The One Mile Sign: The Life and Times of a Cotton-Picking Tobacco Primer by James P. Daniels

315Ra6z-JeL._BO1,204,203,200_In One Mile Sign, Daniels tells the story of his beginnings in rural North Carolina, where he worked as a cotton-picker, a profession that was unfairly rewarded for the harsh conditions its laborers were forced to endure.  Daniels and his childhood acquaintances sometimes went weeks without attending school during the summer, because they had to work jobs themselves to help support their families.  In those rare moments when work or family could be set aside for an evening, the boys liked to take walks to the town limits, fishing and chasing after the local wildlife.  It is these moments, years later, that Daniels still recalls and misses from his childhood: thoughtfully tender and reverent memories that many of us – now adults – can relate to.  But Daniels did not wish to work in the cotton fields his whole life, so he began taking steps that would lead him to larger things.  After attending vocational school, he enrolled in the Air Force and served as an airplane technician.  During the summer, Daniels would visit family in New York City, eventually meeting his wife, Quincy, and marrying her soon after.  In the end, Daniels was recruited by the Smithsonian where he was responsible for building and speccing the materials required for museum exhibitions and displays.  At the end of his career, Daniels was able to retire happily, successfully, and respectfully, knowing that he had worked to his fullest potential.

Daniels’ memoir is excellent because there is no attempt to burnish the truth, as many memoirists are prone to do.  The author admits that he encountered moments of doubt and weakness, but that ultimately his decisions led him in the proper direction.  What’s more, readers will appreciate Daniels’ story as the truly remarkable tale it is.  Working in a variety of different settings, Daniels often encountered racism from his colleagues and his superiors, expected to settle for lower pay than his white coworkers while usually doing just as much as (if not more than) their own jobs required.  One Mile Sign is not only a testament to the unfair times the author grew up in, but a powerful story from which readers will undoubtedly draw strength and determination.

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