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1952's 'Heat Wave" Also Hurt Bootheel Folks

Posted Saturday, July 7, 2012, at 10:51 AM

It was 60 years ago that the heat wave of 1952 settled over the Bootheel. I recall the tortureous sweltering heat like it was yesterday.

Three things I particularly recall from long ago 1952: First, I recall the terror, from seeing Momma Whittle suffering a "heat stroke". Having lost my father in a grinding car crash in 1950, fear gripped my boyish soul that we were about to lose Mother as we witnessed the red splotches and whelps on her head and torso, as older sister June and I helped her down from the John Deere tractor she'd been cultivating soybeans.

"I got too hot, climbing up and down off the tractor, to take away the clinging vines and weeds from the plow points," I recall Mother sharing as sister applied cold towels and washrags to our parents' feverish forehead.

Mother survived being overcome with the heat, but was never able to work out in the sun for extended periods of time again.

Two, that was the year I witnessed Mother shed tears for the second time in my young life. It happened when an early summer "hail storm" struck our farm.

Not soon will I forget the forlorn look on Mother's face as she knelt on her knees, to show the hail had stripped the tiny sprouted leaves from our cotton plants.

"It's too late to replant the cotton," Mother shared.

The only other time I'd witnessed tears from Mother was at Daddy's funeral two years earlier.

The third thing that sticks out from the year 1952 of our Lord and savior, was my prayer asking God "not to make me no cotton picker when I grow up."

See, prayer works, for it's been a long time since I've had to strap on one of those nine-foot cotton sacks.

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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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