The Ugliest Statue in America

influence peanuts perseverence storytelling Jun 20, 2024

Ever since its founding in 1881, the city of Enterprise, Alabama had been known for growing cotton. So much so, farmers prided themselves as being one of the largest cotton producers in all of Coffee County. But in the summer of 1915, Enterprise had a major problem on its hands: their way of life was under threat.

All because of the Boll Weevil.

At first glance, the 6 mm (1/4 of an inch) grayish beetle seems a far cry from an impending pest of doom. You could be forgiven for mistaking the long snouted and spindly legged nuisance as just another bug. That is… until you learn it has a penchant for one thing, and one thing only: cotton.

Beginning in early spring, the Boll Weevil lays up to 200 eggs… each inside the growing buds of the cotton plant. Once hatched, the larvae feed on the vulnerable cotton fibers and emerge a few days later as fully grown adults ready to repeat the process. Scientists estimate that 8–10 generations can hatch, grow, and spread in a typical growing season. Add the warm, lush climate in Alabama… and you have the perfect recipe for a lot of Boll Weevils.

First noticed in southern Texas in 1892, the Boll Weevil spread throughout the southern United States at the blistering speed of at least 50 miles per year… decimating entire cotton crops… until it arrived in Enterprise in 1914. By 1918, farmers in Alabama were losing up to 90% of their cotton fields to this devastating pest… and could do nothing about it.

That is until local banker H.M. Sessions and farmer Charles W. Baston had an idea: What if they swapped out the beleaguered cotton crop for… peanuts? At the time, only 14% of Alabama farmers were growing the “goober pea”, and even then it was mostly for livestock feed. But thanks to the pioneering work of African American scholar, Dr. George Washington Carver, the humble peanut was beginning to enter the spotlight as an American staple.

If Charles Baston planted his 100 acres with peanuts, then H.M. Sessions proposed to buy them at $1 per bushel. They agreed and Baston forged ahead by ripping out all of his cotton, and replaced them with peanuts. The result? After the long summer months, Baston’s harvest boasted an impressive 8,000 bushels of 100% Boll-Weevil-free-peanuts. This bumper crop wiped out his debts, and gave him profits to spare.

The rest, they say, was history. Baston continued to plant peanuts, and other Enterprise farmers took notice and followed suit. So much so that in 1917, Coffee County had the highest peanut yields in America. Farmers who once struggled under the cost intensive cotton, now marveled at the higher profit margins that came with peanuts, and Alabama became the peanut capital of the world.

Which brings us to the “ugliest” statue. In 1919, the grateful citizens of Enterprise raised money and erected the “Boll Weevil Monument”. Standing at 4 meters in height, the curious statue features a woman in a flowing gown holding aloft an oversized Boll Weevil. An inscription at the base reads:

“In profound appreciation of the Boll Weevil and what it has done as the herald of prosperity this monument was erected by the citizens of Enterprise, Coffee County, Alabama.”

What does this have to do with influence?

Though at first the Boll Weevil threatened everything these farmers held dear, this plague proved to be the path to prosperity.

If you’re like me, then you’ve probably had your fair share of setbacks and obstacles. Like the farmers of Enterprise, you’ve had moments where stability was taken right out from under you, and weren’t quite sure what to do. And if you’re like most people, you’ve probably had unforeseen challenges come and ravage your precious crop of hope.

But also like the farmers of Enterprise, I can honestly say these long nights of the soul have nudged me to consider paths I otherwise would not have taken, and doors that… at first… weren’t even on my radar. In retrospect, I confess these “Boll Weevil Moments” led to times of “Peanut Prosperity” and have made all the difference to where I am…and who I am… today.

So here’s my question: What are your “Boll Weevil Moments”? When has your life been unexpectedly challenged, and diverted to better opportunities?

I would love to learn from you. Please write to me, and share your “Boll Weevil Moments”. And I really do mean this: Please reach out! Simply title the email “My Boll Weevil Moment” and tell me your story: [email protected]

Adversity often carves out caverns of compassion within us… for others who are also struggling.

And when it comes to influence, there is no better connector than a shared trial. Because think about it: If you have the choice between someone who is competent vs someone who is competent AND you have a shared connection with, who are you likely to choose? Connection wins every time.

I heard someone once say that, “You have survived 100% of your bad days.” Whatever you are facing, and whatever insurmountable obstacles loom before you… You have the brains to figure it out. If you’ve had the wit and tenacity to make it this far, then you have the capacity to rise above your challenges. And in time, you may look back at these overwhelming hurdles as your own “Boll Weevil Moments”, and thank heaven that they were sent your way.

Just ask the farmers from the Peanut Capital of the World.

  • Christian

CHRISTIAN HANSEN has gone behind the scenes in some of the biggest organizations in the world to find out the reasons why some people get chosen and why others don’t. As the #1 bestselling and LinkedIn Top Ten ranked author of “The Influence Mindset: The Art & Science of Getting People to Choose You” Christian helps teams and organizations who want increase their earning potential by standing out from the crowd and influencing people to choose them. With degrees from Brigham Young University and The London School of Economics, he’s helped thousands of individuals position and sell themselves. A fan of international communication, history, and choral music, he currently lives in Utah with his wife. Reach him at: TheChristianHansen.com

 

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