This should be my last blog on my Tobacco Tour 2008; I have a couple more pictures to share and then I'll try to move on to something else.
This tobacco is ready to be put into the barn - which is no small feat. The interiors of the barns are completely open and can be up to four stories tall with nothing but rows and rows of tier poles that the sticks of tobacco rest upon. The workers climb to the top of the barns and hand the tobacco manually up...No ladders. Usually no light. It's hot. Dirty. Dusty. Sneaky spiders. Occasional snakes. Racoons. Possums.
Once the tobacco is in the barn it can't sit long before they must begin to fire it or it will begin to mold. Firing is done using slabs purchased from sawmills. Farmers also use sawdust to cover the slabs to create a smoldering, slow-burning fire. They also purchase this from sawmills as well...sawdust piles were a great source of fun for us kids, but we were always getting in trouble for scattering the pile!
And now, I've saved my best picture for last...in the fall when Danny and I are driving home to Kentucky and we are almost there; when we've reached our home county and it's a cool Friday night and then, out of nowhere, we catch a scent of a barnfire.
And I will tell you, it makes me cry. Nothing, absolutely nothing makes me more homesick than that smell. It brings back so many memories of my childhood home, friends, comfort. I absolutely cannot explain it.
The other really unique thing about this tobacco barn is...it belonged to Danny's maternal grandfather Stone for many, many years. The barn stands on the farm where Danny's Mom grew up and is in good repair and is still being used to fire tobacco today.
When Danny was a boy of about eleven he began to have his own acre of tobacco; as did his younger brother Darren. This is the barn where their tobacco was fired. They both saved their money and bought brand new vehicles when they turned sixteen.
There was a time when every small farmer had a small "patch" of perhaps an acre of tobacco; larger famers would have more in addition to their row crops. Those days are gone and nowadays I hear of farmers who might have fifty, even one hundred acres - I can't fathom how they can begin to care and baby that much of the stuff.
Sadly, there is no way I can adequately communicate the hard work, craft, pride and skill that is involved in farming tobacco. I hope at least I've given you just a little glimpse of what's involved.