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July 23, 2007

Cotton Blues

Cotton Blues

The federal Farm Bill sitting before a House committee may end up reducing or eliminating subsidies for crops like cotton. Depending on what happens, it could mean the end of a way of life for one man, Zack Killegrew.

Zack farms cotton in the Mississippi Delta. And he loves it.  He tells guest host Scott Jagow about how farming cotton got into his blood - despite the bugs, the hurricanes and market disasters. In fact, Zack says that if he ever won the lottery, he'd still farm.

Scott also talks to Gerald Helferich, author of "High Cotton," a book in which Zack Killegrew is featured. Gerald believes that it's impossible to imagine the history of the United States without cotton. It paid the country's bill as the biggest cash crop for nearly two centuries, it's inextricably tied to slavery - and it inspired the blues, which in turn shaped the course of 20th century music.

Thanks, Coach

Host Scott Jagow found this story sitting at the bar of a neighborhood pizza place.

Tom Holleran used to be a baseball coach at the Georgetown Preparatory School in Bethesda, Md. His coaching philosophy was simple: every kid gets to play. No matter how untalented the child is, no matter how big the game. So during a championship match, he chose not to bench a little left fielder named Maurice - even though his own teammates wanted Maurice off the field.

Then came the final inning, with two out. The hit went to left field. Maurice stuck up his glove... and caught the ball. It turns out that Maurice the left outfielder grew up to be comedian Mo Rocca.

Scott Jagow talks with Tom Holleran and Mo - now a regular contributor to "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" - about what Coach Holleran's decision meant to him, then and now.

Music

Pick a Bale of Cotton by Leadbelly, Leadbelly ARC & Library of Congress Recordings Vol. 3 (1935); Pick a Bale of Cotton by Steve Argüelles, Blue Moon in a Function Room; Seven Cent Cotton and Forty Cent Meat by Pete Seeger

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