Ninety-Nine in a Half Won’t Do


Lord I’m runnin’, tryin to make a hundred because,

Ninety-nine and a half won’t do.

So, there I was, in the kitchen washing some dishes. Normally, I would be singing at the top of my lungs, but today my mother was home which resulted in a half-humming and singing tune.

Lord I’m runnin’, tryin to make a hundred because,

Ninety-nine and a half won’t do.

As I sing my momma stopped me and asked, “Do you know where that song came from?” Of course, I thought, Hezekiah Walker. My ignorance answer produced a pair of rolling eyes and a quick pop of my momma’s lips. As she sat down, I knew a story was coming. “You know your grandmother used to pick cotton,” my mother began. With that one statement came a roar of emotions. I never knew my grandmother picked cotton. How come she never told me? She did not seem like the cotton picking woman. Then again, who does? But in my mind I could never picture her doing that and not telling her history loving granddaughter of her farm days (sharecropping) in North Carolina. “Yes,” my momma continued, “Nana worked with her family as a cotton picker on a farm. The goal of each picker was to collect 100 pounds of cotton. Your poor Nana tried and tried, but she could never reach this goal. One day, your great-grandmother caught Nana by the arm and said, “If you do not pick 100 pounds of cotton, your behind is mind.” Your Nana picked and picked endlessly. When it came time to measure her bag of cotton, she took it up to the men to have weighted. Her bag weighted a little under 100 pounds. Nana hit the ground hollering and took off running. She knew she was in for a whooping that day. The poor man weighing her bag tried to comfort her; however, his words bounced right off her ears. The only thing she could hear was the words of her mother.”

At this moment, I will pause and say, no this song was not inspired from this event. My momma went on to explain how this song was derived from black farm workers (unsure if she meant slaves, sharecroppers, or farm hands) who were required to bring in a load of 100 lbs each day. In their cases, 99 1/2 would not do. As they picked, they prayed to meet the day’s quota.

Lord I’m runnin’, tryin to make a hundred because,

Ninety-nine and a half won’t do.

I can pictured them now. Someone starts to sing and other join in moved by the words of the song. I attempted to research the origins of this song; however, there was no information about it. It will simply remain a mystery. I am blessed to be surrounded by these stories from my mother, Nana, and great-grandmother. Continuing forward, I will search for my family’s history, but now I know I have a couple of “historians” standing right next to me. Luckily, we are all related.


 My grandfather and my Nana

Until the next post,



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