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  1. What an American holiday – July 4th.   One Independence Day sticks in my mind.  Years, actually decades ago in Alabama, specifically Hogs Hollow, where via Greyhound Bus I’d been sent to visit my Aunt Rosie.  My mother’s sister lived on a back woods farm and did have hogs that hollered, loud continuous grunts.  No Dear Reader, this city girl had never seen live hogs in a pen nor used an out-house before.  Have you?
    If you’ve never used an old country out-house, think of the last time you were in a Porto-San.  Replace the molded plastic surrounding you with slats of rickety wood you can see through.  Now think, “How could having my underwear around my ankles in this putrid, 2’ x 5’ box be MORE UNCOMFORTABLE?”  Got a picture?  Now add a wasp’s nest decorating the ceiling and on the floor, instead of Cottonelle toilet paper, a Sears and Roebuck catalogue for wiping.

    I was neck deep in back country living.  I’m talking moonshine, which my Aunt Rosie called White Lightning and sold in Mason Jars, dirt roads and drawing water from a well.  I was a 10 years old from the North.  A Brooklyn (Bed-Stuy) going to Catholic school with white kids gal spending the summer in the segregated South .  
    It was a hot, non-airconditioned July 3rd and I asked Aunt Rosie what I could do the following day?  She mentioned my cousins would be picking cotton the next day to earn money to buy school clothes.  I thought picking cotton could be fun.  In all the movies I’d seen with folks picking cotton, they were singing as the fluffy balls of white swayed around them.  How bad could it be?


    My first inkling was a 4 AM wake up shout to get out of bed so we could make it to the fields by 5 that morning.  After my crack of dawn trip to indulge in the amenities of the aforementioned out-house I was in a truck with a gaggle of cousins and on my way to pick cotton.

    At the cotton field I was given a sack, about as long as I was tall, to loop over my shoulder.  I was pointed to a row and told to pick.  No demo, no pre-cotton picking snack, just row after row of raw cotton on low hanging, (surprise!) prickly vines stretching out to the horizon.

    I stepped into my row and noticed my 5 year old cousin June Bug and EVERYONE else was about three city blocks ahead of me.  I adjusted my gunny sack for the nth time and reached to pluck a cotton boll.  It was resistant to my untrained hand.  The multiple pricks on the vine attacked my lower extremities and dared me to touch the softness that billowed above them.  I looked to the row on my left for cousin June Bug whose gunny sack shimmied along the dusty earth at an alarming rate as she captured cotton boll after cotton boll with incredible precision for a 5 year old.

    I finally got the first boll of cotton in my sack and thought of my friends and cousins in Brooklyn in
     Coney Island or Prospect Park for a day of hijinks, hot dogs and fireworks.



    My nearly empty sack trailed behind me as visions of Coney Island’s surf, Playland rides and cotton candy danced in my head.  By 10 AM I was hot, tired and convinced there was nothing to sing about in these cotton fields.  I tried to use the financial incentive of a dollar a pound to keep my cotton picking  motivated, but to no avail. I wanted the cooling comfort of an open fire hydrant on my block.


     Maybe a cherry shaved ices from the ices man or a simple game of jacks on the stoop; anything but this cotton picking - cotton picking!

    At noon a bell rang calling pickers to water dipped from a bucket.  My cousins suddenly appeared with bulging sacks of cotton in tow.  After my noon time sip of water I knew I could not and would not return to my woefully un - harvested row of cotton.  I quietly asked for my sack to be weighed and took my two quarters earned.  

    I was homesick and sick of cotton.  The paltry fifty cents I’d “worked” for was little consolation as I cried in the shade of the only tree for miles.  The unrelenting rows of cotton mocked me as I pined for the concrete joys of Bed-Stuy.  

    At dusk I tumbled into the truck with my cousins and thought , “My birthday’s only six days away, there’ll be celebrating THAT day!”  I’d be wrong again…


    Happy 4th of July!!!


    Rhonda Hansome is a comedian, writer, director and actress.  You can see her live on stage as the Bar Owner / Host  in Date Me Do Me Dump Me July 5th, 18-21 & 26-28.   Look for information about her documentary film Drama Mamas, celebrating black women theater directors..  
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  2. 5 comments:

    1. I enjoy your writing. Thanks for showing us what life is like for many here in the U.S. of A. The photo of you in the water in a red dress is grrrreeeaat!

    2. Sharon Renay said...

      Yes, thank you for sharing. I do know what it's like to use an outhouse and be afraid that somethings going to fly right up your Trixie delight. And yes that picture of you is awesome!

    3. Sharon Renay said...

      Yes, thank you for sharing. I do know what it's like to use an outhouse and be afraid that somethings going to fly right up your Trixie delight. And yes that picture of you is awesome!

    4. Rhonda said...

      Pals thanks for the comments. I WISH that was me in that photo - just a great image from the net...

    5. She So Funny said...

      That was a great post. Though it wasn't a cotton field, my mom used to send me to "the farm" in Lancaster Cty. PA. Equally as rustic for a city girl like me. xo, Samantha

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