I was 13 years old and my father wanted me to scout cotton on our family farm in North Florida as a summer job. Scouts walk a pattern through the field, inspect the plants and determine what bugs are invading the cotton plants. This helps the farmer determine what pesticide he needs to spray on the crop.
My dad sent me to a training school for scouts in Tifton, Georgia. (I swear I was the only girl there!) And for two days, I saw more slides of bugs than I care to remember: worms, caterpillars and something called a boll weevil. They all looked the same, except the boll weevil which has a pointy snout and can be extremely damaging to cotton plants.
I returned from Tifton and started working with two other guys in my father’s fields. I didn’t see many bugs, but when I did, I could just ask the guys what to write on the log.
Pretty soon, though, I was scouting cotton on my own. By this point, the cotton plants had grown very tall. I am pretty tall now: 5′ 8″, but at 13, I was a squirt. I was barely 5 feet tall. The cotton plants towered over my head. My parents had to stick a long flag in the back of my pants, so if I ever got lost in the field, they would be able to find me.
I was terrified! There were snakes and bugs and boll weevils in those fields. I would basically run as fast as I could from one end to the other. Sometimes I would check a plant or two, but I didn’t know what I was looking at, so I would make up bugs to put on my log sheet.
I must have fudged the log for weeks before finally confessing to my mother. I really didn’t think it was that big of a deal at the time. But looking back on it, I can’t imagine how many unnecessary pesticides my father sprayed on the cotton because of my fake logs.
My father fired me. Actually, my dad is the only employer to ever fire me. I was a darn good soda-jerk, pharmacy cashier, babysitter, I even bailed hay one summer. But I found my passion in broadcasting. I’ve been doing the news for 15 years now. I believe that if you do what you love, you’ll do it well. I am not and never will be a good cotton scout.