Cotton Links

- My Turn -

Full Circle

By John Gannaway
Lubbock, Texas.

When I was a young whipper-snapper in junior and senior high school in Haskell, Texas, the last things on my mind were a career and retirement.

As I recall, my thoughts were along the lines of girls, sleeping late, girls, etc. I grew up on a farm: cotton, grain, cattle and occasionally sheep plus lots of work.

I remember when our cotton was hand-picked. My job was to empty the sacks in the trailer and tell my Dad if there were any green bolls, clods or rocks in the sack. If so, that individual was docked 20 pounds. It only took one reminder.

Memories of my Dad are fond and many. I was always thrilled when he wanted me to work with him. I remember irrigating out of a dirt ditch with siphon tubes. The day we got a tractor-mounted cotton stripper was wonderful until I was told my job was to ride in the trailer with a pitchfork and throw the cotton to the back of the trailer.

When the day was over and we were going home to supper, Dad would often talk about how things could only be improved in the cotton industry through research. At that precise moment, he sparked my interest.

Upon graduation, I was accepted at Texas A&M. Dad never had the opportunity to attend college, but he encouraged me and my two younger brothers to go. Now that I think back on this, we were not just encouraged. It was presented to us as a given – no ifs, ands or buts.

I will never forget the day that Mom and Dad abandoned (not really) me in College Station. I was one scared young man. Mom said she cried all the way home after leaving me. (I even shed a tear or two). I figured I was there for a four-year stint. Little did I know that I would be there from 1959 until 1974 (some learn more slowly than others). However, in those 15 years I earned a B.S., M.S., Ph.D and worked two years on a post-doctorate.

Within that span of time, I married my high school sweetheart, Jan, in 1962 and our daughter, Julie, was born in 1969. Mom and Dad moved all our earthly belongings in a stock trailer to College Station, specifically College View, Apt. A-6-X. These married students’ apartments were converted Army barracks (ours painted Army green inside) with eight apartments per building. Paper thin walls trained us to talk and “live” in a quiet environment – or everyone knew your business.

In 1974, I was given the opportunity to assume the cotton breeding program for the Experiment Station in El Paso. Jan, Julie, Jim, J (the dog) and I left College Station in August 1974 and moved to El Paso from a yard of 28 trees to two sticks. Jan and Julie cried most of the way even though I kept telling them, “Look how pretty the ole desert is!”

In 1980, Dr. Levon Ray, the cotton breeder at the Experiment Station in Lubbock announced his retirement. Dr. Neville Clark and Dr. Bill Ott provided me the opportunity of a lifetime – to be the cotton breeder for the Experiment Station in Lubbock. This has been one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs that one could ask for – plus it has been FUN for 28 years. It was THE job that I dreamed of having. And it will come to an end on Aug. 31, 2008.

We’ll be moving back to Haskell to spend our remaining years. The town has good people, and we already know about the country – hence the full circle. Dad passed away two years into my Lubbock stint. Wish he could have seen what has happened in the cotton industry through research and what contribution, however minor, mine has been. Mom is 98 and will be living about a mile and a half from us. The kids: Julie, a lawyer, and Jim, working on his master’s, are doing well.

Jan, a retired registered nurse, is capable of caring for this old man. Life is good. And it’s been a heck of a ride!

– John Gannaway, Lubbock, Texas

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