Cotton Links

- My Turn -

My Kind Of People

By Bobby Phipps
Quitman, Texas

In agriculture, especially the cotton industry, there is a very special type of comradery. Many people work together to solve each other’s problems as well those of the industry.

I am so glad that I spent most of my career in cotton. I have met many wonderful people in the industry through the years, and these people are still important to me even now that I’ve retired and live in Texas.

In the 1960s, I started out with the idea of being a farmer. It seemed like a noble profession, and I had a real passion for it. But, more importantly, I loved the way the farming community helped each other out during tough times.

I remember once when a farmer in our area disappeared in the summer, and the neighbors pitched in and helped his wife finish the crop. In what other business would neighbors help a competitor? That’s just one example of the generosity of farmers. On another occasion when I had decided to attend graduate school, I was hurrying to complete harvest and low and behold a neighbor showed up to help me finish the job so that I’d be on time to start school.

After completing college, I worked as a breeder for a couple of seed companies. That’s where I met some fine folks from other countries who were a joy to work with on projects. Whether my co-workers were from Texas or another country, I discovered that cotton breeders will do anything to help each other. That made an impression on me.

Eventually, I finished my career in the academic world as the Extension cotton specialist in Missouri. That was my last stop before retirement just a few years ago. I’m glad I can laugh and remember some of the real “characters” I worked with. But, in retrospect, I’m probably one of the biggest characters you could meet, so maybe I better be careful about stories I might want to tell on my old friends.

I remember on two occasions when people came into my office, and they were selling different products that could change one element into another. I thought that idea had been solved when alchemists tried to change lead into gold in the Middle Ages. Another had a product that had one component made with water from the Dead Sea with the minerals removed. This would actually be distilled water. Those were interesting experiences, but I thought that snake oil was only sold by the old-time traveling medicine shows.

Don’t get the wrong idea. Everybody wasn’t a snake oil salesman. Most of the people were generous and willing to share new ideas with me for the good of the industry. They were the best.

Those folks helped me contribute to this magazine’s Specialists Speaking column for many years, as well as other ag media outlets. And what can I say about the loyal producers who always helped me? They were so gracious in letting me conduct trials on their farms. I learned a lot from all of them.

When you conduct research trials, be prepared for surprises. I remember a 15-inch rain in Georgia but that was nothing compared to floods in the Arizona desert. The town had to be evacuated, and our trial was washed away along with the concrete ditches. A river 10 miles away had changed course. Try figuring that out.

I could go on with a lot of other stories, but the moral of this message is pretty simple. Cotton people are the most fortunate folks in the world. They are so organized by having the National Cotton Council and Cotton Incorporated to guide them. They’re the envy of all the other commodity groups, and the standard is set pretty high.

Maybe it’s the comradery or Southern hospitality or just a good Christian work ethic. No matter how much time goes by, I know for sure that cotton folks are my kind of people.

– Bobby Phipps, Quitman, Texas

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