Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tobacco ~Part Two~

This is a tobacco worm tobacco_worm.jpg
This is a tobacco field
This is a stringer-sewing machine

Now we have some basics established.  Working on the "stringer" was not actually hard but very tiring.  Hours standing in the sun, twisting from the mounded trailer of leaves to the sewing machine.  There was a line of 3 or more of us in position between the trailer an conveyor belt.  The  machine would be  turned on with a shake and rumble. The first couple of ladies would put a bottom layer of tobacco on the belt, then place a tobacco stick on top near the stems.  The leaves would keep going to the next ladies that would pile leaves on top.  You HAD to keep up.  The belt could go at different speeds.  Most work days it was on high to get as much done as quickly as possible.  Then the layered stick would pass under a huge threaded needle that would sew it all together.  There was a guy or girl at the end of the belt to hoist it to a guy in the barn to a hanger.  That was the routine.  A morning break... Work some more... Lunch break... Work some more.  One of the worst things about it all was what we called "tobacco gum" that would cake on your hands.  It was so sticky and black. It could quickly get to about a quarter inch all over the inside of your hands.  You just had to roll it off and keep going.  Nasty.  Then those tobacco worms. HUGE and almost fluorescent green.  Sticky, gooey, and fat.  They were a common sight.  Just flick them away or squish them.  Boy could they squirt with a squish.  Side note here... When I was very small like around 3-4 years old, I would sit at the barn near my grandma,whom I called mammy, and collect the bright green creatures. I'd draw big circles in the dirt and play make believe games trying to keep them in the circle.  The day ended with the best baths ever.  To feel clean after all the sweat, stink and getting all the "gum" off of your hands and arms was the best. Refreshed with the rest of a long summer evening ahead.  Sometimes some of us barn hands would get back together  just to hang out.  Most of the time I enjoyed being home or at one of my grandparent's houses.

*Coming up next....I worked for a family that went to the the same small Baptist church that I did for most of my adolescent years.  My special favorite work memories are when I worked for my Uncle Milton.  That deserves a post of its own.   Next....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Growing up in Eastern North Carolina~Barning Tobacco Part One~

tying or stringin  by hand

There is something special about growing up in  the south.  I think I will begin some posts on a few memories of growing up in eastern North Carolina.   Number 1 Memory~~The summers I spent Barnin' Bacca. hot you actually get a chill.  And... it's true about eating moon pies or nabs and drinking RC's or Pepsi at break time at the barn.  Break was supplied by the farmer.  Some good slow,savor each bite type of eatin.  Boy, those "sun-ripened"  moon pies tasted good. Warm enough to be gooey and to be washed down with a cold bottle of "drink" we're talkin' business.  Not soda or pop but "drink".  In eastern NC when someone asked if you wanted some drink you knew it meant Pepsi or Co-Cola, and sometimes you'd drop peanuts in the top of the Co-Cola bottle.  So... a day in barnin bacca.  Get up before light early.  Get picked up or drive yourself to the field, barn or the farmer's house.  The guys are already out in the field croppin'.   I was a girl so I worked at the barn.   The men that were "hangers" and the women waited for the tractor pulling a flat bed trailer to come to the barn.  The trailer would come mounded higher than our heads of yellow-green tobacco leaves.  After the trailer was unhitched, the tractor would head back to the field and the cycle began.  My earliest job because I was so young, was to hand a good fist full of  tobacco leaves to the tyers. Twisting back and forth between trailer and the ladies.The tyers were the older ladies.  It was an honor to be able to tie fast and tight with out breaking the stems . Hanging the leaves side to side on the stick resting between two "wooden horses" .  Then passing the laden leafy tobacco stick to the guy standing at the barn door who would pass it to the hangers.  There seemed to be a contest between the barn and field seeing if we could finish a trailer before another load came up.

RC Cola and moonpie           

      As I got older, RC's turned into Mountain Dews and tying by hand gave way to the stringer, a  literal sewing machine type device with a huge needle and conveyor belt.  This is where I worked the longest and hardest.  The stringer, tobacco worms, school shopping money... are up next.  * To those that don't know what a nab is this is it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Part Two Our Anniversary Play Day

David and I decided to go off the mountain away from the cold and snow for an anniversary play day in the city. IKEA and Trader Joe's were fun; but even with the snow still on the ground, I was glad to get back to the mountains.
OUR IKEA HAUL WITH A LONE BAMBOO PLANT RIDING IN THE BACK SEAT WITH THE 3 BARS OF DARK CHOCOLATE umm well, we were eating one before we left the parking lot...
29 and counting! So bountifully blessed.