The Boll Weevil, or A Case Study in the Resilience of the Human Spirit

I have something of a short attention span, and so I often find myself navigating to Wikipedia, clicking ‘Random Article’ a few times, and getting lost in the beautiful standardized formatting of Wikipedia.

So imagine my joy when I learned that there was a Firefox extension which redirects every new tab that you open to a random Wikipedia article. It’s like someone at Mozilla has a copy of my dream journal. That firefox extension is how I came upon today’s topic: the Boll Weevil, and specifically the Boll Weevil Monument in Enterprise, Alabama. Travel with me back in time…

<insert that wavy time travel flashback effect>

The year is 1918. The place? Rural Alabama. Understand, in 1918 Alabama was about one thing: cotton. If you so much as breathe a word about corn, God save you. If this economy was any more made of cotton, you would have to air dry it for fear of shrinkage. Enter… the Boll Weevil.

The Boll Weevil is a beetle which is indigenous to Mexico, but which migrated to Alabama and which by 1918 were wreaking havoc on the cotton trade in that state. Whole fields of cotton were being devastated by this pest. This is because the Boll Weevil not only eats cotton buds, but also lays its eggs inside of them. Thus when the larva hatch, they add to the destruction of the white fluffy lifeblood of the early 20th century American South. Well that and the Great Depression. If only FDR had focused more on the Bull Weevil! But I digress.

Rather than be discouraged by this terrible disaster, an enterprising Alabaman named H. M. Sessions saw an opportunity. He convinced a desperate farmer named C. W. Baston to plant and grow peanuts instead of cotton. The result of this risk was unmeasured reward. Not only was Baston able to pay off his debts, he sold his peanuts to other farmers who wanted to take a chance on this new wondercrop. It’s not that the farmers of Enterprise stopped planting cotton. Rather, they planted cotton AND new crops like peanuts. This is a concept commonly called “diversification” and it’s helpful in the case of, oh I don’t know, a pest which only preys on cotton? Just as one hypothetical example.

This moral tale was not lost on the citizens of Enterprise, Alabama. They recognized how close they had come to ruin, but instead of cursing the Bull Weevil they did something strange.

They built it a monument.

The monument appears thusly: on a podium stands a woman in a flowing white gown. Think classical Greece/Rome. The woman’s arms are outstretched above her head, and in her hands she holds a small cushion. And on that cushion sits a miniature version of the podium on which she stands. And on that miniature podium sits a Boll Weevil.

So if you ever get sad thinking about things that have happened to you, things that might not have been fair, times when you did everything right and still got a bad result. Just think of Enterprise and their statue, and remember: often it is only through adversity that we are empowered to do extraordinary things.