Friday, May 10, 2013

The Grave of a Tobacco Harvester

This green enclosure is what I first noticed from the road. 


Buried beneath a twisted mass consisting of a maple tree, pine tree, grapevines, and honeysuckle, I found something I thought was extinct in the deep South.  

Driving slowly down country roads near Eldorado, I spotted an island of green in a field. It was drizzling rain and the blues was playing from my stereo. I turned my SUV into the entrance of the field, my interest piqued.

Soft raindrops dripped from the vines and leaves. I crouched down, drenching the knees to my jeans, and crawled into the green cave created by nature. A monster-sized object, half hidden under wild growth, stared at me from the past. Protected by greenery, the metal was dry. Alone, with nobody to hear me, I squealed. My hands moved across a memory from my teenage years: a tobacco harvester.  I’d been searching for one for years.

Before leaving, I stalked around the entire area and spotted another luscious covering near a plowed field. It appeared to be an entrance to the woods, but I knew it wasn't. I walked through the small paradise and discovered a rustic tobacco barn. Another memory. Another treasure.

A few days later, I loaded the truck with my dog, my husband, and my camera, and drove them out to the harvester.  With my husband’s assistance — he had a stick to knock down high grass and weeds — I climbed under the vines and took photos of the tobacco harvester and its above ground grave. 

When I was barely a teenager and working during the tobacco season, boys with strong, lean bodies claimed the curved seats at the bottom of the harvester. At a snail's pace, a tractor pulled the covered contraption, loaded with workers, up and down rows of thick tobacco, ready to be cured. The boys on the bottom seats cropped leaves, their hands moving with a swift dance, pulling tobacco from the stalks. Rhythm was essential. If a worker lost his timing it would hold up everything. The boys sent tobacco leaves up to the top of the harvester to the girls, and the rhythm continued as the female workers tied tobacco to sticks. I can still string tobacco in my sleep. I'll never forget. 

The work was back-breaking, yet the days were filled with practical jokes, music from the radio, and a great deal of laughter. 

A seat on the tobacco harvester.

A photo taken from under the tree and vines.

I got tangled in the vines.
Vines choked the harvester.

I discovered this tobacco barn.

Behind the barn and the greenery that concealed it was a plowed field.

Brenda Sutton Rose
Author of Dogwood Blues
Old hippie, Introvert, Wife, Mother.
Writer. Artist.
Proud daughter of Robert and Thelma.

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