Squash and gourds
Catfish and crawdads
COTTON IN THE YOCONA RIVER BOTTOMS, LAFAYETTE COUNTY, MS
The Yocona River is one of several streams running west through the north central hills to drain into the Yazoo basin. These small level bottoms form extensions of Delta environments into the surrounding uplands. West of the Mississippi, The Red and the Arkansas form extensions of Mississippi Valley-like environments out onto the Southern Plains, typified by cotton cultivation.
The name of the Yocona River come from its Choctaw name, Yakni (land) patalfa (plow/to plow/plowed). So does William Faulkner's mythical county, Yoknapatawpha. Bottoms like this are generally several miles wide and are bordered by steep bluffs and eroded hilly uplands.
Cotton became the main crop of the North Mississippi in the 1830. The Panola counties in MS and TX and the town of Panola LA derive their names from the Choctaw word for cotton, panola or ponola. Eroded loess hill land, used for cattle or timber production, was once highly productive cotton land. Today cotton is grown mostly in the bottoms of the hill country. In north Mississippi, we can be picking cotton anytime from September to December. Mechanized picking leaves some cotton in the field.
We used to haul cotton to the gin in trailers. In the 70s, my after school tasks included scrapping up any cotton spilled when the picker dumped into the trailer with the old white-oak splint baskets and cotton sacks. Today, it is packed into modules in the field, and a lot more stays on the ground. The modules are hauled to the new high-volume gins with special trucks. Like much of our cotton technology (aluminum pipe and then center pivot irrigation, strippers and boll buggies for crops caught half-open in winter) we got module builder technology from West Texas, where they are built by Big 12. Ours are built by KBH Corp. of Clarksdale MS, along with a lot of the other implements used in the Delta.
This is the new high volume cotton gin at Dublin, Coahoma County, Mississippi. There is an abandoned old gin south of the village. These photos were taken in the course of a water line extension survey for Moore Bayou Water Association in December 2004. Note the red truck parked under the shed. It is a module getter.
Here is a module getter. It hauls the cotton modules from the field to the gin. the bed tilts up at an angle like a wrecker, the driver backs up under the module, which rolls up the bed. It takes fewer trucks than it did trailers, but they cost a lot more than trailers did. Folks can pick faster not having to wait for trailers to get ginned and back to the field.
The truck drivers bring the cotton to a yard across the railroad tracks from the Dublin gin. in the old days of trailers the cotton yard seemed big, but they are a lot bigger today because there are fewer gins and because the whole crop can be held here awaiting ginning. Picking was finished and stalks were cut, but they were still ginning while I was doing the waterline survey. Note the "hairnets" on the modules to keep the rain off. Getting cotton out before the winter rain was a big problem with the speed of mechanized picking, because a farm was limited in how fast they could pick by the number of trailers they had. Still if they don't get the modules hauled, the modules on the low end of the field will be a long time in getting picked up. There is nothing under the module, so there is waste on the ground when the module leaves the field and again when it is taken from the cotton yard to the gin.
Gin at Jonestown, Coahoma Co. MS. 2007.
Gin at Belen, Quitman Co., MS. 2007.
farm store or commissary, Belen, Quitman Co., MS. 2007.
There are abandoned gin houses all over. This one is near Artesia, New Mexico (note tumbleweed). I saw two high volume gins and about a half dozen abandoned farm/co-op gins in this stretch of the Pecos River valley. In the area of the East Coast that returned to cotton in the 90s, they may haul cotton as far as they do in the West. These old gins are getting torn down pretty fast. I will try to put more pictures of them up here. I wonder what happened to the gin stands. Did they go to Asia or Africa?
Real old times--a log cotton house. In the sharecrop days, each tenant house had its own cotton house to store the cotton in as it was hand picked into sacks and baskets. Then came hauling it to the many gins, generally one on each plantation, in mule wagons. There are several of these old cotton houses around the abandoned gin at the old Adams Plantation (Claremont, Coahoma County, Mississippi). Sometimes the big boys slept in the cotton house in the fall to keep thieves away...Which reminds me of a poem my grandfather F.R. "Ned" Starr taught me:
Sister McGuire, she jumped in the fire.
The fire was so hot she jumped in the pot.
The pot was so black, she jumped in the crack.
The crack was so high, she jumped in the sky.
The sky was so blue, she jumped in the slough.
The slough was so deep, she jumped in the creek.
The creek was so shallow, she jumped in the tallow.
The tallow was so soft, the jumped in the loft.
The loft was so rotten, she jumped in the cotton.
The cotton was so white, she staid all night.
Tractors and land-leveling dirt-buggies, rice fileds along Coldwater River, Quitman Co., MS. Summer 2007.
Burning wheat stubble, Mississippian period mound in background on bank of Coldwater River,
south of Birdie, Quitman Co. MS. 2007.
Crosscut saws. Top, John Russell, died ca, 1850, had a sawmill at Lafayette Springs, Beat 2, Lafayette Co. MS.
Bottom three, Robert Horn, Taylor, MS.
Contact: Mary Evelyn Starr
Box 39, Sledge MS 38670
Phone (662) 444-5254
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