When the Cotton Patch was White

Here’s a little creative writing piece I wrote a while ago, inspired by a real conversation I once had. If you have a creative piece you’d like to share, please link to it in the comments! -Victoria

A man lumbers towards my porch, his face gnarled with age like an oak tree. I can barely see his squinty eyes through the lumps of flesh beneath his glasses.  He’s headed my way for a friendly chat, a pleasant conclusion to his afternoon stroll. I didn’t invite this man for a visit, that’s how conversations happen in the South – they just happen. Introductions are quickly made; Southerners always want to be known. I’m to call him Mr. Hawkins. His voice perfectly matched his appearance: gravely and jaded.

kentucky summer

Mr. Hawkins began telling me about his deceased wife, an odd way to begin a conversation with a stranger. “I’s married to my first wife for forty-two years, we did everything together until we lost her to cancer. She was a good woman, raised our four kids on our farm right outside Boiling Springs. They all turned out pretty good ‘cept for my youngest son, but every family has a rotten apple in their tree.”

I nod, thinking of my own family’s rotten apple.

“My second wife is a good woman, too. She’s a real nice woman to live with, keeps me company. I ‘murried her four years ago.”

His words are occasionally swallowed up by the odd semi that rumbles by on the highway. My neighborhood was weirdly situated, ever since Route 74 carved its way through town and divided our houses. As he talked, I made it a point to periodically murmur my understanding. I wasn’t sure what else to do but let Mr. Hawkins ramble.

“I met my first wife when she was sixteen and I’s twenty-one. I’s a dairy farmer back then, when the cotton patch was white. We had three hogs and one dairy cow, and that dairy cow gave us the smoothest milk you ever tasted. We eventually lost the farm. That ol’ man come up from South Carolina and took all our cotton; took the corn, too.”

Mr. Hawkins angrily jabbed his cane towards the ground, causing the dirt to rise so he could bury old wounds.

“Now I live just up the road with my second wife, she’s a good woman. I aim to visit my sons but I don’t like to meddle with traffic. Kids don’t know how to drive, so I mind my business at home. When my granddaughter got her first car, I told her I’d sit on my couch until it was safe to leave.” His chuckle turned into the cough of a smoker, lungs that had been plastered with nicotine.

Mr. Hawkins surveyed the land that had been replaced by highways and fast-food chains, “Our cotton patches will never be white again.”

The somber thought lingered, becoming just as oppressive as the sticky, July air.

“Welp, I’ve talked your ear off. ‘Bes be getting back to the house and see what my old woman’s cooked for supper.”

Mr. Hawkins walked away, just as lumbering as he came.

No, those cotton patches would never be white again.

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