By Darlene G. Snyder (find me on facebook)
By Darlene G. Snyder (find me on facebook)
While riding recently, Mike and I sped by an enormous field of tobacco. I asked him to pull to the side of the road and stop. I jumped off our 750 Honda and began to take a few photographs. In Kentucky, fields of tobacco are getting to be a rare sight. With the tobacco buy-out program, more and more farmers have been forced to find alternative means for financial resources.
As a youth growing up on a farm, tobacco became an obstacle on my course towards independence and freedom. I’d wanted to slip on high heels, but I have to put on work shoes. Many weekends were spent working in tobacco. My free time wasn’t actually free. I eventually came to despise tobacco. My father always reminded me that tobacco was what bought clothes for me as well as helped put food on our table. That of course, meant nothing to a sixteen-year-old girl trying to escape the realities of farm life.
Now as I look back, I can find some things that I enjoyed about tobacco fields. I recall fondly the annual burning of tobacco beds. This consisted of an area in a field about 9 ft wide and 100 ft long. Wood piled onto the bed and burned killed off the weeds. Daddy would rake the fire and ashes to make sure every inch was covered.
This was usually done at dusk, and of course with the wide-open fire, we’d roast wieners and marshmallows; I loved being outside, watching the fire lick the night air. That part never seemed to be a chore, but I’m sure it was for my father after working as a heavy equipment operator all day. He did have my brothers who were always there helping.
The one job I especially hated came after the plants grew in those beds became adults and ready to be pulled and planted. Since I always feared worms and bugs and such, this job seemed to be particularly harrowing. The process was to pull the plants from the ground, roots and all and pile them onto a burlap sack, laying them in the same direction. We were to pull as many as we could as fast as we could. Often others were waiting on us to get the plants pulled before they could set tobacco (plant) in the fields.
I usually pulled one plant at a time, shook the dirt off the plants and looked for worms and bugs. If I saw one, I’d throw the tobacco down and jump back in fear. After about an hour of this backbreaking job, my parents, siblings or other family would be so perturbed with my behavior that I’d be “sent to the house,” thankfully.
Setting tobacco consisted of two people sitting on a piece of equipment attached to the back of a tractor, which was referred to as a tobacco setter. It had two seats and a contraption in between the seats that plants were dropped into. Those sitting on the setter faced the opposite direction from where the tractor was headed. The plants were set into the ground by the contraption. Occasionally, when one was missed, those of us who followed the setter had to set the plants into the ground by hand. This was another backbreaking job.
Once tobacco setting was completed, the next job we had to do was chopping weeds out of the tobacco. The correct way to do this was using a chopping hoe, gently cut at the weeds without bothering the tobacco. I always accidentally chopped down many tobacco plants. I really didn’t always do this purposely, but I was accused of chopping the tobacco to be sent to the house, again. I never realized what the big deal was anyway it was just a plant. The lecture I received later was always about how much money the tobacco brought into our household.
I was never required to participate in the next process, however my mother, sister and I made sure there was an abundance of food for the men working in the fields. This was a time for spraying the tobacco for worms and bugs and topping tobacco. This job entailed breaking off the blooms to get rid of the succors. These succors were like new growth. After spraying again, and waiting two or three weeks for the tobacco to turn from the dark green color to a golden yellow, it was time to cut the tobacco. First sticks had to be dropped in the rows of tobacco, and then the plant was cut with a knife that some refer to as a tommy-hawk or a tobacco knife. Spheres were fitted onto the sticks and the tobacco was thrust through the sphere onto the stick. There usually were five or six stalks on each stick. The tobacco was left in the fields two or three days to wilt before being loaded onto wagons. Once the tobacco was loaded onto the wagon, it was hauled to the barn to be hung from rails to cure.
After curing, and coming into case, this was when the tobacco was soft enough; it was thrown down to the ground. Tobacco usually came into case after a rain or a heavy fog. In Kentucky, this was around November. The tobacco had to be booked, which was the process of piling it and covering it with plastic. Now it was time for it to be stripped from the stalk. The tobacco was sorted into three or four grades depending on color. Once there was approximately seventy-five pounds in a bale, it was pressed and stacked, waiting to be loaded and hauled to the warehouse to sell.
All of us were expected to help with stripping tobacco. The stripping room attached to the barn had electricity in order that we have lights so that we could strip tobacco each evening. There was a wood burning stove inside, with stovepipes running out the side of the building to keep smoke out. We ate supper many times in the stripping room. Usually we ate soups or beans and cornbread. The pots sat on top of the stove to keep the food warm.
