The story is about two high school boys who start cotton diving in the afternoons. Much adventure follows.
Interesting historical factoid that’s somewhat related: in the story, the boys jump into actual metal bins of cotton. But now, if you drive through the Mississippi Delta in just a few short weeks, you won’t see many of these bins in actual use. Instead the farmers now pack the cotton in these long, rectangular bales and top them with plastic tarps. (The tarps almost always are blue for some reason.) They look like long blocks of cottage cheese, held together by some magical force. As such, they don’t look all that inviting for actual jumping. Alas.
But the old bins are still easy to spot. Like the slowly decaying cypress barns, they litter the landscape–another artifact of southern ruins.
Here’s how “High Cotton” begins:
When they cotton dive, the boys become serious. They coil into themselves, squatting on the lip of the metal cotton bins, and they thrust their bodies into the air. The boys go for distance, they go for height, but their main concern is arc. They’re trying to pierce the cotton deeply and completely. So, against the sunset, they curve together like dolphins into the ocean, and the cotton catches and folds around them as they disappear beneath, swimming into the soft waves, bits of husk floating by their bodies like shells. They do this over and over, pulling themselves back up to the lip of the bins and then hurling themselves off again. The bins grunt under the pressure. The boys dive until their arms and legs ache. In midair, wisps of cotton flutter from their hair and fall behind them like bits of sea foam.
When they were 16, this was their routine.
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