Monday, September 7, 2009
I love the way a plain old thing such as a barn or mailbox looks when the sun first comes up in the morning. I can see this old tobacco barn out my back door. I have a love/hate relationship with tobacco barns.
I grew up working on a tobacco farm in the South, when it was way more labor intensive than it is now. I started driving the tractor that pulled the tobacco harvester when I was 8. No umbrella or sunscreen. The tractor creeped along from 7:00 A.M. until... pulling the harvester which carried the workers. There were 4 pairs of workers. Each pair was made up of a cropper who sat on the low seat near the ground and the Tying person who sat above the cropper. The cropper "cropped" the tobacco and handed a hand full of leaves to the Tyer. The Tyer tied it on to tobacco sticks (aka baccer sticks). When the stick was full another worker would take the sticks full of tobacco and stack them neatly in a tobacco trailer being pulled behind the harvester. There were usually other people walking behind the harvester picking up any fallen leaves of tobacco or cropping any missed leaves. There was a lot of skill involved in being able to tie the leaves on the sticks and when I was old enough to assume this job, I was pretty good at it! You were lucky if you got a skilled partner to work with. If it was a bad one, then your job was harder.
When each trailer was full, it was pulled to a tobacco barn like the one in the picture to be hung on the tier poles. The boys and men did this job. There would be an assembly line from the trailer to the boys in the top of the barn, each person handing the next person the tobacco sticks. After the tobacco was cured, the process was reversed. The tobacco had to be taken out of the barn and prepared for the market. This was usually done in packhouses. The sticks were placed on "tobacco horses" where the leaves were taken off the sticks and placed into tobacco sheets and then taken to the market.
Lots of people who worked in the tobacco fields in those days have fond memories of all this. Not me! All I can say is that it was hot and dirty. Sometimes the Nicotine or the poison sprayed on the tobacco leaves would make me sick which meant I was nauseated for several hours. There were tobacco worms! YUCK! and NO, I do not now or have I ever smoked.
So, what's the love part of the love/hate relationship with tobacco barns? Well, now you can see them scattered throughout the countryside, dilapidated and over grown with vines. They are part of my past and the history of the South. And, Lord willing, I will never have to work in one again!
I hope you are having a peaceful and restful Labor Day! I know many of my North Carolina readers have memories similar to mine about growing up on a tobacco farm. What kinds of memories do you have of growing up on a farm or in the city?
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