In November of 1999 I took another trip with my mother, this time to Gilroy, California to see my aunt and uncle. My uncle managed a garlic plant in the Garlic Capital of the World. I was still working on my first record, piece by piece, as Jerry's studio come together. Wildflowers is one of only two albums I've started recording before having all the songs written. I didn't know I was making an album until maybe a year into it.
The most striking part of the California trip for me was a road trip to King's Canyon and Sequoia National Parks- not the parks themselves, although they are some of the most inspiring places in our country. We've all seen pictures of the giant sequoias. But no one can take a picture that could convey the sweeping agriculture of the Central Valley. You can't photograph the immensity of it and still capture the character of it. I couldn't have imagined it. Driving through it changed the way I thought about food for the rest of my life.
We drove through orange trees, and absolutely nothing but orange trees, for miles on end. Bare fields were leveled razor flat with lasers for perfect irrigation, prepped for the next season's crop. Bales of cotton the size of boxcars sat waiting to be hauled to the gins- an invention that became the driving metaphor for this song.
We stopped somewhere to pee. The smell of cow manure was overwhelming. My uncle said the feedlot was about ten miles away. That's a line in the song.
We also had visited Pebble Beach, and the contrast of the places and people was irresistible. My narrator wishes he was rich enough to be in Pebble Beach, but he's proud of his work.
Sometimes an experience is so rich, all a songwriter has to do is make it rhyme. "From Gilroy to Sequoia" begins the chorus.
You can listen to and purchase Eli's Cotton Gin: https://jonathanbyrd.bandcamp.com/track/elis-cotton-gin
Wildflowers album on CD- http://www.waterbug.com/wordpress/product/wildflowers/
Thanks for listening. Your fan,