Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My Kentucky readers will probably want to tune to a different blog - tobacco is an inherent part of their lives and they don’t even notice it. However, having lived away since 1985 and especially this close to the Alabama line, it’s an oddity here. On a rare occasion you might spot a patch of burley, or if you did see a distinctive dark-green patch like you see at home, it would never be fired (we'll talk about that in another post), it would be air-cured. I’ve never smelled a barn fire here in Middle Tennessee!

By the end of May or at least early June tobacco plants have been set and they are on their way to being coddled, prayed over, sometimes watered and generally having some farmer wring his hangs over them and hope for the best. I wish I could convey to you the weight, feel and smell of these beautiful plants, because it's really hard to describe. Once you've seen tobacco, it's unmistakable. And as late August arrives and the plants look like this, it's time to cut.

This wagon is filled with tobacco sticks, workers will walk through the rows and drop them every six plants or so. Workers then cut the stalk near the ground and gently lay the tobacco down and leave it on the ground to wilt so as not to break off the valuable leaves. They have to be careful not to let the tobacco sunburn though. After the tobacco has wilted sufficiently, they “spike” the tobacco onto the tobacco sticks, putting 5-6 plants to a stick.

After the tobacco is spiked onto the sticks it is then hung onto these funny looking wagons. These are scaffold wagons, many a little child has been injured on these things, because they are cool to swing from, the planks are fun to run on, it’s a challenge to try and jump on them while they are being pulled through the field…the list goes on. This wagon will be hooked behind a tractor, someone will drive it slowly (sometimes even a small kid) through the rows. Two workers will walk the planks as others hand the tobacco up out of the field onto the wagon. It’s a symphony in motion.

Now we have scaffold wagons fully loaded with cut tobacco waiting to be “run in” the barn. The farmers will let this tobacco set in the shade for a couple of days to let it wilt. You’ll see wagons like this tucked under shade trees or in sheds all over the county. The roads will be scattered with tobacco leaves and sometimes full stalks, over even sticks of tobacco that have fallen off of these wagons from when they transport them from the field to the barn.

I have a couple of more pictures for later and I'll finish up telling you what little I know about tobacco!

1 comment:

Cindy Y said...

God I miss the barn fire smell!!!!!