Life on a Mississippi Delta Cotton Farm

Sufficient Unto The Day Is The Evil Thereof

By —— Bio and Archives--August 8, 2018

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On his Mississippi Delta farm, my father operated a small cotton gin, and during harvest season, my after-school and weekend job was hammering together the flat metal straps and buckles used to bind cotton bales. When my boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird wasn’t busy doing something else, he helped me.

One-eyed Deacon, who also worked at the gin during harvest, hauled cottonseed in a trailer truck to the oil mill in town. His glass eye frightened me. Cornflower blue, it neither matched the brown one, nor was it synchronized with it. The good eye bulged like a bulldog’s, while its store-bought mate floated constantly … up, down, sideways. 


One day, while we were hammering together ties and buckles, I asked Jaybird how Deacon lost his eye.

“He claims that when he was a boy, he was pestering a bullfrog, and it reached out with one of its long front legs and clawed the eye, setting up an infection that caused it to go bad. Since then he’s been terrified of frogs … says they’re kin to Satan himself.”

The scales for weighing truckloads of cottonseed were beside the farm’s commissary store, and having nothing better to do one day, I crawled under them. The damp, musty pit was full of Satan’s kinfolk, and I caught a bagful.

As I crawled out, Deacon pulled up in his old Packard automobile, and went inside. Noticing that he left his frock coat on the seat, I dumped the frogs in its pockets. Deacon came out, patted me on the head, handed me an RC Cola and Moon Pie, threw on his coat, and fired up the Packard. I felt awful, but it was too late. 

A quarter of a mile down the road, the Packard careened crazily and lurched to a stop. Out tumbled Deacon, flinging off the frock, frantically fleeing the frogs. About the time he limped back to the store, Dad walked out.

“What’s wrong, Deacon?” he asked. 

Both brown and blue eyes glared at me as the terrified man struggled to catch his breath.

“Don’t know, Boss,” he said. “Something must have come loose and the car started switching on me.” Dad chuckled and walked off. Deacon forgave me, but not completely.

“How much you got saved up from working at the gin?” he asked.

“Fifty dollars,” I said, bowing my head shamefully.

“Well, I won’t wear that coat again, and your hard-earned money will buy a new one,” he said.

“I’ll get the money for you right now, but why didn’t you tell Dad what really happened?” I asked.

With forgiveness and love glimmering in both blue and brown eyes, the kind old man said, “Enough bad stuff happened on this farm today. If I told Boss what you did, he would have beaten the tar out of you.”

As the old man ambled down the road toward his car, I heard him mumble a verse of scripture: Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.


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Jimmy Reed -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jimmy Reed is an Oxford, Mississippi resident, Ole Miss alumnus, Army veteran (Vietnam Era), former Mississippi Delta cotton farmer and ginner, author, and retired college teacher. His short story anthology, Boss, Jaybird And Me, is available at Squarebooks.com (telephone: 662-236-2262). His latest collection of faith-based short stories, entitled One Hundred By Five Hundred, is also available at Square Books (telephone: 662-236-2262) and at amazon.com. To receive Reed’s free weekly newsletter, send an email address to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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