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I am Sandra - faithful steward. listener. shepherd. dream believer. hard worker. collects brass bells, boots. Jesus follower. contented. star gazer. homemaker. farmer. prayer warrior. country woman. reader. traveler. writer. homebody. living life large.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Just Plain Baccy...not Waccy Baccy

In central Virginia, folks still grow tobacco but it's changed a lot since the days I used to work on my uncle's farm. He grew acres and acres of tobacco and the entire family helped. The men would go to the field and strip the leaves from the stalk, load it on a wagon where it would be brought to the barn. My uncle's oldest daughter, my cousin, would string and I would hand off. Meaning, I would take 3 stalks of tobacco, put them in one hand, smack the top with the other hand...to make them even...hand them to my cousin and she would string on either side of the tobacco stick. She could string as fast as three people could hand her tobacco and was absolutely amazing.

All this happened just outside the tobacco barn and as each tobacco stick would be filled with tobacco, the teenagers would stand at the ready to take each full stick into the barn and hang from the top of the barn down. A fire would be lit, and would stay lit, until the smoke cured the tobacco when it would be removed and taken to a central warehouse to be sold.

While we were working the tobacco, Mom and her sister were preparing lunch for all the workers, perhaps two dozen of us. There were family members, neighbors but most of the workers were black men and women and we all ate together, generally a couple of meats, lots of veggies, salad, biscuits, corn bread, a cake and a couple of pies...it took a lot of calories to keep everyone working.

Now, it's done differently and I wonder if people feed workers anymore. When Dave and I were renovating the house, I fed the workers using a charcoal grill, Coleman two burner camp stove and a few coolers as refrigerators. They thought they'd died and gone to heaven!

Madge, at The View From Right Here, hosts a photo party and when I ran across the above photo, thought I'd tell the story. Have any of you worked in tobacco? It's hot, nasty, dirty work but, when working in a crowd, it's also a lot of fun. (That's what I keep telling myself, especially as I didn't get paid...I was family.)

Blessings ~ Madge ~ my family ~ those wonderful meals 

12 comments:

  1. When I was working we had a patient who grow up on a tobacco plantation. She started smoking when she was a kid and she had a few surgeries for cancer before I was let go. I often think of Wanda She was a real character and spoke of her family work often. I grew up in Colorado and still live here. No tobacco workers in my phamily. I really did enjoy listening to your story. A nice memory for you. Now my oldest son has a friend and his family is in oil and tobacco. They have a big family business. The grandparents own a lovely condo in Vail, CO. We have stayed there and they are quite generous, do not charge us anything. All we have to do it wash the bedding and towels before we leave and provide our own food. It is so beautiful on a golf course. Very kind and generous people for being wealthy. I am very happy I stopped by. Enjoy your Sunday and thank you again for sharing.

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  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this story from your childhood Sandra, really interesting.

    Have a great Sunday ~ FlowerLady

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  3. How interesting! I loved hearing about this.
    No- I have never worked in tobacco fields-only hot, sweaty hay fields with the sun beating down and the hayseed flying. It stuck to sweaty faces and arms and necks and made you itch like crazy.
    I guess those were "the good old days". lol
    We always had huge meals for workers, too. xo Diana

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  4. I`ve cooked for the men who added an addition on to my house, so I believe some people still do this, it is all in how we were raised. I really liked your story, thanks for sharing, Phyllis

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  5. Good morning, thanks for sharing as I did know how tobacco crops were handled. we always feed our workers too and still do

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  6. Believe it or not, there is a tobacco-growing area in MA, in the Connecticut River Valley. Long history.
    I've never worked in tobacco, but I've often thought the drying barns - with their system of opening wooden walls for ventilation - are a very simple, smart design. Like many other old farming methods and skills...functional and built to last! I love poking around places like old Shaker farms looking for ideas.
    And I think it is wonderful that you prepared meals for your workers. I doubt my carpenter would have thought my cooking was heavenly, though I did offer to learn to make coffee for them. He said no. He's a smart feller.

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  7. Somehow I can just see you producing all that good food for your workers. People LOVE feasts like that!

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  8. Oddly, this post reminds me of working as a teen at my dad's employment -- a seminary. When they did large mailings to their donors, they needed folks to come in and stuff the envelopes with flyers and letters and whatever. And we became adept at grouping the letters into bundles depending on destination, and labeling them for the P.O. Oh, the fun we teens had, in a big conference room, chatting, laughing, flirting, drinking cokes and listening to music. Hours and hours. Thanks for sparking a memory!

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  9. You're so fortunate to grow up on a farm. It must have been nice to have a family that loves you.
    Up until a few short years ago, there was a lot of tobacco grown here. I didn't grow up on a farm (more's the pity) but all the neighbors have shared their years of helping out on their parent's farms. I love the stories. Thanks for sharing yours.
    Hope your weather is warmer and the sun is shining.
    Luv ~:)

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  10. Most rural communities worked this way decades ago, but with big ag and mega farms, that's gone by the way side. About the only community I know of that still shares work like you describe is the Amish and Mennonites... Love the memories! Thank you, Sandra, for coming by sharing your creative photography on the Weekly Top Shot, #168!

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  11. Very interesting...I now see workers in the summer pulling weeds in the organic fields and often wonder if we are turning back the clock♪ http://lauriekazmierczak.com/palmed-orb/

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  12. Hi Sandra, Loved reading this story and the work you did in the tobacco fields. I never worked in the fields, but my grandmother had me help her in the garden in the summers learning to can and put up vegetables.Not exactly the same hard work, but very useful.

    I love reading your posts and I really believe you have a book in you to write. I would be your biggest fan!!
    Have a great week.
    Hugs, CM

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