From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Tobacco Harvest Underway

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...



TobaccoBurley tobacco ready for harvest


Tobacco harvest has begun in southern Kentucky. The burley tobacco plants above are in a field where cutting has begun. This will probably be their last day in the field. They're about 5 feet tall, and no space remains between them in the rows.

Cutting the tobacco plants is a laborious job, made more so by the heat and humidity of August. The plants are cut individually with large knives. If workers get too much tobacco sap on their skin, a dangerous nicotine overdose is possible. Despite the heat, many wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts for protection but sap-saturated clothing can make them sick too!

Tobacco harvestThe plants in the photo at left have been cut and a stick has been placed with each stack of plants. The next step is to hang the tobacco plants on the sticks. Next, the tobacco-laden sticks will be loaded onto trailers (photo below) and hauled to a barn. In the barn, the sticks will be laid across horizontal beams ("tiers") that allow the entire interior to be filled with hanging tobacco.

Hanging the tobacco in the barns is a rather dangerous procedure. The sticks are heavy and unwieldy with the plants hanging from them. They are handed up by workers from one tier to the next as the barn is filled from the top down. I know of one fellow who fell from the top tier and was terribly injured. To make matters worse, the barn was off the main road in a remote field so that it was difficult to even get an ambulance in.

Much of the field labor nowadays is provided by migrant workers, mostly Mexicans. They arrive in early summer to help with the daily hand-tending of the fields, and they stay through the harvest. A few workers may remain until the leaves are stripped from the plants in November or December.

Tobacco has been grown in Christian County for a long time, and it's an important part of the local economy and tradition. Growing a tobacco crop requires a thorough knowledge of the plant and a lot of hard work. A skillful farmer is rightfully proud of a fine crop. It's sad that the end products of tobacco are addictive and harmful.


Tobacco harvest


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2 comments:

heelers said...

Enjoyed the slice of life today. Also the photo of the rue royale.
And very much the Mennonite buggy.
Irish smiles, James

Genevieve said...

The Mennonite buggies are a source of controversy around here because the narrow steel rims of the wheels cut into sun-heated asphalt roads. Likewise, metal horseshoes beat up the road surfaces.

The Mennonites don't pay road tax because their vehicles don't have to be licensed. There's always talk about changing that law, and recently the local Mennonite community volunteered to make an annual road donation if buggy-licensing could be avoided. The county's attorney says it wouldn't be legal to accept it, though.

If they would use rubber wheels, much of the road damage could be avoided, but they have religious reasons for not doing so. The underlying principle is this -- when it's too easy go to town for every little need, the bonds within the church and Mennonite community are weakened and eventually broken forever.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.