Since I didn’t grow up around cotton farming, I was late coming to appreciate the industry as a whole, starting with the crop, through the picking and ginning. Spinning is tweaking my interest now.
Four years ago, the Southland Flywheelers Antique Tractor and Engine Club began to plant and harvest crops as part of our Fall Morgan County (Ala.) Fair Show, including peanuts, sorghum, corn and cotton. These were mainly to allow us to show off our antique equipment used for these processes. A corn picker on a Farmall tractor gathered that crop, and a grist mill turned the grain into fine corn meal, which was baked onsite into corn bread. Sorghum cane was stripped, cut, squeezed and then cooked into molasses. Peanuts were dug with a special plow, and then the boiled delicacies were sold to visitors – the only money our club recovered the first year for our show. Cotton was grown so folks could hang on a pick sack and walk down the rows gathering the locks from open bolls.
Then last year we added a plantation sized cotton gin, which I got to run. So now I’ve planted, thinned, picked and ginned the fluffy stuff for the first time in my life. But the bug hasn’t been so easy to tame. I’ve been touring all of our local commercial cotton gins to see how the big guys do it.
Our club acquired an ancient 1850s era plantation-sized gin that caught my imagination, and I brought it home to attempt restoration. An extensive article has been submitted to Farm Collector magazine describing this long and fascinating project, which is now coming to a (hopefully) successful fruition – ginning cotton with it at our first show this spring.
But it gets worse. Then I found that a complete gin house had been relocated to the Tannehill State Park near Birmingham, Ala. It needs lots of work to become operational, and I have volunteered to tackle that project. A rotted down cotton gin has been located in a nearby swamp and dreams are trying to gel where this equipment could be restored and placed into a planned gin house at the local Burritt Museum. This web log will chronicle efforts as these projects roll along. Stay tuned!