Khaki & Blue Memories

Recently the Space Camp managers have moved from white shirt to light blue shirts. Being a red head, I couldn’t be happier about the change! But now that I wear a blue oxford shirt with khakis I am reminded of my grandfather’s standard dress code. He would work at his gin or drive his tractor Ford tractor in khakis and a long sleeve blue oxford. This has flooded me with memories.

Some memories are more vivid and fresh in your mind than others. When I remember my grandfather’s gin it is almost like I was transported back in time to my youth. It is so clear in my head. The sights, the sounds, the smell fill my head and tears come to my eyes at times. I loved those days visiting my grandparents and watching the world go by.

My mother sometimes helped out at the gin keeping the books and running the office. I tagged along at times. Farmers and gin hands would come in and out of the cinder block office, so I had to stay out of the way. I never could go into the gin while it was running. The machinery and belts would chew me up and spit me out if I was not careful. I remember spending my time visiting, playing in the office, coloring, or getting dirty in the gin trash. Gin trash is all the leaves, twigs, cotton burrs and some seeds that are removed from the cotton fiber during the ginning process.

On the rare occasion that the gin would stop I could go in and explore. I remember a dusty, dirty, greasy place with machinery and pipes everywhere. I remember playing and sometimes climbing on things until my grandfather spotted me. He told me it was no place for a little girl. I might get dirty. Being the only granddaughter this was somewhat of a disappointment. But I did love visiting the office with my grandmother.

I remember her desk was next to the window. There were two metal files jammed under the window silll. This made a perfect slot to slip gin tags through the window. The cotton trailers and the bales of cotton were all tagged to keep track of which farmer produced which cotton. See cotton is graded after it leaves the gin. Scores are sent back to the farm, the better the cotton, the better the price. There were all sorts of buttons and knobs I could play with behind the desk. But most of the time, it was off limits to me. I could only go behind the desk to sharpen my pencil. When I got a little older, my mother and grandmother would let me write down some of the weights in the ledger.

The office had such a great smell. It was a blend of cotton defoliant, black coffee, dust, and Pine-sol. I know you think that is an odd combination, but I remember the smell. Since I moved to Huntsville, I have heard people complain of the smell of cotton defoliant. But it is an intoxicating smell to me. It reminds me of growing up. It is the smell of fall to me. I remember countless trips to the gin and hundreds of rounds on the cotton picker with my Daddy. It is definitely strange how strong scent is in relationship to memories.

My stomach also has a strong relationship to my memories. On days that I would visit afterschool I would snack on left over biscuits, sausage, or ham. In the center drawer of the office desk was a stash of quarters. If I was good my grandmother would give me two. Just outside of the office was a drink machine which worked extra hard to keep the drinks cold. I loved getting a Sunkist or Coca-Cola that was almost frozen. It had little flakes of ice in them. My grandmother was known for her sweets. My favorite was her soda box cookies. She even taught me how to make the delicate cookies.

I have so many memories of my Gran and Ga-Ga around the gin. My cousins and I are now all grown up. My brother is the farmer, Sandy is the rebel, Russell is an architect, and his brother Dustin will be getting married this spring. One of my favorite pictures is all of us sitting on top of cotton bales outside the gin. I will always remember my grandmother behind the desk and my grandfather watching over the gin near the seed stand. He always wore a blue long sleeve oxford shirt with khakis.

Today while I was at work, I looked in the mirror and chuckled. I thought what do Space Camp and Land & Lott Gin have in common? The dress code! It is funny how life and khakis remind you of the past. I miss the gin and my grandparents.

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