Mrs. Hairston continued to study Cotton. Cotton wiggled her feet, not sure what to do next.
The teacher began calling the students to her desk to take a book from one of the tall piles on her desk.
Cotton slowly approached the desk, took a book, and gently handed it to the teacher to be recorded. She held her hand back out for the book. The teacher paused and looked Cotton square in the eye. “My husband’s father’s father’s father’s father. The Hah-stons were some of the earliest land owners on either side of the Tombigbee.“ She shoved the book into the girl’s hands.
“Yes ma’am.” Cotton returned to her desk, confused as to why her teacher was touchy about her married name.
That night at dinner Cotton’s father led the way into the dining room. “Let’s go ahead and eat. Your Mama is running late at the paper again. How was the first day of school?”
Cotton’s sister Liza regaled him with updates on all her new classes. There was much discussion about her new position on the school newspaper staff.
“Daddy?” Cotton interrupted.
“Yes, Baby?” He took a fresh slab of cornbread from the plate their cook, Annie Ruth, had brought from the sideboard and dipped it in his bowl of chili.
“I have an English teacher whose name is Mrs. Hairston, but she pronounced it Haaaaahhhh-ston. She got annoyed with me when I asked her to explain how H-A-I-R is pronounced, hah.”