We gave thanks for our many blessings that year, especially the bountiful crop, and then heaped our plates with delicious food.

Thanksgiving At The Gin

By —— Bio and Archives--November 20, 2018

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Thanksgiving At The Gin

In 1968, when I returned to the Mississippi Delta after overseas military service, my father hired me as his farm manager.  One year, when harvest season was near, he said, “Son, we’ve got a fine cotton crop to gather. I’ll spend all my time in the fields. You’ll have to manage the gin. Jaybird will show you the works.”
Even though I found comfort in knowing that my boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird would train me, I was still petrified. I not only had to keep the gin’s machines synchronized and running at peak efficiency, but also I had to manage an eight-man crew: four Blacks and four Hispanics.


Jaybird’s tutoring helped me become proficient at my tasks. Day after day, we toiled can-to-can’t, slept a few hours, and returned for another stretch of hard work. November hastened toward its end.
The gin was humming nicely on Thanksgiving Day, when Juanita, the press operator’s wife, came into the office.
“Señor, I have come to ask that you shut down the gin so that the men can enjoy a Thanksgiving meal,” she said.
“Absolutely not!” I retorted. “The boss’ cotton pickers cannot sit idle waiting for empty trailers.”
Then I realized why this day was so special to Juanita. In her native country, she lived in abject poverty. Here, her husband earned as much in an hour as he might earn in a whole day back home.

“Let me talk to Jaybird about this,” I answered.

The wise old black man said just what I needed to hear. “Boy, if you want these men to be happy and to keep working long hours, the smart thing to do is shut down long enough to let them celebrate Thanksgiving with their families.”

“Juanita, bring the food you have prepared, and tell the other wives to do the same,” I said. “We’re going to celebrate Thanksgiving at the gin!”

The men gathered on the gin’s loading platform, out in the glorious sunshine, and laid two cotton bales end to end for a makeshift table. The women and children came, and soon cuisine from three different cultures covered the bales. We gave thanks for our many blessings that year, especially the bountiful crop, and then heaped our plates with delicious food.
When everyone finished eating, I asked Jaybird, a man who had endured unbearable misery during the Great Depression, what Thanksgiving meant to him.

He pulled out the small Bible that was always in his shirt pocket, turned to a dog-eared page and asked me to read one of his favorite passages from Deuteronomy.

“When thou hast eaten and art full, bless the Lord thy God for the good land which He hath given thee.”
Indeed, God has given us Americans a land “... beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain.”
For all these blessings, His children must thank Him, as we did on the day I’ll always remember as: Thanksgiving at the gin.


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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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