Piles of Cotton

Several months ago, I wrote about finding treasure in the trash. Well, I’m at it again. I deemed this summer the “summer of purging and organizing” with a goal to give away, sell, or throw away one-third of everything in my home and organize what’s left. (I have a pretty good feeling this massive project may take me into another season or two, but that’s another post. For now I’m happy to report that I’m making good progress.)

One of the hardest things about purging, at least for me, is not having time to savor all the memories. Purging is all about reckless offloading of things that have outlived usefulness or for which there is no longer room. I could spend hours upon hours reading old letters, smiling back at old photographs, and fingering forgotten trinkets. There’s no time for that, I tell myself. Purge on! Once in a while, however, I just have to stop and enjoy a memory.

Yesterday I came across something I wrote on a piece of notebook paper long ago. I don’t remember where I was living when I wrote it — Oklahoma? Florida? North Carolina? — but I know it was at least a few years after I had left Montana. The first time I visited my Texan in-laws while cotton was almost ready to harvest, I had to laugh at myself. Cotton grows on trees where I come from! Perhaps, after all, I wrote this in Texas, surrounded by fields of cotton. Of course it doesn’t matter; as I read it in the midst of piles of papers yesterday, I smiled at my own imagination and wordy writing — something I don’t take time to  indulge much these days — and thought this would be fun to share on my blog. I hope you enjoy it.


* * *
I grew up on a Montana wheat farm and believed for my entire childhood — until an age I am far 
too embarrassed to admit — that cotton grew on trees.

The nearest town was nestled along the Missouri River, whose banks overflowed with cottonwood trees. The yard of every home seemed to be growing wool instead of grass when the time came for the sturdy trees to shed their furry coats of cotton. If I unfocused my eyes and made the world blurry, I could imagine that it was winter and we’d had our first snowfall. I pictured myself constructing a “cottonman” complete with button eyes and a carrot nose, but trying to catch enough of the wispy stuff to complete such a task was a game diverting enough in itself. 


White fluff rolled down the streets, dancing and floating like so much flavorless, colorless cotton candy escaped from the county fairgrounds at the edge of town. That which fearlessly let the wind take it down the middle of the streets had a straight shot toward freedom, whether the winds blew it back to the river for whitewater rafting or out to the hills to frolic amongst the sagebrush and rocks.

That which instead played it safe near the edges of the streets became entangled with dead leaves and twigs in the gutters. Compacted by dirt and debris,it could no longer float away on a breeze, and the citizens bid it good riddance when it finally washed away with the next rain to be forever imprisoned in the underworld that every child knows exists beneath the metal grates.
* * *

2 thoughts on “Piles of Cotton

  1. Oh what pictures danced through my mind as I read your thoughts-the cotton covering the yard, the car, the floor of the garage, the bottoms of our shoes and Gussie’s feet, sweeping it, up, vacuum it up-trying everything to just get it up. Those who have allergies-sneezing, blowing, cursing the white fluffy stuff-that is the sounds of the cotton floating soundlessly through the air. I dread cotton season still and yet, like Rachel, I would love to float off to parts unknown on the white fluff. Thank you for sharing and bringing back memories of home in F.B.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *