Alton was 16 years old before the truth of his family history made sense. He was given away at birth to a poor family of share croppers in the bijou of Louisiana. After 12 years of living a life picking cotton, the only mother Alton had ever known died and he was shipped to Portland. Abuse became the new way of life and his escape was an early run up the inclines of the Oregon terrain with his scout master.
Much like the life of many abused children, Alton’s anger could not be hidden and although an exceptionally intelligent child, his teenage years were marked by episodes of violence. Finally his rage forced him to move from Portland and seek his true biological family. The emotional stress continued and Alton was forced to join the Army or face more time in jail.
Providence placed Alton in the observation of a Senior NCO, who recognized the potential that was well hidden behind Alton’s rebellion. After accepting an assignment and deriving the benefit of the responsibility, Alton was able to elevate his behavior, strive for perfection in all he did and became the winner of one of the Army’s most coveted awards. His success even included leading a troop of 700 soldiers into the Iraq dessert and encountering the Elite Guard of Saddam Hussein.
After retiring from the military Alton returns to College and obtains a Graduate Degree in Computer Information Systems, serves his community, and finally becomes the motivational force that steers hundreds towards better futures.
This inspirational story takes us on a journey from the cotton fields of Louisiana to the offices of the Top Secret Military Computer Software Contractors that provide our security today. Come with me as I share this account based on the life story of a true American Hero.
For the sake of my story we will call this man Alton, for a while anyway. The first memory Alton has is of the caresses the air warmed by the spring afternoon sun gave his face. Sprawled on the soft sponge surface of unprocessed cotton that acted as his cradle, Alton remained for hours in the sun bleached wooden house. When his parents finally returned from their share cropping and gathered the little boy in their tired but safe arms Alton was taken home.
The Cosinghams loved Alton. Elaine was protective and over cautious. Johnny, her husband of 22 years, felt that she should let the toddler explore a bit more but understood her guarded nature. You see Elaine and Johnny were not Alton’s biological parents. They were raising their grandson at the request of Alton’s mother. When Elaine first laid eyes on Alton her heart melted. What a perfect baby she thought. I can raise this child with my eyes closed and once I get him, no one, and I mean no one will ever take him from me.
Elaine was very smart. Although she had no more than a 4th grade education, she had the level of common sense we look for in CEO’s and lawyers. Elaine had experienced parts of life reserved for, well, reserved for stories like this. Johnny was her support and her strength. His life was wrapped up in what ever pleased Elaine and at this time that was Alton.
As Alton started walking and soon running it became evident that he had a mind of his own and boy was he inquisitive. One evening during the late part of the November as the air was starting to hold on to the cool temperature and prepare itself for the cold of winter, as cold as Mer Rouge can actually get, Elaine had finally finished it. She had been working all year on this special project put together with the pieces of fabric given to her by her boss lady. The tattered and torn dresses were handed down to Elaine as a way of belittling the colored help, but Elaine recognized the value of even a torn piece of fabric. Every evening, once supper was over and after getting Alton down for the night, she would cut the dress remnants into perfect squares and by the light of a flickering candle. Her hands, scratched and cut from picking cotton sewed the pieces together and each stitch was developed with perfection and love
Tonight her gift for Alton was finished. The youngster lay in his rusty iron bed obviously trying to stay warm by making himself into a tight little ball. As Elaine covered her precious baby with the hand made quilt he forced his eyes open enough to see her face, pulled the quilt up around his neck, relaxed his tiny body and went back to sleep. There she thought, the wind can blow though the cracks in this old house all it wants, my baby will always be warm now.
Breakfast was a warm biscuit soaked in Miss Mable’s hand churned butter with ribbon cane syrup. As Alton entered the kitchen he asked Elaine if someone gave him a new blanket. “It’s warm” he said and “I am glad I got it.” Elaine just smiled and before she could speak an energized voice came through the opened back door. It was already November but Elaine would still keep that door open until Johnny came in from his morning chores. “Hurry Alton,” Johnny urged we got to get in a couple hours in the field before I go to work. “Lane, I’m gonna go straight to the plant from the field so I’ll sees yall tonight. You take care girl, you know yous always my girl. Elaine blushed at Alton’s compliment as she slowed Alton down from running behind Johnny just long enough to gave him a biscuit.
Alton came flying out of the house, biscuit crumbs cleaned from his face with the hanky he kept in his overalls pocket and just like he did every morning, jumped off the wooden porch skipping all four steps.
You’d think that boy had wings Johnny thought as he waved to little Charlie who lived next door. Mr. Ray was starting out early today too, and as he drove his tractor down the dirt road yelled to the boys. Hi Alton, hey Charlie yall gunna help pick cotton. With his thumb pointed to his chest Alton said I’m the best four year old cotton picker around not even Charlie can pick as fast as me and he’s six. That’s right “Pop” Mr. Ray yelled back as he continued down the road, yo sure is the fastest little cotton picker around. Cous’n Johnny, Charlie inquired while putting the burlap sacks on his friend and then himself, why we call Alton “Pop”. That’s a long story Charlie, we ain’t got that kinda time now, I tell ya’s later.
Shows wish that boy’d stop running so much, Jimmy thought as he swiftly moved through the bushes selecting and picking the soft explosions of white cushions from each plant. Alton picked as fast as he could but when Charlie speed in removing the cotton increased, somehow he picked up the pace. Soon the boys had finished their chore and Jimmy was off to the paper mill. He looked back at the long rows of white bushes as walked down the dirt road. He thought that one day he would own the 20 acres of cotton he share cropped for Missa Cudney. He was glad that when most landowners took land and set it aside with no cotton being planted that he and Elaine were still allowed to keep planting and harvesting cotton.