I just returned from the Beltwide Cotton Conferences, always a much-anticipated month (or is it just a week?) of visiting with old friends, catching up on the latest marketing and production information and eating and drinking my way through receptions, lunches, dinners and breakfasts (which occur way too early considering the number of receptions that occurred the night before).

The 2006 version of the conferences was one of the best in recent memory, but I was a bit concerned at how one might wander into the wrong session. I was sitting in a seminar on gin production efficiency when I noticed the person beside me had on a different nametag than the ones I was accustomed to seeing in cotton conference seminars.

“I think I may be in the wrong place,” I admitted to him.

I looked at his badge and noticed he was with the association of beverage distillers and distributors.

“Wrong kind of gin,” I said. Being of an inquisitive nature, however, I decided to learn as much about his group as possible. It did not occur to me, until about three o’clock the next morning, that an association of distillers and distributors might have a bit more rambunctious reception than I was used to.

So, in an effort to help other cotton folk avoid some of my mistakes, I thought I might jot down a few things to make certain one is where one is supposed to be.

• If you look at your agenda and notice the word gossypol listed 11 times, you might be at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences.

• If you hear the words WTO and China, followed by a number of expletives that we can’t print here, you might be at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences.

• If you hear something about module builders and you are not associated with NASA’s space program, you must be at the Beltwide.

• If your program mentions a seminar on CotMan and you’re not into testing beds, you might be at the Beltwide.

• If you hear the term lint yield and you’re not looking at your belly button, you might be at Beltwide.

• If your feet hurt, your back aches, and your eyes are sore and puffy, you might be on your third day at the Beltwide. You also might be in the intensive care unit following a bad train wreck. I’ve heard the symptoms are similar.

• If you see more friendly people than you’d meet on the fifth day of a Shriner’s convention, you’re probably at Beltwide.

• If you find your feet tapping to the tune of Alabama’s In High Cotton at 6:30 on a Thursday morning, you must be at the Farm Press High Cotton Awards Breakfast at the Beltwide, a good place to wind up, even if you were at too many receptions the evening before.

• If you see that a new stripper is going to be unveiled during an afternoon press conference you’d BETTER be at the Beltwide.

This list comes too late to be of use for the 2006 Beltwide, but folks might want to clip and save it for next year. One can never be too prepared to stay out of trouble.

e-mail: rsmith@prismb2b.com