Where Readers & Writers Connect
The Readers’ Realm assignment I received this week to interview Cotton Chastain was a welcome one. He has intrigued me ever since he appeared in my novel, The Sands of Santa Rosa, and I was interested in learning more about him. He’s a handsome young man, his dark good looks attesting to his Cherokee heritage. He’s soft-spoken and polite, his respectful behavior evidence of his good up-bringing.
When he entered my office, he smiled, nodded and removed his hunting cap. I asked him to sit, got my clipboard and pen and began.
Cotton—do you mind if I call you Cotton?
No, ma’am, that’s fine.
Would you tell us a little about yourself? Where you live, where you work?
There ain’t much to tell. I live in the most beautiful spot on earth, up in the mountains of north Georgia. And I work for my daddy in his garage. I’m a mechanic.
Do you like your work?
Yeah. ‘Cept now my hand is kinda messed up from a jellyfish sting last summer. Gives me fits at times, makes it hard to hold a wrench.
Would you mind telling us how your hand got injured?
(Cotton looked away, then squinted down at his hand, as if he was debating answering my question.) Well, little Sara Sands was out on the beach with her grandma, and the poor little girl got stung by a jellyfish. I’d had a vision about it, so me and Sara’s mama rushed out there in time to be of some help. But while I was tryin’ to get the jellyfish off her foot, one of the tentacles flopped over on my hand. So, instead of me bein’ of much help, I messed up and got myself in trouble, too.
You said you had a vision. Would you tell us about that?
(Cotton frowned and ducked his head.) Well, I have the gift of Sight. Sometimes, I have visions, and I know when somethin’ bad is goin’ to happen. But what’s aggravatin’ about it is, I cain’t pinpoint it to anything. I don’t usually know what the vision is about at first.
Is having the gift of Sight beneficial to you?
It makes me feel like a weirdo. But one thing, it usually gets me to search out a way to help whoever’s goin’ to be affected by whatever bad thing is goin’ to happen. And I can go where they are and help ‘em. Like with Sara. (Cotton shrugged.) Maybe it’s beneficial in that way.
One thing the young ladies reading the interview would probably like to know is, do you have a girlfriend?
(Cotton’s smile stretched across his face.) Yeah. Mattie.
Pardon me for asking, but would you mind telling us if you and Mattie have a serious relationship?
Yeah, we’re gettin’ married next month. Mama is makin’ Mattie’s dress, and they’re plannin’ all this stuff for the weddin’. I’m just tryin’ to stay out of the way.
I’ll ask one more question, and this is something that I’ve wanted to know since I met you. Cotton is an unusual name. I remember that in the first book, you told Sara Sands it was a nickname. Could you tell us your real name and how you came to be called “Cotton?”
(He blushed, and his smile disappeared.) My name is Tilmon Lamont Chastain. Named Tilmon after my great-granddaddy and Lamont after my daddy. (His smile returned.)
How it happened that I got the nickname was, my older brothers, Nate and Andy, had started ‘em a lawn mowin’ enterprise to earn money for buyin’ video games. I wanted to join in and have a share in it, too. But I was five years old at the time, and they said I was too little. So they wouldn’t let me. I started lookin’ for a way to make me some money.
I had listened as grownups would talk about bygone days when they used to pick cotton to earn some cash. My uncle Bertram has a farm down close to Chatsworth, and when I was little, he raised cotton on it. One mornin’, I heard Daddy say Uncle Bert was plannin’ on pickin’ the cotton next week while the weather was clear.
And right off, I wanted to go pick cotton like the grownups used to and make me some money, too. Nate and Andy laughed at me, said I was too little and couldn’t pick enough to make a alcohol swab, much less make a payday.
To hush us up, Daddy said he’d take me down to Uncle Bert’s. I can still remember him all smilin’ like somebody had just told him a real funny joke.
Well, I’ll have to tell you, if you ain’t never picked cotton, you won’t understand this a-tall. Uncle Bert, he gave me a sack and showed me a little spot where he said I could pick. I told him I planned to pick the whole field. But after a hour or two, I was a-sweatin’, my back and shoulders was a-hurtin’, my fingers was sore from gettin’ stuck on them sharp bolls, and I didn’t see no way I could pick all the cotton on that one little spot, much less the whole field.
So I told Daddy I was ready to go home, and he asked me why, since I hadn’t finished picking my spot. And I tried to think up a excuse. I told it was because I didn’t want to make Uncle Bert feel bad. Here he’d spent a whole lot of money buyin’ his big ol’ cotton picker, but if he saw how good I could pick it, and how much money he would save by me pickin’ it all, the poor man would feel real bad.
Anyway, after that, Nate and Andy started calling me Cotton Picker. But then they shortened it to Cotton. And it stuck. Just like them cotton bolls stuck my fingers.
Interesting story. Well, the interview is over. Thanks for your cooperation. But, off the record, I’d like to know something—do you think there’s another book in your future?
(Cotton shrugged.) That depends on you more than on me, don’t you think?
Cotton Chastain is the main character of the novels The Sands of Santa Rosa and the sequel, Windows of the Soul, both by Tommie Lyn. These two books are available at Amazon and are a part of the E-Reader Extravaganza going on this week!