The Rich, Flat Topsoil of the Mississippi Delta has seen both astonishing economic production and some of the most tragic history in our nation's past. It is, in Richard Ford's apt phrase, "the South's South." Contested ground since European explorers first set foot there three centuries ago, it turned out to have the ideal climate for growing cotton, a crop that seemed destined to a marginal role in America's economy until technology and politics combined to make it one of the driving forces behind our bloodiest war. Its legacy echoed in the racial divide of the century that followed. Against this historical backdrop, Gerard Helferich traces the life of a modern cotton farmer, exploring the traditions of growing cotton that have endured since ancient times--and the current forces that threaten to drive small farmers from the land. High Cotton spends a year with small-time farmer Zack Killebrew and his family, recording the annual cycle of planting, cultivation, and harvest, as Zack teeters between the promise of a six-figure payoff and the ever-present peril of financial ruin. Combining an engaging personal narrative, a strong sense of time and place, and a McPheelike attention to process, High Cotton is a story with deep roots in American history.