During the many years that my dad was in the Air Force, he was only separated from us one year, when he was in Goose Bay Labrador, Canada. During that year, he moved our trailer to my grandparent's back yard in Abilene, Texas. This is the hometown of all the family, so we have many relatives here. During that year Mom would help out at my uncle's cotton farm. I was 4 years old, but I remember trying to pick the cotton along with the adults. It is a soft, fluffy fiber that grows in a boll, or protective case around the seeds of the plant. I remember getting stuck by the sharp brown boll and I didn't like it, so from then on, I rode on the cotton sack, which was the common practice of most of the children. The children did not run through the fields and play. We were told, "This is work time and we don't have time to worry about the little ones." The babies and toddlers were 'gathered' into a central area close to the house and cars where there was shade. A few of the adults would supervise and care for them throughout the day. During the hottest part of the day, everyone took a long break. The picnic lunches brought from home were shared, and it was a great time for relaxation and a little nap.

This was the only exposure I had to cotton until I was grown and married. After living in the center of cotton country for so many years, it is hard to imagine people not having a knowledge of the crop. However, when I moved here, I was very fascinated by it. Just as I am unfamiliar with the production of rice or some other crop grown in another country, I would be eager to have a hands-on experience, should I have the opportunity. After harvest, it is common to see tourists stopped by the roadside to snatch some 'white stuff' from the ground that had been left. The cotton gin has been improved tremendously until now cotton is harvested by a 'stripper' primarily used in Texas. It is a self-propelled machine that removes lint and seed-cotton from the plant at up to six rows at a time.

' Ernie's Cotton Patch' is the normal field one sees in West Texas and other parts of the country from Spring through the months that follow until Fall and harvest. When Spring brings bad weather, some farmers are 'hailed-out'. If it is early enough in the season, they can replant. However, if not, they have to determine if it is feasible to start over or just collect on the insurance. After harvest, the land rests for several months before the process begins again.

"Ernie's Cotton Patch" is an 18" x 24" (45.72 x 60.9 cm) oil painting on canvas.