Saturday, February 7, 2009


This was our tobacco barn. It burned, I think in the mid-80s. That was a great loss, still felt ~ Bobby talks about needing another barn for a farm this size. It was a great loss in memories too. Our salt and pepper draft work horses, Pat and Peg, had their stalls in this barn. The little shed attached to the front was our stripping room, where the tobacco leaves were stripped from the stalks on many a chilly november morning. We say that tobacco "comes in case" when there's enough moisture in the air to make the leaves pliable, so they can be pulled off without shattering. Stripping tobacco was an occasion for tale-telling and singing, so I have a lot of great memories of that little room - it's tiny pot-bellied stove with mica windows, permeated with the smell of tobacco dust - even the old salvaged windows with bubbles in the glass. You notice things like that when you sit for hours, mesmerized by wondrous stories.

I did a batch of ink drawings of barns at the time this one was done - January of 1981. The marks in the sky above the barn indicate a flock of redwing blackbirds.

The night it burned I was visiting a friend near Berea. I couldn't sleep and walked around all night in her yard, looking west toward home, thinking that something was wrong. Alas, as I found out when I got back the next morning, it was the tobacco barn. This drawing, a single photograph, and the memories are all that remain of it.


Alan Evil said...

When I was little the tobacco harvest was still going strong on the farm and I remember being there once when everyone was stripping tobacco in that room. I was little enough that they let me try tying a few bundles and then ran me off. I'll never forget how dark brown everyone's fingers were from handling the tobacco. I can also remember climbing up in the rafters to hand tobacco, obviously when I was a teenager and big enough to handle the sticks of tobacco.

Alan Evil said...

That's "hang tobacco" which was done by handing the sticks of tobacco up from the wagon to the first person and then up to the top where they were set on pairs of braces to allow them to hang and cure.

Dan Dutton said...

The brown fingers were from the tobacco resin - and it was full of nicotine. It would numb your hands after an hour or so. By the end of a day of stripping I recall that I could feel a tiny bit of numbness all the way to my shoulder.

I can conjure the smell of that room just with a thought.