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King Cotton, the Cause of Consternation

October 17, 2001

Historian's Notes

I found this story in an issue of the Chronicles of Oklahoma, and thought that it was a riot. This ďode to a muleĒ is fairly famous among the old-time cotton growers crowd but I never knew that it came from Oklahoma! How funny.


Chronicles of Oklahoma (Sum. 1998). 76 (2).

Almanac Transcript

King Cotton, the cause of consternation this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, Iím Steven Knoche Kite.

For many years cotton was the primary cash crop of southwestern Oklahoma. During the 1920s Oklahoma produced more than 11% of the cotton grown in the United States. Yet even during the hey-day of cotton farming in Oklahoma, the teens and twenties, the crop was seen as difficult to grow and manage with a very small profit margin. Still these factors didn't stop farmers in southwest Oklahoma from growing or trying to grow cotton.

It was in this week of October in 1926 that a frustrated down-on-his luck cotton farmer from Jackson County, Oklahoma wrote in his journal of a walk through his fields with his partner Bill. Bill and the farmer walked through one field after another until at one point Bill stopped, sat down and refused to go any further. The farmer put down the reins, and stood in front of Bill his trusty plough mule stating, ďBill youíre a mule, the son of a jackass. Iím a man, made in the image of God. Yet here we work, hitched together. I often wonder if you work for me or I for you. I think itís a partnership between a mule and a fool. I work as hard, if not harder than you do. We cover the same distance, you on your four legs and I on two, which makes me do twice as much work per leg as you. When we harvest our corn, I'll give the landlord one-third, one-third goes to you and the balance to me. Now, youíll eat yours while I divide mine between seven kids, six relatives what is broke, two ducks and a banker. If we need shoes, youíll be the first to get some. All fall and most of the winter the whole family from Granny to the Baby pick cotton, trying to raise money to pay taxes, buy new harnesses, pay interest on the mortgage and keep you. The only time Iím your better is on election day. I can vote. Of course after election I realize I am a bigger jackass than your pappy. I wonder if politics was made for jackasses or to make a jackass out a man. And that ainít all, Bill, cause when youíre dead thatís the end of you, but the Parson tells me that when I die I gotta go to Hell forever. That is if I donít do all the things that he tells me to-and most of them ainít no fun. Tell me Bill considering these things how can you keep a straight face and look so dumb and solemn?Ē

A man and his mule this week on the Almanac.

I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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