Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cotton Picking; When He Comes

Cotton farming is still big in parts of the South. My dad did a little cotton picking for extra money when he was a kid. Cotton farming was, and still is, important around his hometown of Damon, Texas.
Damon is about 30 miles off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The 1932 Hurricane blew the Brumbelow house off the blocks and gently set it down a few yards away. A kerosene lantern never overturned, nor was it extinguished. My dad, Joe Brumbelow, at two years old, was asleep, and never awakened when the house blew off the foundation. (Some of this covered in The Wit and Wisdom of Pastor Joe Brumbelow.)

After that experience, grandpa, E. P. Brumbelow, never stayed for another hurricane. When one was coming, grandpa would pack up his family and head inland for 50 miles or so. They would sleep with others in the halls of the courthouse in Bellville or Brenham or that general area. One year when they evacuated, a rich man, at least to them, invited them to stay at his house. Though he missed the excitement of the courthouse, Joe marveled at the mansion. Grandpa lectured his kids on being well behaved and not touching anything, in such a wealthy man’s home.

Dad told of some friends of his in Damon that were about his age. The Sims had ten boys, and their dad owned a cotton trailer. When a hurricane was bearing down on Damon, their dad would hitch up a cotton trailer, throw cotton in it, and head further inland. The partially filled cotton trailer gave them a perfectly comfortable place to sleep. Joe told of how he envied their setup.

Some have spoken disparagingly of those who worked the cotton fields. Those picking cotton, however, always had my deepest respect. You had to be tough to farm, hoe, and pick cotton. Before mechanical cotton harvesting, an older generation used to jokingly refer to someone as an old cotton picker; usually done in a friendly manner. Call someone a cotton picker, and to me that is a compliment.

I’m just old enough to remember cotton picking. On a trip from the North Side of Houston down to Damon, we would pass through Sugar Land. This would have been the early 1960s. I looked out the car window onto a vast cotton field. Mostly, maybe all, black folks were scattered out along the rows picking cotton, with their long cotton sacks trailing behind. I couldn’t see the end of the rows; they seemed to go on forever. It looked to me an endless job. Ever since I’ve been glad I came along a little too late to have to pick cotton.

But to that older generation, cotton picking brings back bitter-sweet memories. Maybe you have to have been involved in cotton farming to fully appreciate the following poem. But I’m not the only one who likes it; W. A. Criswell did too. He grew up in the cotton country of the Texas Panhandle. The poem reminds me of an humble believer, maybe a slave, in a field of cotton, raising his eyes to the heavens, and thinking of the return of Jesus Christ, his King.

When He Comes

There’s a King and Captain high,
Who’ll be coming by and by;
And He’ll find me hoein’ cotton when He comes.
You will hear His legions charging
In the thunders of the sky,
And He’ll find me hoein’ cotton when He comes.

When He comes, when He comes,
All the dead will rise in answer to His drums.
While the fires of His encampment
Stir the firmament on high
And the heavens are rolled asunder when he comes.

He was hated and rejected,
He was scourged and crucified,
But He’ll find me hoein’ cotton when He comes.

When He comes, when He comes,
He’ll be ringed with saints and angels when He comes.
They’ll be shoutin’ out hosannas
To the Man that men denied,
And I’ll kneel among my cotton when He comes.
-unknown. Quoted by W. A. Criswell in Look Up Brother, Broadman; 1970.

Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! -Revelation 22:20

Note: Wording varies. Some refer to this as an old Black Spiritual Song. The words above are from Criswell’s book. If Dr. Criswell said it, it must be right :-).

-David R. Brumbelow,, February10, AD 2011.


  1. Sometimes it's hard to contain one's desire for Him to come and come quickly. selahV

  2. What a memory you brought back by yourremarks on hoeing cotton. I was raised inthe cottonfields of Arkansas, and I began working inthem in 1945 and continued until 1954. I wasn't much on picking (didn't know it then, but I had a crushed vertabra), but I could chop or hoe cotton with the best of the adults. I once got ahead of two top hands for two days, and it put me in bed for 2-3 days, a little much for a kid of 11-12 years of age.

    While a student at Columbia Univ. in NYC in the summer of '71, I was called a liar by a fellow from NC when I spoke of people who could pick 400-800 lbs a day. I was shocked at first, then I asked, "What kind of cotton you talking about? Short Staple or Long Staple?" He was talking about Short Staple, while I was speaking of Long Staple, a cotton with a longer lint and a heavier weight. Thanks for the memories of so long ago.

  3. Dr. Willingham,
    I thought there might be a cottonpicker or two out there. Thanks for your comments. Glad this brought back some old memories.
    David R. Brumbelow


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