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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Flat (01/03/13)

TITLE: Red Brick Rubble
By Justin Atkin


If it had been a lightning strike, an earthquake, or even a tornado like the one that took down Blair Mill of Belton in 1933Öwe could have explained it. Wrapped our minds around it. Even dealt with it. We would have said, ďWell, thatís just the Good Lordís will. Heíll do as He wants to do and it ainít no use for us to question His ways.ĒWe would have picked up the pieces and rebuilt, like southern people have always done after storms, fires, and wars.
But itís a helpless feeling to see our own cotton mill flattened. Not left lying flat by a storm, or war, or an act of God; but by greed stricken men in scrap metal trucks and yellow bulldozers. Those men taking anything of any value and leaving us with what looks like pictures our grand daddies showed us of the great war. We should be getting used to the sight. You see these piles of red brick rubble all over the deep south. Weíre not unique at all in that fact, but itís different when itís the Chiquola Mill. They say at one point in the early 1900ís, nearly every citizen in my hometown of Honea Path worked at the Chiquola Mill.
The cotton mill built our homes, schools, recreation centers, and ball fields. They built our stores, even our church buildings where we gather to worship. Chiquola Mill put shirts on our backs and food on our tables for generation after generation after generation. Now it lies flat. Never again will one piece of machinery ever run. No young man will ever put on a white button up shirt and his best pair of overalls, walk through those century old doors, and ask a gray haired mill superintendent for a job. Never again.
Donít get the wrong idea. It wasnít all good, not by a long shot. I reckon the cotton mills took more than they ever gave. They took our chance for a better life when we traded our education for minimum pay jobs- that were downright dangerous. They took our health with diseases like brown lung. Their machines took our hearing, fingers, hands, and too many timesÖ our lives. In 1934, lives were taken not by machines, but by fellow shift workers that mill management had armed with shotguns. Simply because they wanted a better way of life. Volumes have been written about the hardships of cotton mill life, but it sure beat starving to death on a share cropping farm.
Itís hard for some folks to understand how we can thank God for that old cotton mill and in the same breath, curse it. I reckon thatís why we donít put up much of a fight when they come to flatten those towering red brick buildings. Iíve seen huge fundraising campaigns to save our old train depots. The same train depots that havenít even seen a train in over fifty years. Poor people giving parts of their old age pensions to remodel them for the occasional family reunion. Our old family houses, that are no longer livable, stand for generations as some sort of monument to the men and women of the past who had our same blood and our same last names. Our old dilapidated barns in our backyards are sought out, painted on a canvas, and hung in the lobbies of doctorís offices in the city. But not the cotton mill. We shed a tear, we lose hope at the sight, but we donít try to save the cotton mill.

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This article has been read 319 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sarah Elisabeth 01/11/13
Wow, I loved the voice in this piece. You captured the authenticity.

I didn't care for the ending initially, but now it seems right. I could feel the mixture of emotions coming from the main character as he reminisced.

This is one of those stories you have to mull over in your mind awhile. Which I think is good writing.

Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/11/13
This is a fantastic bit of writing. You drew me in immediately and I was eager to keep reading. Your MC's voice was perfect. The words just seemed to flow off the page and I could almost hear the Southern Drawl. You did a great job of developing your MC. You covered the topic in a great way and delivered a powerful message too.
Bonnie Bowden 01/11/13
Intriguing story from beginning to end. I liked the description and the history.
It would have been more readable if you had left more space between the paragraphs.
Shellie Bailey01/13/13
I really loved the beginning. It drew me right in. I expected more of a story from the way it started, but it was still interesting. When the lines are all shoved together it makes it a little harder to read, but good job.
C D Swanson 01/14/13
Great storytelling. Nicely done. Thanks. God bless~
Michael Throne01/17/13
I like this. Such an unusual topic, you bring us a mindset we might not have yet experienced. Well done!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/18/13
Congratulations on ranking 12th in level one. You can find the highest rankings on the message boards.