Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Working Child

My jeans were worn. One toe peeked out of the old tennis shoe. Under a baggy shirt was a bathing suit. I was off to work. Of course, work was as far away as the tobacco beds next to the house. Cousin Gene and Betty were there. Gene was busy removing the canvas off the beds while Dad, Uncle Bob and Betty had already started pulling plants. Mom was in the kitchen baking. You could smell the pies from the tobacco beds.

We pulled the plants one by one. Gene kept the beds wet so the plants would easily give up their place with the other plants. Hand full by hand full we placed them into the bushel baskets. They would set the same day as when pulled. This day we were planting in our field. With wet, muddy fingers, we held the fragile plants. Gene's cigar smoke was battling for air space against Mom's pies.

Plants were pulled early competing the sun that would wilt them. Plants could not sit in the basket too long or they would complain about lack of soil and water. There was no break between pulling and planting. Gene had the planter ready.

We were using Gene's newer planter. He had built a canopy over the seats. Aunt Welma was allergic to the sun. Her planting time was over. Dad, Betty, Uncle Bob and I would be sitting on the planter. I protested that I couldn't get the sun I needed for a good tan. My complaints fell on deft ears. The plants were placed front of each setter. With a four seater, two rows could be planted at the same time.

It wasn't long before the laughter began. This planting time was some of the best times on the farm. Conversation often returned to old memories. Uncle Bob was sometimes replaced by Mom who didn't want to miss out. Then the stories really took off. Occasionally, Gene would yell back from the tractor, "Are you planting tobacco or having a party back there!" A plant was hardly missed. So I guess in essence the party could go on and the planters be efficient.

I never understood why my family raised tobacco. Our faith was against smoking. Yet it was our livelihood, so perhaps God understood. I often thought that between Gene's cigars and Uncle Bob's cigarettes that the tobacco industry was well supported by the people who raised it.

Some might think that hard work in the field by the children who lived on the farm was cruel, but I disagree from this farm girl's prospective. Those days of soil and plant were some of the happiest I remember. We worked hard and laughed with equal zeal. I grew up knowing my history and loving the rich soil of Darke County. I saw no difference in age. I was treated as an equal. I knew my relatives as friends. My heart and memories were filled with these people I love, filled with fun times in the fields.

I am a farm girl. I am Neff Road.

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