Tag Archives: Cotton

Take the Ambien

Dear 2004 Ruth,

Please take the Ambien!  You need a good nights rest!  This is the biggest decision of your life.  I know you are restless and have many worries rumbling about your head.  Love is patient, love is kind! It does not keep track of wrong doing. Just sleep, you will thank me later.

You will go many places and see many things over the next ten years.  You will live, you will love, you will accomplish many goals!  There is a bale of cotton in your future, maybe a few tears and an adventure or two in Lynchburg, TN.  Just take the Ambien and sleep well tonight!

Ruth, you must go to sleep!  You need the rest!  You need to think clearly tomorrow morning! Many things will be said, many promises will be made – take the Ambien. Sleep.

A perfect spring morning may greet you with chatter by the orange desk with your father.  Your mother readies for a party.  There is a plane, a run way, and a future ahead.  Think clearly, make the right decision!  Look carefully at the path a head!  This choice you make is so important!  One love lost… one love needed.  Will this be bologna and love?

Take the Ambien!

Oh wait, it was never offered…




I am that person! I always said that if I had a blog, I wouldn’t ignore it. I wouldn’t let it sit for months with out updating it. We it is official, I have ignored GraphiteFree. I could blame it on my schedule or on my crappy laptop or on a host of other reasons. But the simple truth is, I have ignored my blog. I am sorry, blog! I didn’t mean to abandon you for so long. I didn’t mean to not write!

I have had lots to write about! There was the Mid South Farm and Gin Show in Memphis I started writing about. Chris and I stayed at the Peabody where we joined my brother, his family, and my parents. Great weekend, I drank a “Presbyterian” or Jack & Ginger. I had an epic adventure to Atlanta… Gosh I hate Atlanta! However, I do love Chipotle and Pinkberry. I visited with Cameron Drape at the Barn a few times. She called the Barn one night to ask when American Idol aired. Lucky for us it is a seven o’clock show, which kept her away from the Barn until the next day. And I should have written about my Jack Daniel Distillery tours.

Since I have fallen out of grace with my blog, I should update what I am currently doing. The last paragraph told you where I have been. Now, I need to tell you where I am headed, because there is much on the horizon for me. This week will mark my seventh wedding anniversary – Copper. Chris and I will be touring the distilleries of Kentucky. I am sure we will see lots of copper while we are exploring. I will be leaving the Barn for another part time job. I love working at the Barn, but I have had a dream of working as a tour guide for a long time. I am also most there, this week I go to the Jack Daniel Distillery for my audition as a tour guide. That should be an adventure.

This summer I will be back at Aviation Challenge, back with the Raptor and back around the lake. I also told our new Social Media Director I would write a blog post for the Ready Room. So I really do need to get back into the writing mood. I will be going on a Disney Cruise with Tim&Anderson and their bridal posse in July. I will get to make another trip to NYC to see my Yankees in August. It will be a Yankees/Mets tour with Snapper. Even though the Mets play the Braves (I hate Atlanta) the trip will be so much fun.

All in all, I have lots to write about. And I am going to do better at this I promise. I know that only a few people read my blog, but I really don’t want to be the person that starts writing and then abandons the poor thing. I love GraphiteFree. It all started as an exercise to make my writing better and I need to keep it up! GraphiteFree, please forgive me.

PS… Jeff Benton is still a scumbag, but the law suit has been settled!

A 500-Pound Gift of Love

On April 17th of 2004 Chris and I exchanged vows in the presence of our friends and family in Winona, Mississippi.  One year later we both unknowingly committed to purchasing traditional anniversary gifts for one another.  The next year we made it a tradition of ours to give traditional gifts when I gave him a bale of cotton.

This year was no different.  We’ve been married for six years now and the anniversary is iron. So as I type we are watching Iron Man.  See how quirky we are.  The point of the blog is to republish the story of our cotton bale, this time as it should be, with a photo of the bale.

According to “the lists,” the twenty-fifth and fiftieth wedding anniversary silver and gold gifts are familiar to most people.  Those same lists contain more obscure gifts like wood, iron, tin, and cotton for lesser marital milestones.  In a world of MP3 players, digital cameras, and video games, it can be difficult for a young couple to find an acceptable gift from a list published in 1937 by the American National Retail Jeweler Association.

I set out on a mission to find a new twist to the old list. The simple fact that I am Ruth Marie Oliver, a cotton farmer’s daughter, meant the common ideas for the second anniversary cotton gifts of shirts and sheets would not do for me.

My childhood memories revolve around cotton farming. My daddy, Bobby Oliver, has been farming land in Carroll County, Mississippi nearly all his life. My grandfather, Sandy Land, grew cotton and owned a gin in Winona, Miss.  I have so many memories of visiting with my grandparents in the office of the gin where my parents met and started my story. My parents say they drank coffee to pass the time.  I remember drinking ice cold Coca-Cola and eating homemade biscuits and sausage my grandmother, Ruth Land, made when I visited the office of the Land & Lott Gin.

My second anniversary dilemma: “How does a woman with cotton in her vein do justice to cotton? How could I let the second anniversary go by with out giving my husband, Chris – the love of my life – a piece of my childhood, my heritage?”  The idea of giving a full sized bale of cotton came to me while I was at work. I thought if there was anyone who could find a bale of cotton in the middle of April it would be my daddy. He was a bit surprised by my request. After that conversation I though I would have to settle for a small bale similar to the ones they sell yankee tourist.

My dad called around to his friends in the farming community. I was just as surprised as he was with my original request when he called me back to tell me that Emmett Chassaniol, who markets his cotton for him, had helped him locate a bale in Greenwood, Miss.  Then the problem became how to transport it from Winona to Huntsville, Ala., without my husband finding out.

On a spring day similar to our wedding day, I met my parents, Bobby and Shirley Oliver, just north of Tupelo, Miss., at the Dogwood Valley rest stop on the Natchez Trace Parkway to exchange the bale from truck bed to truck bed. My next challenge was that I have never been good at keeping secrets from my husband.  So, smuggling a bale of cotton into the house without any suspicion was truly difficult, but I had help from my friends.

Once home, I kept the cotton in the bed of the truck covered with a tarp until our anniversary. Over the next two days many ideas of what it could be ran through Chris’ head. But he never guessed anything close to a 500-pound bale of cotton grown in the hills of Mississippi.

On our anniversary, April 17, 2006, I took Chris outside to uncover the gift. He asked, “What is it?  What does it do?”  But when he saw the Cotton Incorporated logo on the bale, he knew that it wasn’t mechanical. It doesn’t do anything but clothe the world and support families like mine.

Currently, the bale sits is in the front room of our house in the corner as a testament to our quirky mix of modern and traditional love for one another and because, quite frankly, it’s too heavy to move anywhere else.

Ideas for making it into a coffee table or ottoman have been discussed. But Chris just likes to show it off.  I like to think it shows people how much I love him.  There is one thing that is certain. No matter where we go, the bale of cotton will go with us, no matter how hard it is to move.

Originality published in the October 2006 issues of Cotton Farming magazine.

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.