-mechanized age.

All hands were required. The challenges to a successful crop included the elements of weather, boll weevils, armyworms, and parasitic grasses and weeds which sprouted over night robbing the young cotton plants of nutrients they needed. A cultivator and hoes to stir the soil and remove the grass from between the plants were in constant use from late May through much of July when the cotton was “laid by”. Cotton picking time came in late August and continued until the last boll was snatched from its burr in November.

A cotton patch that once bordered my backyard has long been replaced with trees. It was the largest of three fields and the last to be picked. The size and shapes of each field required both long and short rows to utilize every foot of fertile ground. We picked the long rows first which seemed to take forever. But when we came to the short rows we knew the end was in sight. The last load would soon be ginned and we could enjoy the benefits of the harvest. Fingers bleeding from the prickly burrs would heal. Backs which had bent low for weeks on end would straighten and the pain from tired muscles would ease. Financial accounts would be settled. Less strenuous days lay ahead as winter approached. Our faith and hopes for a good harvest had been rewarded.

Many of you, like me, are now living in the “short rows” of life. Winter is coming soon for us. We have faced many challenges in life, but we have persisted in faith with hope. The Apostle Paul has written: “If in this life only we have hope we are of all men most miserable. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory.” Amen and amen!

 

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