Big cotton-pickin' dig

By James Quiggle
January 1, 2002
Cash-strapped and falling behind in payments for his eight-ton cotton picker — the size of two garbage trucks — Georgia farmer Curtis Donald Keene knew what he had to do. Keene dug a huge pit in his field, somehow buried the green John Deere behemoth, then convinced his insurance company that thieves had stolen it.

Now who would steal a bright green farm machine that's 20 feet high and 18 feet long and not be noticed? That’s what Cotton States Insurance wondered. But try as it might, the insurer couldn't prove Keene was lying, so it paid him his $102,300.

But then a neighbor noticed a patch of distinctive John Deere green poking from the soil. The insurer swung into action on a steamy August day. Cotton States needed two backhoes and workers with shovels churning up the soil nearly 12 straight hours in stifling summer heat to uncover the cotton picker. It had been buried for nearly eight months. This was a big event in that rural South Georgia community. Once word spread, neighbors set up lawn chairs and coolers to watch the backhoes at work.

Keene was convicted in state superior court in August 2001, but his case was finally closed this year, when he repaid all court-ordered money.

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