TheCottonTruckWhen my Mom lay dying, I sat at her deathbed and I remembered . . . the cotton truck.

We were poor folk sharecropping, working the fields, struggling to “get by.” Dad could neither read nor write. Mom quit school in the 8th grade. I was born when she was 16. She lived a tough life, what with three kids to raise growing up in shacks in the hills.

During cotton picking season in the fall, a truck with a tarp over it to shade passengers against the sun and repel rain made its rounds through the countryside to haul pickers to the fields. We were dragging picksacks down the rows by the time a rising sun dried the cotton. Gins weren’t about to pay good money for the extra weight of wet cotton.

The sun was going down again by the time we returned home after 12-14 hours in the fields. The sight of Mom on the wooden bench at the back open end of the truck caught my eye as the old Ford truck labored up McKey Hill. She wore a blue homemade bonnet, a worn-out chambray shirt, overalls with the knees caked in dried mud, and a pair of scuffed and dusty men’s “boondocker” shoes.

The red sun hovered just above the horizon, illuminating and highlighting Mom’s sunburned face. She stared directly into the sunset. The expression on her face—

I watched her and tears appeared on my 8-year-old’s cheeks. She wore the saddest expression, all the years of a hard life appearing in that one memory-picture my mind snapped of her.

She felt me looking. She turned her head and smiled. But it was a sad smile. And the sun disappeared.

“The New York Times printed two op-ed submissions in which readers apologized for being mugged. Both said they understood their attackers’ feelings, felt sorry for them, and only wished they could have done more to help.”

From Going Bonkers: The Wacky World of Cultural Madness, by Charles W. Sasser. Available in paperback and Kindle from