Everyone had a job to do. The bouncer was the person assigned to carry the tobacco into the room, and carry out the stalks out once the tobacco was stripped from it. He also, pressed the tobacco. Often time’s two people were assigned to this job. The rest of the people stood in front of the wall-to-wall table, stripped the tobacco, and listened to country music on the radio. The music served only to further irritate me, since I hated country music – still do. Eventually, if I complained enough and messed up everyone’s routine, I’d be sent to the house once again. Oh what punishment!
The first time I was ever at the warehouse was after I got married. Each year daddy and my brothers hauled truckloads of baled tobacco to the warehouse where it was auctioned off to the highest bidder. We always looked forward to this time, because we knew there was money in the house! Selling tobacco came just in time for Christmas.
I swore I would never marry a farmer, but I did. He swears that I made him sign a contract that kept me out of the tobacco fields. I do remember telling him that he should know he wasn’t marrying a work hand. He must have taken me seriously, as I’ve not been near a tobacco field since we married until I took the above photographs.
I’m thankful for my tobacco field memories, but I don’t miss being around it one bit. I hated it so much that I’ve never smoked or put a cigarette in my mouth. I’ll stick to wearing my high heels and dress up clothes. That’s more like my style.
I’d like to hear any of your tobacco field memories. Sign in and post a comment here.
I work in a world where people want to complain and gripe. Employees in my office are forced to deal with rude people on a daily basis. If it isn’t someone standing at our counter complaining, then it is someone on the phone acting ugly towards us.
Not only do I deal with rudeness in my job, tonight on my play time, I was forced to deal with it. Here’s what happened.
Mike and I decided to take a ride on our motorcycle. Mike hasn’t felt well enough to ride in a while, but tonight he was up to it. After riding for about an hour, we made a stop at Rite Aid. I stood in line and patiently waited. When it came my turn, the customer service representative had a hard time locating the tobacco product I had requested for my husband. Another customer service representive began to help locate it. In the mean time, the first CSR waited on the next person in line. After finding the product, the second CSR handed it to the first CSR who had finished with her customer. She began to scan the item when she was suddenly interupped by a middle aged woman who shoved past me and said sarcasticly, “I’m next!” I replied, “no, she was already waiting on me.” The reason I even responded was to take up for the older, CSR who looked confused and was trying to explain that I was there before her. Well, my remark set the customer off even more. She said again, “I’m next, I was standing here while you were over there.” She pointed to the other end of the counter.
The red head side of me wanted to continue mouthing. The nice side of me reminded me of my resolve to remain silent and not say things I might later regret. I stepped aside and said, “go right ahead.” The rude woman sneered, “I plan to!” I shut my mouth tightly and didn’t say another word. Anyone who knows me, knows how hard that was to do. It was evident that anything I said was just going to set her off even more.
When the rude woman finished paying, the red head side of me, remarked to the CSR, “Having to wait for one minute isn’t worth fighting over, is it?” As the CSR was agreeing, the rude woman stood at the front of the store glaring at me. She was waiting for a taxi. She had gotten so badly bent out of shape over being next and she wasn’t going anywhere!
I’ve often noticed people mistreating others. Once in a restaurant, an elderly couple sat at a table and the man actually yelled at the waitress for every little thing. Nothing the waitress did pleased the man and it wasn’t because she didn’t try. She offered explainations and apologies, while remaining cool and calm. I was appalled at the man’s behavior.
While in the line at the grocery store, a woman ripped into the college aged employee because he asked to see her ID for the check she’d just written. He tried to explain that the store policy was to verify Identification. She refused to listen saying, “I’ve been a customer here for years and you should know who I am.” She was rude and had no compassion for the young employee.
One day at work, I had to deliver some bad news to the defendant standing before me. She became so angry that she started yelling at me. “You’d better be glad this glass is between us!” she screamed and continued with her explanation of what she would do to me if we weren’t separated by the glass. She was much bigger than me and I was happy that the glass was between us.
Isn’t it a shame what will set people off? I discussed the Rite Aid incident with Mike when I finally left the store, and we both agreed maybe the woman was just having a bad day. The anger that was evident on her face told me that maybe she was having a bad life.
I don’t mean to sound all holy, but I did pray for her when we left the parking lot.
Do you think I should have or could have handled the situation differently?
What about you? Have you had instances when you had to tolerate rudeness? Do you find it hard to let it go? Does the human side cause you to respond or do you bite your tongue?
