Saturday, November 15, 2014
These pictures are of Cotton fields off of Hwy 82 in South Georgia in November. The cotton looks like a blanket of white snow. I had to stop the car when I saw the vast white landscape of the fields. My grandfather Smith had a cotton farm in Alabama and he worked his entire life in cotton mills as did several of my uncles and aunts. My parents worked in cotton mills when I was preschool age and elementary age. I remember my mother coming home with cotton stuck in her hair. It was hard work and she was tired and sleepy all the time. The BBC drama 'North and South' has played on Public Broadcasting several times and the drama series reminder me of what it was like for my parents and me living in drafted cotton mill houses with river rats running under my bed during the night. My young parents worked the second and third shifts which is evening and night shifts and I did not see them during the week, only on weekends. Our cotton mill houses were located close to the Chattahoochee River. I played on that river bank many times and have fond memories of playing with my friends who were as poor as me. We played baseball with sticks and plums and used old tree stumps as bases. It was fun improvising games off the river bank. I am the granddaughter and daughter of cotton mill workers. I am very proud of their perseverance and determination to work diligently so they could offer their children a better life.
The cotton mills are now closed and converted to stores, restaurants, college classrooms and museums but I will never forget the hard struggles of the families who worked those mills. I remember standing in line at the Community center to receive free polio shots. I never was vaccinated as a child because my parents could not afford it. As a result, I was often sick and had every childhood disease of the day. Due to poor health and illness, I was hospitalized several times and I wonder who footed the bills. I did not see a dentist until I was 13 years old and it was through the free services of the health department and all he could do was pulled my tooth because he was not allowed to fill teeth for cavities. My grandmother made my school clothes out of flour sacks and fabric that she purchased in a country grocery store. I'm not complaining because when I look back, I was active, happy, and had a creative imagination and the greatest treasure a child can have: Love and the majestic outdoors as my playground.
The image is from the BBC North and South mini series 2004. The swirling cotton in the air was typical of the cotton mills of the south where my young parents worked. I still have memories of cotton all over my mom's hair and clothes.
As I have remember my childhood, I still live in a free society with privileges and rights that gives me hope for our future that many in our world do not have so I want to honor and remember veterans for their bravery and sacrifices. Their stories need to be told. They must never be forgotten.
For Veterans Day a poem by John McCrea
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Following the death of his friend - Alexis Helmer - during the Second Battle of Ypres, Major John McCrae (a Canadian medical doctor from Guelph, Ontario) wrote "In Flanders Fields."
McCrae's poem was published in the British magazine, Punch, in December of 1915. It was soon printed elsewhere, including the United States (then contemplating whether to join the war).
During the late afternoon of April 22, 1915, the Second Battle of Ypres began. (The First Battle of Ypres took place during the autumn of 1915.) The Second Battle produced mass casualties: Finally, after four days of severe fighting, most of the Canadian forces were withdrawn on 26 April . About 6000 officers and men of the Canadian Division had been killed, wounded, captured, or had simply disappeared.