Each year, I intend to set the pedometer on my phone to see how many steps/miles I rack up during the two days of the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show, walking over that big convention center. Somehow I never remember to do it. Suffice it to say, it’s a lot.
Those of us who’ve been attending this event for many years always come away with a warm feeling for those with whom we cross paths — farmers, ginners, company reps, Extension/research specialists, a cross-section of salt-of-the-earth folks who make up the planet’s most efficient, most productive agriculture. It’s kinda like a big reunion, where you happily encounter those you haven’t seen since last year, plus new acquaintances.
Usually there is a standout memory or two, an act of kindness witnessed, heartfelt words spoken in an unexpected setting — someone, off the cuff, eloquently, almost poetically, putting into words feelings that others have experienced, but not verbalized.
The following, with only a couple of minor edits, is an example. The setting was the annual meeting of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association, and David Blakemore, Campbell, Mo., ginner and new president of the National Cotton Ginners Association, was wrapping up his talk on the state of the ginning industry. With a photo of some of his grandchildren on the screen, he said this:
“I look at this photo, and I ask myself: Why do I do this? Why do I work in a cotton gin, to be awakened at two in the morning and be told the tramper’s not working, that we’ve got to have a part out of Memphis? It’s a two hour drive down there, and nobody’s going to be awake when you get there. So, you get on the phone and wake other people in the middle of the night and ask, ‘Do you have this part?’
“I know you’ve asked yourselves: Why do I do this? Why do I put up with the pressures of a 24/7 ginning operation? Is it worth it? But each of you who’ve made a cotton gin a part of your life will know instantly what I’m talking about — the one thing that touches me each fall when I walk into the gin the first day of operation: the like-no-other smell of cotton being ginned. When you walk over and get a handful of cotton from the gin stand and pull the fibers apart, there’s nothing like that distinctive feel of raw cotton. You bite a few seeds, even though you know they’re dry. But you do it anyhow.
“The smell when I walk into that cotton gin is hope — hope that we all make it through the season safely, hope that we’ll make some money so we can do it again next year, and hope that one day one of these grandchildren will know this experience that I cherish.”