Pickin’ Grapes and Rollin’ Trays: Life as a migrant in Central California #4 – Death in the cotton fields

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I can’t remember the day, the year, or where exactly it occurred.  In fact, there is not much of that day that I remember.  What I do know is that it was a very scorching day. It was a classic Central California July day; the temperature was well above the century mark and not a cloud in the sky. 

The local Spanish word for the group of people working together to clear a field of weeds is la cuadra; other meanings for this word are stables, city blocks and if used as a verb one meaning is to get soldiers to stand at attention.    Fitting! 

On that day, la cuadra was doing exactly as it had been doing for many days before; it was doing what it had been ordered to do, walk and weed cotton.  Cleaning mile long cotton fields of the weeds that grew in its mist was for the most part mundane work.  It was work that sapped your creative juices.  There was nothing to promote imagination. To the left was cotton, to the right was cotton, in front was the row of cotton you were about to rid of weeds and behind you was the row of cotton that you had just finished clearing of weeds. The only two directions that offered a change of view were down and up.  Down was dirt; hard crusty, dark, Westside dirt.  Up, was blue, a never ending sky of blue and one big ball of bright white and yellow.  Amongst all of this, in the cotton, all around you, up in the blue and down in the ground was heat, immense heat.    

Yes, it was hot but so was the day before and the day before it; this is the way summers always are in the Valley.  The spring ends quickly and temperature rises.  Kids finish their schooling and break for the summer.  They go have adventures that they then share with their friends once the school year resumes again in September.  I doubt that walking in sweltering heat cleaning cotton is the type of adventure the other kids were having. 

On this particular hot summer day, one of the youngest members of La Cuadra did not feel well.  Her parents had brought her just like my parents had brought us, the three older brothers. Since it was primarily walking up and down long endless rows of cotton we could come along and help the family earn extra money.  It was just walking.  Because she did not feel well the mayordomo (local Spanish for crew chief) asked the parents to have her sit out the day. 

The Westside of Fresno County, locally known as the Westside, is barren of trees, of shade, of water, of roads, and almost empty of civilization.  The parents had her wait in the car as la cuadra continued to finish the work day. 

I can’t remember the day, the year, or where exactly it occurred.  In fact, there is not much of that day that I remember.  What I do know is that it was a very scorching day. It was a classic Central California July day; the temperature was well above the century mark and not a cloud in the sky. 

About the Author:
Juan Martinez  contributes regulary on Bukisa, an online community where you earn residual income by sharing your knowledge.  To syndicate this article click “republish article” located at the bottom.

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