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Cotton Patch Religion???Posted Tuesday, October 4, 2011, at 8:24 AM
This 'cotton-picking' column is dedicated to former Bootheel neighbors Jim McDermott and Garry Lewis, who grew up, like me, in cotton fields of the Bootheel.
McDermott hit the "cotton patch" at age 4. Garry hit it at age 6. I strapped on my first cotton sack (converted flour sack) at age 5.
Jim grew up around Portageville. Garry survived the cotton fields between Essex and Gray Ridge to become a Navy fighter pilot and now, a retired lawyer.
Can't speak for those two, but I had my first "religious experience" in the cotton field. It's listed on today's modern computers on Google as "Cotton Field Religion." I call it "cotton field Hades!!"
In 2003, shortly before her death from pancreatic cancer, Momma Whittle asked if I recalled my first "cotton patch prayer" on that fateful first day of actual cotton picking.
"I not only remember it...I recall it word-by-word: 'Big God, this is Little Danny Whittle. Big God, if you don't mind, don't make me no cotton picker when I grow up."
Mother chuckled there in her sick bed, before asking why I've always referred to God as "Big God."
Our beloved farm neighbor, Mommie Gowan, may the Good Lord rest her sweet ol' soul,prayed a lot, and always referred to the Lord as "Big God."
"As a little boy, I thought that was His name," I replied.
Mother smiled at that explanation, and slipped off to sleep as her latest injection of pain medicine mercifully took effect. She died two weeks later. but not before we got to share some cotton patch memories...!
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Retired recently as world-traveled newspaperman, career made possible by late Superintendent of Schools Robert L. Rasche, about to have Bootheel life book published by SEMO State University. Loved farm life, but knew at five years old, didn't want to be a "cotton picker" when I grew up.
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