Last Friday, in Tulare California, I stood before a crowd of 20 people – ready to start the pre-season seminar. In the back sat Mom and Dad.
At the first break, everyone wanted to know, “Who are the two new people? Are they new to the cotton industry?” I introduce my parents saying they are natives to this area, and then ask my Dad to tell them a little bit about his background. He told them he started in the Ag Chemical industry back in ’56. Fifty two years ago – he was in this very valley – walking cotton fields.
After the introduction I continue my presentation, talking about how a computer chip embedded in the strapping of the moduled cotton transmits a GPS location to the office, and our software receives this information which notifies a clerk a module has been made and is ready to be picked up.
When Dad was involved in cotton, it was harvested into trailers, not modules. Modules are huge compressed bundles of cotton. The module builder looks like a trash compactor, and indeed that’s what happens. The cotton is compacted so tightly, via a hydraulic ram, that it maintains its brick like shape. All twenty thousand plus pounds smashed so tightly it can be moved onto the back of a truck via a chainlike feeder.
Trailers had no compaction – so it took more trips from field to the gin to bring in the crop. The farmer hauled the load himself, so there was no need to track the location. Each trailer had an ID number indicating who the cotton belonged to and which farm it came from. That is just one of the technology changes between then and now that my dad noticed.
After the seminar, I went to Mom and Dad’s hotel room – where we hung out and talked until my friend Megan showed up. There was more talking, catching up – then we went to dinner; a steakhouse where I had a nice skirt steak, some “Fancy Green Beans”, and sautéed mushroom caps. Returning to the hotel Megan and I sat in bed – yacking before turning off the lights for bed.
I was up fairly early Saturday morning packing my suitcase once again. One final breakfast with the 'Rents and Megan, then we drove to my cousins’ house, a mere twenty minutes away in Exeter, for a mini-family reunion. It was great. I saw aunts, uncles, first and second cousins I haven’t seen in a year or two. Plus – there was mounds of FOOD! Everyone brought something to grill and a side dish/dessert to share. Mom and I made Tomato Bread Salad and Molasses Buttermilk Ice Cream. Both were resounding successes.
All too early in the afternoon I left for LA. Three hours and 190 miles later I met a friend for dinner. We ate (way too much) at a small tapas bar in Santa Monica. I begged off walking along the promenade and headed to the hotel in hopes of getting a good nights sleep.
Five AM came FAR TOO QUICKLY Sunday morning. An early flight from LAX to Arkansas delivered me to Little Rock in time to meet some friends for dinner before heading down to Pine Bluff.
Monday was a seminar in PB with a co-worker (he did the presentation while I wrote a critique, filled in the gaps, and answered questions he didn't know how to handle). Another pack up the bags, then drive to Memphis where we arrived in the middle of a blinding rain storm.
Tuesday I was up at five AGAIN – so I could ride with a different coworker to Blytheville, Arkansas where I repeated the write a critique, fill-in-the-gaps, answer questions drill.
This morning (Wednesday) … yet another five-in-the-dark-rise-and-shine. Today I drove to Brownsville TN with yet a third coworker.
To say I am exhausted might be a bit of an understatement. As I spoke at today's meeting, I noticed my voice is wearing out. I have ONE MORE DAY here in Memphis – one final seminar – and then I’m on vacation!
From Memphis I’m heading to a friends lake house for the four day weekend. I plan to do nothing on a schedule. I’ll be sleeping in, going to bed early – maybe taking a nap – in the afternoons. We have some great eating and cooking planned too.
I just hope this feeling I have is really is “tired” and “overextended” and not sick. What a crappy way to end 24 days on the road. I return to North Carolina next Tuesday evening. Wednesday morning it’s back to the daily grind. *sigh*