To the Editor:

Cotton is the most valuable nonfood crop on this planet. More economy is based on this fiber than can be measured.

A once-wild plant has been around the world for a very long time. There is a culture around the world for a very long time. There is a culture of cotton. Some of that involved subjugation of people.

Everything was done by hand long ago. Tractors and gins replaced some of the labor. Mechanical harvesters replaced the pickers. People no longer had to drag 9-foot sacks all day down mile-long rows. A few could pick 100 pounds a day. A laundry basket full of raw cotton might weigh just over a pound.

Family stories tell of using knee pads because the cotton was barely a foot high on poor soil in a dry year. It was hauled to the gin in wagons. One year, scorpions were in every other boll, hit you in the palm of your hand. Drop some hot oil off the tractor dip stick on it and keep pickin.’ They had to ride out on the wagon tongue because the scorpions covered the wagon box.

In the Crash of ’29, cotton went for up to 5 cents a pound. Entire families walked the roads carrying hoes or sacks to ask for work/food. The only color in the country was poor.

Texas still produces about 25 percent of the cotton in this industry. Ninety years ago, Killeen had five gins — not one in the county now.

The word cotton carries a lot of images. The recent fuss is about someone who let their California urban show. The central California valley has lots of cotton they are unaware of.

A stalk of cotton or a memorial statue means different things to different folks. We know that it takes 48 inches of tropical rain to remove the perception of difference people have of each other. When the boat comes, you don’t care who brought it or who is already in it.

Pompei, 9/11, Harvey and all major events through time bring us to that basic humanity, and we always forget when we recover.

As for white men in hats at Cracker Barrel, I am one of them. Guess you missed the day I sat on a bench outside visiting with a black friend about what the storm might do to the folks at the coast. Also the day my hat and boots tipped off two black men. So we took it outside. But we had a fine visit.

Like the fabric of our lives, this country does have some rips now.

Cotton takes a patch real well. Ask anyone of any color who used to wear them. Time to sew.

Wayne Duncan

Killeen

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