Post your comments here and let me know how you responded or dealt with it. I’d like to hear from you.
I am worn out. Morgan and I played at the playground till late yesterday evening. Then, back at the house, she chased the cats all over the place. They ran to the barn, the garage or anywhere they could find an escape. Those poor cats haven’t known peace since Morgan’s been here. My house is a mess. Toys, dolls, stuffed animals and snack foods are everywhere. Her shoes, including the two new pair we bought this morning, are scattered on the floor. The dress I bought for her that she insisted on wearing out of the store, is hanging in the living room so that she can see it. Mike is setting in his chair, smiling.
We love it that Morgan is here.
Eric drove over this afternoon to bring my grandbaby. Morgan loves Braxton and I know she will do fine with her new baby sister. Braxton watches her and smiles. He enjoys watching her play too. We’d planned to take Morgan to the creek to play in the water. In fact we bought her a pair of creek shoes. In case you don’t know what that is, it’s shoes to wear when you wade in the creek to keep from jabbing rocks in your feet. Last year on Memorial Day, when Morgan had only been with us about four months, we took her to the creek to play and just as soon as she saw me Friday, she asked if we could go back to the creek. We planned on taking her today and about the time we were to leave, it started thundering and lightening, then the rain came. Later, it was overcast and we were afraid to chance it. After Eric left, the sun popped out and it hasn’t rained since. Now the plan is to take her one afternoon this week.
In case you are wondering about me having time to write while she is here, I’ll just tell you. Morgan is playing in the bathtub, while I’m sitting here watching her and writing. She is singing to the top of her lungs and occasionally, I have to add warm water to her bath. If I don’t stop writing soon, she will be shriviled up like a little prune.
Tomorrow, I’m taking her to her church. She corrects me when I say I’m taking her to Eric and April’s church. Anyway, she’s looking forward to seeing her friends there. I hate to take her back to where she is staying this week, but we plan to see her again before she goes back home to Ohio.
So far, it’s been a great weekend.
On our way to church this morning, Morgan said, “Dardar, I wish I could come and stay with you for a very long time,” and I told her that I wished she could too. She did well in church and everyone was glad to see her. After church we ate at Applebee’s and when she finished eating, she got up and wanted to sit in Eric’s lap. I took pictures of them being silly. I’d post them here, but I’d have to get permission from her mom, and besides, it’s probably not a good idea. Anyway, she spent the rest of the day at Eric and April’s and I’ve already talked to her on the phone since I’ve been home. If that child has told me once today that she loves me, she’s told me fifty.
I’m already looking forward to seeing her again Wedensday – if all goes well.
Don’t call me this weekend. Morgan, my former foster grandchild is coming for a visit. I’m almost too excited to write. She was in my son and daughter-in-law’s home for thirteen months and in that time, I fell in love with this child.
Morgan is almost five now, she was three when I first met her. She was in foster care to give her mother time to resolve some issues. We knew from the start that she would not be available for adoption. That didn’t stop me from day dreaming about keeping her forever. I am glad though, that she was able to return to her mother. She wanted to be with her so much and when she would stay overnight in our home, I usually cried myself to sleep, after she cried herself to sleep from wanting her mommy.
Morgan is happy now and that is what matters to me.
When she was here, she used to say that when she got to be a big girl and had a car, she was coming to get me, Mike, Eric, April, and every person whose name she could recall, to take us to the beach. We always planned what we would do; like picking up shells and playing in the sand. I always dreamed of taking her to the beach even though she’d been before. She must have really enjoyed her beach vacation, because she talked about it constantly.
Morgan loved to go shopping too. I’ve bought her more dresses and clothes than she ever needed just because I couldn’t say no to her pleadings. She would have worn a frilly dress every day of the week if we had let her. She also loved hair bows and jewelry. Morgan was such a girl.
That child added more life to our old house than it had seen since Eric was a child. Mike and I played under our dining room table with her, crawled on the floor, playing with every doll and toy she had. We sang silly songs, played in make-up, played beauty shop and so many other things. We’d have to rest for a week after she left.
Her favorite thing to do was ride her Barbie car (I bought it at a yard sale) to the church playground. Once we got to the playground, she wouldn’t want to leave. We would try to see which one of us could swing the highest. I even played on the slides with her; that wasn’t a pretty sight, but never mind that.
Going to church was a special time for us. She learned Bible stories and games, went to Bible school and picnics. She asked questions and was introduced to Jesus. I just hope she remembers Him.
