We were riding somewhere, squeezed into the front of the truck, me in the middle, my dad hanging out the passenger window. His brother, John, driving, and my cousin . The cotton was blowing from the trees, blowing across the road, like it is today. We passed by a farm and the trees hung over the county road there and the cotton was thick and it blew in the open windows, swirling around the dashboard and the rearview mirror. My uncle swatted at the air and cursed but my dad looked out the window. He pulled his head in and said, “You can always tell when it’s a white family’s farm.” He pointed. “Cottonwoods right next to the house. Only white people plant cottonwoods next to a house.”
My uncle John nodded. I was confused. My dad looked at me and grinned. “Cottonwood hollows out when it dies. And they don’t last long. A big wind comes, and now you’ve got a cottonwood right in your pretty living room.”
He looked out at the farm we were passing. “I’m sure they have insurance and they can say they were stupid and they didn’t know,” he said. “White people are very honest.”
My dad was in a good mood that day. When I see the cotton coming down from the trees I remember that day and I feel that little bit of his spirit in me, that troublemaker, but not too bad of a troublemaker. At least a little bit, he was all right.