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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Love (04/27/06)

TITLE: Lunch in the Delta
By William Mae


I watched her early that hot July morning, as she came across the rows of cotton. Pulling three children across the delta bottom, their feet shivering from last nightís dew. Her oldest child was no more than five. The children weighed heavier on her mind than the cotton sack on her back she feverishly sought to fill. Across her shoulder and two feet trailing, she dragged it across the dampened ground listening to the soft whimpers from her children toddling behind. A small-framed woman, her wardrobe was adorned with a dirty white apron over a well-worn dress. A bonnet pulled down covering her eyes. I wondered if it was to hide her pain more than for shade. Deep lines mapped her worried face. Her fingers cracked open and sore from working the harvest. I was twelve years old that summer; I was still naive to the ways of a cotton pickers day. It was my first year of picking cotton to earn a meager wage with my father and seven siblings.

To say times were hard is an understatement from lack of experience in the delta south. For this lady of distress they were far worse than just hard times. Whispers now of abandonment by her husband provided gossip for the day. One cotton picker could barely feed their self on cotton mush less and entire family. I still remember thinking: Life should be more than just food. It has to be more than cotton. My heart broke for her; and I couldnít reframe from using up all my childish stares. I was deeply wishing and seeking a miracle that would relieve her desperation. But soon my childish hopes vanished, for her miracle never came. Or at least at the time I didnít think it had. The sweltering sun pounded her back relentlessly while sweat dripped steadily from her brow.

I could see the pain in my fathers face; I knew his heart was broken for her as well. I was one of eight hungry mouths; and his work now would see the sunrise and the sunset. But his pity was greater than his means and his compassion deeper than his wallet. The noon whistle blew, workers made their way into shade to eat their brown sack lunches, mostly remains from morning breakfast. The old woman just continued working pulling cotton from the boughs. Her children hid beneath a makeshift tent stretched across cotton rows for shade. We opened our lunch, but father in passing said, ďeat your lunch Iíll be back in a minute.Ē

His car returned again down what seemed like a trail of dust that stretched forever. He crossed the field with a sack in his hands toward the tired woman still hastily working.
I watched her as she wiped tears from her eyes and vigorously shook my fathers hand.
His motions made it clear of his invitation for her to sit with us and eat. Her motions indicated a gracious decline. Her actions of gratitude however embarrassed my father and
I knew he was uncomfortable being thanked. I watched her crawl beneath the makeshift tent with her children and pray over her food. I knew she was thanking God for my father. And I donít know how, but even at twelve I knew that God was listening.

Father repeated his act of kindness many times, before the harvest ended. Humbly he never mentioned her in conversation. Iíve wondered a thousand times what became of the delta woman of misfortune. What became of her children, and what became of their lives. My view of life was forever skewed from a brief encounter, on a hot July morning in the delta south. Itís always puzzled me that a large portion of the feelings toward my father, swung by the hinge on a gate of someoneís disaster. I love my father for being father, but I respect him more for being kind.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Julia May05/05/06
I loved this. It was so real and from your heart. I sense it is a true, precious memory you have of your father. You were blessed to have a father who taught you a valuable lesson in loving our neighbors as ourselves. Just like Jesus would have done. Very inspiring. Thank you.
Helen Paynter05/08/06
Lovely piece. My mental image of the cotton pickers was very vivid. Just a few typos - particularly in the 2nd paragraph (I think, from memory)