This cotton burr with the cotton still intact came from some cotton field many years ago. I broke it off intact and kept it as a little piece of nostalgia. You see, I actually picked cotton by hand as a kid. The hard, green “bolls” form like unopened flowers buds on the cotton plant. When the cotton is “ripe for picking”, the boll has opened and dried into a “burr” that you see here. The cotton is loosely attached to the burr making it easy to remove. The trick is to remove it without poking your fingers on the sharp ends of the burr. Pickers carried a long feed sack with a strap sewn on to fit over the head and across the body. When the sack was full and too heavy to drag, the cotton was poured onto a “sheet” lying on the ground. At the end of the day, the sheet was tied up by all four corners and the cotton was weighed on a hanging scales and dumped into a wagon. Pickers were paid by the pound. Some long-time pickers could pick 400-500 pounds a day depending on whether the cotton was “heavy” or “light”. I think the biggest haul I ever made was 110 pounds. School was suspended in the South during cotton harvest in September, as I recall. Most of the kids were needed in the fields in the rural part of North Carolina where I grew up. My siblings and I went along to the picking to earn money to spend at the local county fair that was always held after harvest. We spent more time throwing green bolls at each other and rolling around in the cotton sheets than in actual picking.
(click image to enlarge)