One of my favorite fiction books is John Grisham's A Painted House.
The book is about a family and life especially from a young boy's perspective, Luke. It is set in the Arkansas delta cotton land in the 1950s'.
Luke's grandfather, Pappy and his dad have struggled all their lives to make a go of their small cotton farm. Luke describes how each year they would borrow fourteen thousand dollars from the "man." The man being the owner of the gin.The money would go for seed, fertilizer, labor and other expenses. This was a process they have been repeating for years. If they are lucky the weather will not wipe out their crop and in Luke's words, "The Chandler farming operation would break even. That was our goal." Note not to make a profit, but to "break even."
When I was about twelve or thirteen years old I worked for a small time farmer in the community where I grew up. Charlie was his name. Charlie and I worked the fields together. From sun up till sun set. He plowing the land and me following on tractor discing. I can remember on days where it rained and we could not get in the fields Charlie often took livestock to market. I always hated that day. Can you imagine being a twelve or thirteen year old kid riding in an old rattle trap farming truck going down the main road in the community where you lived with a bunch of squeaking pigs in the back. You would swear that every human alive was standing watching you as you passed.
Often at the market where we would be taking the livestock there would be a bunch of farmers standing, sitting and talking. Also, chewing and spitting I might add.One of the most ask questions from one farmer to another was "How's your crops lookin'?" Answers would vary but I can still remember a common statement would be "Oh, about the best I can hope for this year is to "break even."
Kenny Rogers in his song the "Gambler" said that the best one could hope for was to die in their sleep. Well maybe the best some old cotton farmers in Arkansas could hope for was to "break even."
I smiled when I read Luke's statement about the best his folks could hope for. But you know I have known quite a few folks over the years of my lifetime that making a "profit" had seldom been their luck. Generally the best they could hope for also was to "break even." And sadly some folks never even got that.
September 8, 2017