Logan Giesie, former Wharton resident and friend, invited Natalie and I on a guided tour of the Moses Gin. He learned about my fascination with gins (hence The County Gin) through Facebook correspondence, days following the launch of our organization.
Giese worked out the details with the gin owners, whom he has called friends since childhood and set a date that coincided with his next planned visit to his hometown.
When we arrived at the gin, we were greeted by Giesie. Immediately, he began telling us childhood stories about the time spent stomping cotton, pointing out the sole remaining “old-style” cotton trailer on the yard.
“That’s the only trailer left here. My uncles were cotton farmers. So, they would have the kids, especially me because I was a big kid, stomp the cotton down for them to fill the trailers,” Giesie said.
You could almost see the reminiscent pride in his eyes as he said, “I was a cotton stomper.”
Just at that moment, our tour guide pulled up in his pickup. Danny Moses stepped out. With a grin on his face, he reached out his hand to introduce himself.
To illustrate the tone of the tour, I have to take a minute to describe Mr. Moses.
Here stood a seasoned serviceman and ginner in his early 60’s, about 5-foot-9, dressed in a freshly pressed button-down, jeans and vest with his business logo stitched on the left. Even though his mustache and hair were as white as the cotton he ginned, his “spunk” resembled that of a 20-year-old.
Once the greetings were shared and all were introduced, Moses looked at me, eyes gleaming and said, “From planting to processing, this may be one of the best season we’ve seen in over seven years.”
Our tour just happened to fall on the gin’s final day of operation of the Texas Cotton Season.
In season’s past, the final day of operation is often filled with fatigue and frustration caused by heavy rains and lost crops, but not this year. This cotton season filled the owner with reassurance.
Moses’s father purchased the gin in 1962 and ginned his first crop in Wharton that following year. Though it’s been in his family for 58 years, the actual gin has records of ginning cotton dating back to 1920.
“The gin was built before then and in operation,” Moses said. “We just don’t have records prior to 1920. So, this has been ginning over 100 years.”
In 1992, he took the reins at Moses Gin and since then, Moses said that any good season without any hiccups experienced throughout the process can be counted on one hand.
Prior to Moses taking helm of the business from his father, he worked as the cotton ginner, traveled around repairing, transporting and building gins.
“I remember when I got through with my first terrific season,” he said. “This is when the weather cooperates, farmers are able to plant, grow and harvest their fields and we’re able to gin without any issues. I picked up the phone and called my dad to let him know what an awesome season I had. He told me, ‘Enjoy it because you don’t get those often. You may never see that again.’”
Moses went on to describe the devastation that, like others, the gin faced three years ago with Hurricane Harvey.
“It came in and dropped over 30 inches of rain and I had over 7,000 bales in my yard and had cotton still in the fields,” he said. “Then, after the rain, came the flood. A lot of the cotton was ginable, but since the river and creeks came out and touched that cotton, I couldn’t sell the seed. We couldn’t do anything with it. We couldn’t market not one bale.
“Thankfully, my insurance paid everything that the farmers’ insurance didn’t cover. It covered everything they had in the field and what I had on my yard. As long as it was tagged and called in, it was covered.”
Seasons like Wharton County saw in 2017 with heavy moisture content make seasons like the one experienced this year extremely gratifying for Moses.
“When I say we were due for a good season, I mean we were due for a good season,” he said. “We’ve played in the mud so many years. This season was just outstanding. The average yield for the farmers were over two-and-a-half bales per acre. You know, the price wasn’t as good as we’d like to have seen it, but the yields were phenomenal.”
It was at this point that the tour began.
Riding around in his pickup, seeing his expression and listening to him describe each aspect of the process, I know that Moses has deep roots and pride in not only the ginning process, but in his crew and the crop itself.
“Nothing goes to waste here,” he said. “Every seed and every fiber is utilized. What we used to call trash, which is the leftover product after the seed and cotton separation, is now marketable and sellable for cattle feed. It has such a high protein content that the cows go at it like a bunch a fiends. So, really everything brought in is processed, packaged and sold.”
I learned that one module of cotton can hold approximately 100-2,000 pounds of moisture and after ginning, produces 15-16, 500 pound bales of lint, approximately 600 pounds of seed and 120 pounds of trash (cattle feed).
I learned about boll weevils and the process eradicating the infestation.
I saw how each module of harvested cotton is separated, fiber from seed, dried and baled, ready for shipment.
I learned how each module is given a number that follows the product until it’s woven into fabric in order to trace exactly what gin processed that fiber.
I even received a sample of unprocessed cotton to compare to the final product.
I also learned that Danny Moses, co-owner of Moses Gin in Wharton, loves what he does and loves each of the farmers that he services.
“We’re a one-stop-shop here,” he said. “We haul the bales, we store the bales, we gin the cotton and we market the seed, fiber and everything else on behalf of the farmer. I don’t require contracts. So, the farmers that use us to gin their cotton come because they like doing business with the Moses family.
“I have some third generation farmers here that came to my father in ’62 and their children came here and their children now come here. I’ve got some real good farmers.”
Despite the global pandemic and threats of multiple hurricanes and the cooperation of all parties involved, Moses said from start to finish, this season exceeded his expectation.
“The city worked with me on getting additional houses for my men and even a sick house if any were to get sick with the virus,” he said. “We had zero incidents, no mechanical issues and we had great crews that worked day-in and day-out. We have been very blessed.”
When asked what motivates him to keep going, Moses chuckled and said, “I just love what I do.”
Publisher’s Note: I would like to thank Logan Giesie for setting this tour up. I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to Danny Moses for the educational and fun experience of touring Moses Gin. I know Danny has many stories to tell and look forward to hearing more from him. I know the community is very blessed to have people like Danny and his wife, Shannon, holding to tradition and continuing to operate their business within Wharton.
Staff photos by Natalie Frels-Busby and Jessica Hartman