Morgan now lives in Ohio, so we haven’t seen her since she left in January. I’ve missed her very much and haven’t been able to look at pictures of us with her or watch videos of her that we taped while she was here. It just hurt to bad to think of her. We’ve spoken to her on the telephone, but she usually was playing too much to be bothered with our calls. After just a few minutes of talking, she’d just hand the telephone to her mother. Like I said, I’m happy that she’s happy.
Anyway, my point is that I will see Morgan today for just a little while. Then, on Friday afternoon I plan to pick her up and keep her for the weekend. She is visiting with family in Kentucky while her mother is recouperating from a c-section. Morgan now has a baby sister.
I plan to take Morgan shopping, to the park, play dress up, let her play in my make-up, and do whatever the child wants to do. I can’t wait.
Don’t call me this weekend. If you do, I might take a cue from Moran and talk just for a minute then hand the phone to Mike. I’ll probably be too busy to be bothered with your phone calls.
This being the time of year for vacations, I thought of a family vacation trip we made to Canada from Kentucky. It’s likely all of us has a vacation story. I mean, funny things happen and then there are some not so funny things.
For me, at least for now, vacations are just memories. With gas prices the way they are, I’m sticking closer to home. Remembering vacations is all I plan to do this year.
I’ll share my story with you. Be warned though, this is a long one, but I think you’ll be entertained.
If you’d like to share your vacation memories, I’d love to hear them. Send them to me or post them here.
I was seventeen years old and fresh out of high school. My family and I were planning a vacation trip to Canada with friends. For my father and his friend, it would be a fishing trip. For the rest of our family, it was a camping trip, a trip to discover another world outside our farm.
The family we were to travel with was Hershel and Vena Miller. Their children, Vickie, Eva and Ricky all were close in age to my siblings and me. My siblings are Danny, my older brother by one year and a day, Paulene, my younger sister by one year and 10 days and my baby brother, Cecil Jr who is seven years younger than I am.
The year was 1973 and it was early June.
The day we were to leave was full of hectic activity. The cooking utensils, food, clothing and supplies had to be packed, not to mention the camping and fishing equipment.
This trip was in no way to be normal. There were two vehicles going. The first was a Cadillac. You know the kind, a big long rectangular shaped thing. Hershel and Vena drove the Cadillac. I climbed into the backseat with their son. Neither one of us had a crush on the other, nothing on our minds other than the ride, because the other vehicle was a Ford ton cattle truck with racks and a tarp cover on top.
The second vehicle-the cattle truck- was loaded down with our supplies. A boat, placed in the back of the truck had to be contended with by those not lucky enough to ride in the cab of the truck or in the Cadillac.
I really do not know anymore about the ride in the cattle truck. Nevertheless, from what I understand it was fun and exciting. I suppose I am too much of a girl to enjoy being in the back of a truck traveling from Kentucky to Canada.
The small johnboat was loaded into the back of the truck and those in the back of the truck, rode in the boat. If they took a nap, they slept in the boat; if they ate, they ate in the boat.
Vickie, Eva and Paulene were more tomboyish than I ever thought about being. They laughed, talked, sang and played in the boat and enjoyed the ride. Ricky and I enjoyed our trip in a different way, riding in style. Now that was fun. We too laughed and sang, but we sang along with a radio.
Hershel and Ricky both always wore cowboy hats. At one point, we stopped to take a break and Ricky reached up behind me to retrieve his hat. The gang in the cattle truck already exited chose only to see Ricky’s arm go around me. They broke out in laughter and all we heard were their insinuating comments.
We were around the Detroit Michigan area when the two vehicles separated. My dad who was driving the truck and was in front of our car, decided to take an exit. It was the wrong one. We waved franticly to get their attention but they thought we were just being extra friendly and waved back too us. Later they told us that they wondered why, after driving all that way, we were waving at them. It was too late when the realization hit them. Hershel who did not take that exit, pulled over into the emergency lane to wait for him to find his way back to where we were.
This was before cell phones so there wasn’t anyway of contacting them or for them to call us. We sat parked in the emergency lane for what seemed a long time, waiting for them to double back. It actually wasn’t longer than thirty minutes when they returned to the area where we waited. We certainly were happy to see them.
The two vehicles continued toward Canada. We did not stop anywhere to spend the night.
Once we arrived in Canada, we stopped in a small town called Wawa and asked for directions to the campground where we would be spending the week. After taking a break and obtaining the directions, we were on our way once again.
Darkness had fallen when we turned down the road leading to the campground. We drove all the way down to the lake, wondering where the other campers were. We were extremely excited to get a prime spot next to the lake.
