Monday, 12 August 2019 14:39

COLUMN: Remembering the hot days of August

Written by
Rate this item
(2 votes)
COLUMN: Remembering the hot days of August J.A. Bolton

 

Nowadays during the month of August, children are returning from camp or vacations. Within the next few weeks they will be headed back to school. Clothes and school supplies have to be bought and whatever else that is required for the start of the school year.


When I was a young lad back in the ‘50s,  I wasn’t thinking much about starting a new school year. No sirre, you see, I was raised on a tobacco farm and the month of August was tobacco priming time. Nowadays, we know that using tobacco products causes all sorts of health problems. But back in the last century, it was a cash crop for many a farm family. The money that tobacco sales brought in — or didn’t bring — in determined the livelihood of many a farm family.

Now, I can’t say I always enjoyed working in tobacco but it put a little jingle in my pocket. The morning came early and the nights of curing tobacco were long. A lot of hard work and prep had to be done to get your tobacco fields planted and harvested. Even though I was a young lad, I helped prepare the fields, plant the tobacco, repair sleds, and maintain the tobacco barn and pack sheds. Two mules and our Allis-Chalmers B tractor had to be ready when needed.

The first pulling or priming of our tobacco plants (which would be the lower leaves) was called sand lugs. Why, you had to just about stand on your head to prime those bottom leaves. I remember while helping prime one day, I made the mistake of telling my Dad that my back hurt. His quick reply was, “Boy, you too young to have a back. All you got is a little gristle back there.” 

One of my favorite jobs while working in tobacco was driving the mule and sleds back and forth from the fields to the tobacco barn. Why, when you got an empty sled you were allowed to ride in the sled and drive the mule. A couple of things you were not allowed to do was run the mules and, by all means, not to turn over a full sled of tobacco —for if you did, there would be hell to pay.

Rising at 4:30 a.m. to take out a barn of cured tobacco so you could refill it that day with green tobacco made for a long day. While Ma cooked breakfast, my granddad, my uncle and I would hook up a high-sided trailer to the tractor, drive to the tobacco barn and transfer the just-cured tobacco to the pack shed. By the time we emptied the barn and ate breakfast, our hired help would be arriving to put in a new barn.

All through August and early September, we were putting in, taking out or grading a barn of tobacco. You see, back then, the tobacco markets would start opening in South Carolina and southeastern North Carolina, earlier than around here. This, folks, was my favorite time of the year. Why? Because I got to skip school a day or so to go to the tobacco sales. I still remember the sweet aroma of the cured tobacco placed in large baskets on the warehouse floors. Also, the chant of the auctioneers as they made their way, along with the buyers, up one row of baskets and down the other was music to my young ears.

Folks, those days of which I speak are long gone, lost to the bygone era of time. The memories of those times are still etched deep in my mind. I hope this column has brought back a few memories to the old timers and taught our younger generation how it was living on a tobacco farm in the good old days.

 

J.A. Bolton is the author of “Just Passing Time” and co-author of “Just Passing Time Together.” He is also a member of the Anson County Writers Club and the Anson and Richmond County Historical Societies.