This time of the year, I always relate everything to hurricanes, football, cotton picking, and the 1951 playoff game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants.
Recently, I rode through the countryside in northern Madison County, east of Georgia Highway 106 and saw a small cotton patch where there will, soon enough, be a mechanical cotton picker doing work that for so many years was done by hand.
There are no burlap cotton sacks anymore, which means there are no cotton pickers who toil in the hot sun and live with a lingering backache. I immediately flashbacked to the fifties when a father with a grade school education wanted his offspring to get an education.
Even with a high school diploma, he could have better provided for his family, but he had to quit school to help his daddy work the land to save the farm, which carried a heavy debt.
With the coming of October, there was debilitating worry that a hurricane would come up from Florida and ruin the cotton crop. He listened intently to the weather reports each day on an old radio, with the weather reports barely audible in constant static.
He made sure that I stayed in school when the kids in other farm families dropped out to help get the cotton harvested. In 1950, the National Hurricane Center started naming hurricanes. First, the hurricanes were given phonetic names, and then in 1953, the trend of coming up with female names for hurricanes came about. Political correctness did not surface until 1979 when the dastardly storms were given male names.
While the worry from farmers was constant and serious, I don’t remember a hurricane getting to our corner of Johnson County, but there were a lot of prayers offered up as a defense.
In the growing season, there were unceasing prayers for rain.
Rain was necessary for the crops to mature, and when that came about, those prayers turned defensive—keep the hurricanes in the Caribbean and Miami and away from the farms of Middle Georgia.
Many times, our prayers were answered. We got enough thunderstorms and precipitation to make a crop, and the hurricanes didn’t wreak havoc in October.
Looks like we have more to worry about when hurricane season comes around these days. There seems to be more of them, and they seem to start forming earlier. Just last week, when there was good news—that Hurricane Lee was turning north and that we would be spared from a path of destruction. But then we learned that another one was not far behind and then more likely to follow. If we put those rocks back on the moon, would that help?
About that playoff game to determine the 1951 National League pennant—the regular season ended in a tie, and the Dodgers and the Giants met for a one-game playoff to determine which team would advance to the World Series. The game was played at the Polo Grounds and Bobby Thomson hit a three-run homer to win the game and the NL pennant for the Giants.
I had gotten home from school and was reminded that it was important to get into my work clothes and go to the fields promptly. I turned on the radio and dressed for the cotton patch but was desperate to listen to the playoff game which had reached the ninth inning.
It was agony, enjoying the big sports moment on radio but knowing that stern discipline would be meted out when I reported to the fields too late. Nobody wore a wristwatch, but all knew by the sun what time it was. I was going to be bad late for work.
But when I arrived, the bearer of good news, I was saved from harsh discipline. What saved me was deep-rooted prejudice. It had to do with the fact that Jackie Robinson had become a star player for the Dodgers, the first black man to play in the majors.
Most Southerners hated the Dodgers because Robinson was a member of the team. Although my favorite team was the Red Sox, I liked the Dodgers but could not say so. Not in Middle Georgia in 1951. The negative reaction would have been like a Category 5 hurricane.
We are far from a perfect society, but I am happy we are past those times.