Friday, February 11, 2011

Finding Friday

It seems like I have lost Friday. I went to bed and didn't get much sleep last night. So I made my usual dose of medicine and drank it down leisurely. A cup of coffee seems to work the exact opposite on me when I'm tired. I laid down to take a nap around noon and didn't wake up til after 4:00pm. I have not had this much sleep at one bedtime in months. This week has been a very rough week for me with the weather and all. I didn't realize how badly the weather affected some parts of our bodies. As a child it was the rain on our tin roof that gave me such good sleep but now it aggravates my broken down body to where I can't sleep. I'm thankful for the rain to water the earth when we need it and lately our area of the country has needed it. Sometimes the weather dictates no working for the day.
However I can remember a time as a child that rain was no excuse to keep from hoeing the fields and getting rid of the weeds in our crops. When we awoke one day to find it raining (granted it was just a drizzle) we thought we wouldn't have to go hoe in the field for that day. Pa quickly told us a little rain never hurt anybody and we best hurry up and eat our breakfast and get to the job at hand. The morning was spent hoeing and grumbling about being wet to the core and why did we have to hoe in such nasty weather. We heard the holler for dinner time at noon and we all took off running to the house. We all took turns washing up and changing clothes then sat down to eat a good hot meal. Fried pork chops, collard greens, rice with gravy, butter beans, and homemade biscuits with home made butter slathered in the middle when it went on our plate. Back then there was no talking at the table by anyone. It was a sit down hurry up and eat then get back to work type of meal for us. Oh how I hated hoeing in the field and the rain made it even worse. Anything worse.... there is nothing that can compare to cropping sand lugs (the first leaves of tobacco next to the dirt) to finish filling the tobacco barn in a drizzling rain. My armpit would be full of sand, the tar from the leaves, and I couldn't wait to wash it all off.
It brings to mind the whole process of planting tobacco. First in March we would make a huge seed bed and plant tobacco seed. Then Pa would have the smallest child (which was me this time) walk lightly over the seed to pack them onto the earth. We would then cover the beds with gauze to keep frost off the seedlings if the weather called for frost. It also kept the birds out. I was 5 years old and my younger brother (age 2) and I were the only ones at home and the other 4 were in school. That is how I had the task of walking on the seed bed that day. As it was always do the job right or don't do it all and get a whipping for your trouble with Pa, I was terrified of doing it wrong. That was my lucky day because Pa told me I could go on up to the house to help mama with my brother. I started running and Pa hollered something to me and turning my head to look back while still running, I veered off course and fell over the logs that were nailed together to make the tobacco beds. Then I hollered and felt pain like I had never felt it before. On the outside of my left leg was a deep gash and I was bleeding profusely. Pa looked away and told me to go to the house to get mama's help. Mama turned away also and told me to go to the porch and rinse it off with water. She couldn't look at it either but told me what to do to help it. I never knew at that time both my parents would faint at the sight of blood running from a wound. My older brother and sister must have got that problem too cause they would faint too. Many years later I was told they had that problem and couldn't help it. I responded with it sure would have helped me to know that when I was 5 and had to deal with a wound to my leg. Life happens and we do what we have to do to make it in this ole world. When the seedlings were sprouted and tall enough to be out of danger we would remove the gauze and the sun and rain did its job in making them grow. When they were ready to be transplanted we would take crates to the tobacco beds and pull the biggest and best seedlings and pack them in the crates. Then we would get the mule and sled rigged up and ready to go plant our bounty. We had this thing called a tobacco planter to make it easier on us to get the job done. It was cone shaped with a divider so we put the plant on one side and when we pulled the handle water would come out at the bottom along with the plant. Then one of us would cover the hole made by this piece equipment. Those little seedlings looked so good all in rows of fresh tilled soil that we thought wouldn't have very many weeds it it. Ha! the joke was on us. That field had just as many weeds and we had to hoe the devil out of them that year. Perhaps it was the manure tea we poured on the ground for fertilizer. With hoeing the weeds out, rain, sunshine and back breaking work,it became time to start harvesting the tobacco leaves. Nothing is easy about that for sure. We started out cropping sand lugs and rushing to get away from the field. Later in the season when it was not as bad when cropping the boys would grab a horn worm off a leaf of tobacco and sling them things at us girls backs and we could hear them splat and feel the wet. Of course they were being boys and we were being girls but it became another matter altogether when they grabbed sand spurs and flung them at our backs. At that time it was no longer funny because it was too painful. We girls would take turns with pulling them off for each other. There was always one highlight of the day for us when we cropped tobacco. Someone went to the little store for RC cola or what ever kind of drink we wanted and a bag of salted peanuts to pour in the drinks after taking a big swallow of refreshing drink. That was our break and it gave us enough energy to finish the day (til dark thirty) time. The tobacco had to be strung by hand on sticks set on tobacco horses not to be mistaken for saw horses. These were taller and narrower and just the right height for a stringer to comfortably string while standing all day. The younger kids handed them the tobacco and another stacked them for putting in the tobacco barn when the croppers came in from the field. Our tobacco barn was much taller than most and some young guys were afraid of heights and would argue about who was going to take the crows nest position (the very top layer of rafters for hanging the sticks of tobacco) and when I was about 10 or 11 I jumped up and climbed up to the top telling them "Alright you chickens bring it on I'm tired and want to get done so don't make me wait on anybody for a stick of tobacco to hang." Pa couldn't believe how fast we filled that barn and of course it was expected next time as well.It was not difficult to decide who would take the crows nest spot after that. Pa would light the kerosene burners to cure the tobacco leaves. Kinda like an oven bakes bread but it made the leaves not so crispy or that would be a bad thing. When it was time we would take the tobacco down from the barn in reverse and pack it in the pack house til time for us to remove it from the sticks and pack it into big burlap sheets ready to take to the tobacco warehouses for sale. This was always a good sign of fun for us as there was always a street dance after tobacco season was done. The whole street by the courthouse was blocked off and we would have entertainment from some of the Grand ole Opry folks like Minnie Pearl, Little Jimmy Dickens, String Bean, The Stanley Brothers, and more I can't remember right now. After the entertainment there would be a drawing for prizes then dancing. Oh what fun that was. We didn't know how to dance but we surely gave it our best effort to do the dances we saw others doing. Square dancing was also popular back then and we did know how to do that dance. We all were so disappointed not to win anything but then they said we have one more prize and it's the grand prize of the night. "The name drawn is (Pa's name) come on up and claim your prize. We were so excited when we finally realized they meant Pa. Jumping up and down, squealing, laughing and the whole crowd got in on it so happy for us. We didn't have TV and someone even donated a used antenna so we could watch it. We thought we had hit the mother load with winning that console color TV. I can still remember watching Red Skeleton along with others on the Ed Sullivan show that first time. If you can imagine all of us sitting around a big box in our cowhide chairs staring at such a funny character as he was and laughing over his antics. Other entertainers came and went over the years and finally The Ed Sullivan Show went off the air. That was a very good tobacco season for us. Maybe next time I'll tell you about my experience with the electric fence when I came home on vacation one time. Until then I leave you with Just This...Alice

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