Walking in high cotton.
On the tennis team in college we would have strenuous fall and winter training that would involve long runs, bleachers, track workouts, and many other difficult tasks that made you wonder what they had to do with tennis at all. Where were the fuzzy yellow balls and the skirts? Instead, we would find ourselves running timed miles, timed 2 miles, doing 40 yard dashes in the rain alongside the football team (which they didn’t mind at all), and taking “follow the leader” runs behind our coach, Hutton Jones, into the cotton fields of West Texas. What didn’t kill us made us stronger. When we would enter matches against big opponents we would know that we had “sown” all our workouts in the off-season, and it was time to reap the harvest. Or something like that.
It was such an ominous feeling to hop into the ACU van as our coach drove us out into the middle of nowhere, strapped on his running shoes and told us to follow. We always wondered about that. Where is he taking us? Will we ever stop running? What if I were to fall, would anyone know where to find me?
Rain or shine. Early or late. We got our workouts in. One by one, we checked off the days of 5am coliseum stairs and lines on the basketball court as our coach serenaded us with a solo on the guitar or Enya. We endured doing ridiculous looking plyometrics that would include a leaping frog jump, a grapevine across the floor, and transitioning into a “split step” and a “shadow backhand”. What we were gaining in fitness we were also providing entertainment for those that happened to be walking the track in the early darkness of the morning.
I will never forget one grueling run into the farmlands of Abilene one rainy Wednesday afternoon. Once again, we blindly tied our shoes and tried to keep up with our coach as he pressed on into the fields.
Where are we?
Are we allowed to be here?
He said that he knew the property owner and we wouldn’t be shot. We knew better then to trust that. Hutton didn’t follow rules, he created rules that suited him, and today, the No Trespassing signs did not suit him. Just when we thought we couldn’t place one more foot in front of the other, he stopped. Ah. We stopped too, breathing heavily, and glad for the break in the run. He walked out into the field of waist high cotton and plucked a piece of fluffy white cotton off of its stalk. Is that legal? Probably not, but we were too tired to argue. He looked at us seriously and said, “This is some of the best cotton crop that Abilene has to offer. It is only ever 7 years or so, that you see cotton this high. It takes a lot of water, but not too much, a meticulous farmer, and God’s blessing on heaps of hard work to create a crop like this. Girls, we are walking in high cotton now, but really we are just taking care of the cotton, working hard and cultivating it, and later in the season, you will know that you too are walking in high cotton. We will reap our rewards” He then instructed us to each take a fluff of cotton and keep it to remember our hard work, our goals, and our dreams, but most of all, our team.
As silly as it may sound, I still have that little tuft of cotton. Tennis taught me dedication and determination. It taught me to not quit even when I was fighting a losing battle.
Over Thanksgiving, I rode my bike from Snyder, Texas to Abilene, Texas. It is roughly 80 miles, and as I pedaled along the easy flat miles that were assisted by a tailwind, I began complaining about the monotony of the landscape. I was craving for hills, for large trees, for an interesting topography. I wanted entertainment, I wanted a change, and I began getting resentful towards the wide open road and my required high cadence in Zone 2. As my attitude became sour, I looked to my left and saw a field of cotton getting stripped. Large cotton bails lined the highway. It wasn’t high cotton, it was short, measly cotton that had suffered from a harsh summer with not enough rain. However, there is always next year and there was still a cotton crop to be cultivated. As I rode through the plains, I knew that I was preparing for my 2010 season and beyond. I was being dedicated, I was being meticulous, doing my training, and just like a cotton farmer, I was looking forward to walking through some high cotton in the future.
Thank you Hutton for my little cotton fluff and reminding me that sometimes it is just life’s little lessons that can change your outlook.
Z’s parents picked us up and took us to some of the best BBQ in Texas at Joe Allen’s in Abilene after the ride. This is the best BBQ I have ever tasted. If you are ever driving through Abilene, this is a highly recommended stop. I ride to eat, and that was a meal worth riding for. Ribs, brisket, sausage, chicken, jalepeno cornbread, corn, green beans, coleslaw, cabbage, and beans. I guess that meal will go towards my goals for the years to come as well. Proper recovery is key to walk in high cotton later.
When you are out there, putting the hours in, and getting frustrated, just remember, you will be walking in high cotton eventually. Or so they tell me.
As the song goes by Roger Murrah/Scott Anders,
“We were walking in High Cotton
Old times there are not forgotten
Those fertile Fields are never far away
We were walking in high cotton
Old times there are never forgotten”
Walking in high cotton isn’t just a statement or a agricultural phenomenon, it is a way of life.