Saturday, July 4, 2015

Cotton Fields

Cotton Fields


White as snow blowing in the early November breeze, the cotton was ready for the gin. Jim took a long slow look over the fields that stretched as far as he could see. It had been a long hot summer, and the cash crop was badly needed to pay the bills. He lived with his wife, Mary, and their three year old daughter, Makayla, in an unpainted farm house at the edge of a cotton field. Jim was a sharecropper, working someone else's land for half the profit. Life was not easy when payday came only once or twice a year.

Mary cooked all the meals, and at lunch time she even took over driving the tractor while Jim ate and kept an eye on their daughter while she napped. Then Jim would go back and work the field until after dark. Now that it was harvest time, he prayed for no rain and that the harvesting crew would arrive on schedule.

Makayla loved to walk through the cotton fields, letting her hands float across the tops of the white balls. She starting talking very early and already was talking like an adult, asking about everything and absorbing it all. Starting when Makayla was eighteen-months old, her mother would write words on a small chalkboard and pronounce them slowly until Makayla could pronounce them correctly. Her mother would show her or explain what the words meant until Makayla understood.

Sundays were a special family time, when they would drive into town early to attend church, then spend the rest of the day at the library, museum or the park. Makayla was very curious about the school, always asking questions and looking forward to attending. In the park a group of elder men were always playing checkers and chess. Makayla was fascinated with the game of checkers and watched all the moves made quickly by the men. She then surprised them by saying, "Can I play?"

One soft-spoken, gray-haired man said, "Sure, hop up here on this barrel and we can play a game."

Makayla had watched the moves that were made by the winners. She moved her checker pieces out from the edges, leaving a "V" shape in the center of the board. After a few moves, the man realized that he could not make a move without giving up at least two of his pieces. All the other men soon gathered around to watch. The man she was playing was one of the best players in the park! They were already giving him a hard time about being outdone by a three year old. After that day in the park, she would come each Sunday and play one game with the men. She quickly realized that she could easily win every time, but it drew too much attention, so she would give them a real challenge, and then at the end, make a bad move and let them win.

The house had a lot of old discarded library books left by the previous owner. The shelves were full of books for all ages, and Makayla, by the age of four, had read all the children's books.

The cotton harvest was good that year, and Jim was able to pay all the bills, with a little left over. Mary and Jim were both worried about making it through another season, and so they were looking for work in town. Mary could get a waitress job and Jim was a good mechanic, so they decided to move into town before Makayla entered school.

The school principal was skeptical when they asked if Makayla could enter the first grade. She had just turned five a few days before school was ready to start. After Makayla talked with the principal in private and read to him from some books he took off his shelf, he called in the first and second grade teachers. They spent more than two hours asking Makayla questions and having her read harder and more difficult books. In the end they agreed that Makayla could enter the second grade.

As Makayla grew, her favorite book to read was the Holy Bible. She soon had large sections of Scripture memorized, and she found that she preferred the adult Sunday school class rather than children's classes. During the discussion time, everyone starting listening to Makayla as she explained bible passages and compared different books of the bible. The adult class had to be moved into the sanctuary as the class grew because so many people wanted to listen to Makayla.

As the years passed Makayla worked hard to not appear superior to the other kids in school, but when the tests were given, she always gave them her best effort and made perfect grades. To keep her challenged, the teachers gave her increasingly difficult course work, until at the age of 12 she was doing college level work. At the age of fourteen Makayla graduated from high school with a college associate degree in sociology. After two years at a seminary, Makayla became the minister of one of the largest churches in the area. She was very popular and went on to write several bestselling books.

Each November Makayla would preach a sermon on the pure white cotton fields that reminded her of the love of her parents. She told the story of the young drifter that came to their house when she was only three years old. He gave her a small New Testament and explained how Jesus came to earth to provide a way that we could live with him forever. The drifter only stayed for a few days, but he had a great impact on her. She prayed that she would someday meet him again. The stranger also taught her how to win at checkers. 

Copyright © 2015 Hubert Clark Crowell
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