Summer nights bring back memories of childhood on the farm. You could heard the frogs, the crickets and you could smell the tobacco curing. It was a sweet, wonderful smell not at all like the smell associated with cigarette smoke. I can still look out the window and see tobacco growing.
You can too, if you visit Big Mill Bed and Breakfast or eastern North Carolina in spring, summer or fall. Tobacco is a beautiful, stately plant with sticky, pink flowers.
In years past, come January the tiny seeds were sewn in beds that were then covered with cheese cloth. In May these plants were pulled and planted one at a time in rows in the fields that were “set off” with 8 rows and then a wider truck row. This was done so that when it was time to “pull or prime” the tobacco there would be room for the mule and the tobacco truck. We don’t “pick” tobacco.
This truck was a wooden cart with wooden wheels and it was pulled by a mule. Later tractors did this job.
Pictured above are Mother, Monk, Sammy and our wonderful mule Mary. Mary lived to be 40 years old and spent her whole life here at Big Mill. Her room is being renovated for a Writer’s Retreat here at Big Mill Bed and Breakfast and we are calling it the Mule Shed.
Above: Nephew Monk is piled up (as we say in the South) in a tobacco truck full of green tobacco.
Left: My cousin Jean Carol and Aunt Effie in the late forties. (I assume that is true because Aunt Effie is wearing her Army uniform).
After it was piled into the tobacco truck, the tobacco was carried to the “scaffold” and looped onto sticks. The looped tobacco was poked up into the barn and dried with a wood fire; later it was flue-cured. It was then removed from the sticks, graded and tied into pretty bundles, ready for market.
In late August the tobacco was taken to the warehouse to be auctioned off and sold to the highest bidder. My dad owned one of these warehouses The Roanoke Dixie. Wow, that was a fun place for a child to play.
(Above) That is my dad Ops (back view) wearing the hat. It seems that he has stopped the sale and is probably asking the tobacco buyer for a better price. The fellow on the left has walked over from Griffin’s Quick Lunch, just across the street. Griffin’s is still in business and they still sell Martin County barbecue.
This is how tobacco is harvested now, we aren’t Tobacco Road anymore. The warehouses are a thing of the past…the tobacco companies buy the tobacco right out of the field. That is sad; some of the art is lost. Oh, well….it is still a beautiful crop. Some day we will find the perfect use for tobacco.
By the way, I have never smoked a cigarette, or dipped or chewed…but I did make myself a snuff brush out of a dogwood twig. And I saw on the internet how to make your own snuff….hmmm.
Visit Big Mill Bed & Breakfast in Williamston, NC 252-792-8787