We pitched our tents, set up the camp for the next day’s activities and finally were able to get into our temporary beds.
Sometime during the night, fog rolled in and fell onto the camp. Everything was damp, our tents, our bedding, us. The tents were so wet; some of us got up and went to the car and truck to sleep.
The following morning, my father and Hershel awoke early, deciding to take advantage of the beautiful lake. They unhitched the boat and trailer from the ton truck after backing the truck down the boat ramp. They were fishing before daybreak.
Once we all got up, my mother and Vena began the arduous task of cooking breakfast. They first had to unpack all the items needed for cooking. The rest of us decided to check out the campground. We would need to find the bathhouse.
As we were walking around, a park ranger drove up. He and his partner exited there cruiser and approached my mother and Vena.
“Ladies, what do you think you are doing?” asked one of the rangers.
“Camping, cooking breakfast, why?” Vena responded.
“This is not a campground. This is a national park!Camping is not allowed.”
“A park? Sorry, we didn’t know,” answered Vena.
“Pack all of your belongings and leave the park immediately.”
The Rangers did not leave us. They were going to make sure that we got out of the park as quickly as possible.
My mother and Vena instructed us to go to the edge of the lake and yell as loud as we could for my father and Hershel. We did so, screaming, yelling, and waving our arms franticly until we attracted their attention.
The men finally saw us and drove the boat over to where we were. We told them what was going on. They got out of the boat and came to the shore to talk to the Rangers.
After much discussion, they found that we had taken the wrong road the previous night. The actual campground was on the main road a couple of miles ahead.
We boxed and repacked everything into the truck and as we drove off, the park rangers were posting a No Camping sign.
After following the Ranger’s directions, we arrived at the real campground. Campers and trailors were everywhere. Imagine that!
Have you heard of a welfare Cadillac? Usually, used in a description of a poor person living in a broken down shack with a big fancy car setting out in front of it. That is exactly what our camp looked like.
There were pitched tents, folding chairs, large tables with our butane cook stove setting on top, coolers, and clothes hanging on a handmade clothesline. Then there was the boat and the old ton truck and in front of all of that sat the big long Cadillac. We joked about how that looked all week.
One thing I will never forget is how mistreated I was by the other young adults on the trip. For example, I was resting in my tent, reading a book and yes, minding my own business when one of them yelled to me.
“Hey Darlene, Mama is going to take us into town, do you want to go?”
Now, what do you think I said? I love shopping.
“Of course, I want to go,” I answered as I stuck my head out of the tent.
SPLASH! A bucket of cold water was thrown into my face, soaking my just washed hair and freshly made up face, consequently surprising me. Who do you suppose was the culprit? It was Ricky, my Cadillac partner! Of course, they all laughed, well I think I did too, eventually.
Later I found myself standing tied to a tree asking myself, what were you thinking? Here I was seventeen years old and just graduated from high school. You’d think I would have had a litte more good sense about me.
I should have known it was a trick, but I trusted my friends, my family. That proved to be a huge mistake.
As far back as I can remember I have been scared of earthworms. I continue to be afraid of them. They all knew about my fear but I never imagined them using my fear against me. I mean, we were only playing a game, taking turns tying each other to the tree to see who could get loose the fastest. Everything was going smoothly up until that point.
That is what I was thinking, as I stood tied to the tree. Luckily, I caught on to their plans.
When I saw them whispering and running back toward the camp, somehow, I knew. They were going to get worms and try putting them on me. I began frantically to pull at the rope, burning my wrist from the rubbing of the rope. I jerked and pulled, kicked, and screamed so much, I finally broke free and ran away.
Now, her is where usually I embellish a little. What I tell others is, I pulled the large tree up out of the ground, roots and all and took off running with the tree on my back. I think the story sounds better that way.
There were other instances of abuse but thankfully, the years have faded my memory of those bad times. I must admit though that I did do a little ribbing of my own. I constantly mentioned my riding in the Cadillac. I am sure that might have been a contributing factor to my predicament.
At one point during our trip, we made a run to the laundry mat in Wawa. The local people there wanted to know why of all places in Canada to visit were we in a small town like Wawa. We responded that we were on a fishing camping trip. We liked to listen to them talk.
I know our long drawn out southern drawl sounded funny to them, but not half as funny as their fast speaking northern accent with the word “aye” added to every sentence did to us. All week long, we tried to mimic their accent. For months after returning home, we tried to remember to put “aye” at the end of our sentences.