Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Shed was Full

It hung in the old shed like a blanket over the floor below. Rows and layers of green tobacco started to darken since cut in the field. It hung there waiting for us. It waited as while the rest of us walked away from the field for another year.

"Why do we raise tobacco?" I asked my parents each year for as long as I can remember. "We don't believe in smoking. So why do we raise it?" It puts food on the table was always the reply. I had a tough time reconciling the action with the belief. Maybe I still do. But after raising tobacco, I knew I would never lift a cigar or cigarette to my lips. Often I wondered if we were encouraging the sin of others. And, if we were, would we be accountable for our actions when we came to Heaven's door. Well, what did I know?! I was just a kid.

Dad behind horses. Uncle Keith on wagon
We had speared the tobacco doing the backbreaking work of bending over to pick up the tobacco stalks then pushing them down on the spear at the end of the tobacco lath. Dad and Gene would later load the tobacco onto the wagon. They loaded it as tightly as possible, then in the shed, one stood on the beam and one on the wagon, filling the rows where the tobacco would age. The old shed was airy with spaces between the boards allowing fresh air to reach around the leaves and dry them.

June, Sarah Lee, Esther and Peggy
I remember Dad leaving the shed doors open so more air could get into the barn. The barn looked near to bursting with the bulk it held. The smell of tobacco became a fall scent that ripened as the days went on. I wasn't part of the days of loading the wagon pulled by horses. I'm a little jealous that I didn't have the chance to walk next to a big Belgian talking my way across the field as my parents worked. I'm sure I would have enjoyed my field time in a whole new way. So, instead I rode on the tractor yelling to Dad when Gene called "stop!".

The old shed is gone. The days of raising tobacco are just a memory. The time spent with family and friends over this time consuming crop was a gift, a lifetime of sweet remembrances of the people now gone and of days of handling this crop that was going off to those who did smoke.....from those who did not.

The shed was full.

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