Friday, April 3, 2009

You're Gonna Smoke Whaaaaaaaaat??? Have You Lost Your Mind???

Yesterday's online entertainment (as in interesting, not ha ha funny entertainment) was a smash-up of smokers and non-smokers and reformed smokers, a veritable smorgasboard of tobacco and nicotine opinions which appears to have morphed into a less volatile but infinitely more disgusting to me discussion. . .people want to grow their own tobacco to smoke!

I grew up in a tobacco state, worked in the tobacco patch every summer, hated the damn gummy shit that coats your fingers while you're pulling suckers. . . in the middle of freaking hot summer, with no breeze blowing hard enough to reach you inside a row of gigantic sticky (as in gummy) tobacco leaves, with your hands coated with said gummy shit and sweat dripping down into your eyes and you can't wipe it without dragging those gummed up hands across them and gum plus sweat will make your eyes sting like the bejezus!

You want to smoke? Your business. You want to actually grow your own tobacco? Even though I imagine your experience will be different since it should be on a smaller scale that what I experienced growing up and you'll probably not want to use pesticides and such, all I can think is GAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!! DO YOU LIKE GUMMY SHIT STUCK TO YOUR HANDS?? WOULDN'T YOU RATHER JUST PAY THE DAMN TAX ON YOUR CARTON, INSTEAD OF DEALING WITH TOBACCO WORMS AND MUD AND ALL SORTS OF OTHER DISGUSTING STUFF??

Late in the spring of each year, my mother would fix the tobacco beds, the spots where seeds would be sowed and grow into plants big enough for setting out in the tobacco patch. She'd till the ground, place some noxious cans of something or other down the center of the bed, cover the bed with plastic that had to be weighted down all around the edges of the bed, and then push the tops of those cans to release whatever that junk was in them. Weed killer? Probably, I don't remember more than that if you had to seal it inside that plastic and take extra care not to get any whiffs of it, then how could it not be nasty stuff?

When the plastic came off and the tobacco seeds were sown, we'd follow Mother out there and look for signs of the seeds coming up. She'd cover the beds with a loose canvas, and the tiny green seedlings would grow into a packed bed of ankle high, skinny plants that already had that sticky stuff inside their stems. "Setting the tobacco out" meant helping carefully pull single plants out of the dirt, stacking them with the roots all pointing the same way, and getting enough piles of them to last for a bunch of runs across the tobacco patch with the tobacco setter behind the tractor. This pulling plants was usually done while dew was still on the ground, and every time you moved your pile, crumbles of dirt and mud would coat your arm or leg or whatever body part got in the way. Can you say muddy, wet, and just chilly enough to not be fun?

Now, we come to the tobacco setter. Once upon a time, my parents put out plants using a handheld, peg-like planter, and we followed with water for each plant. Ah, but somewhere along the way we got mechanized, and the tobacco setter was sort of our friend. I say "sort of" because my city grandma (not the granny who lived in the country all her life, but my other grandmother) mentioned to six year old me that the "hands" that gently clamped each tobacco plant and rotated it down to the ground to be watered and have the soil packed around it as the machine moved, those hands just might pinch me if I left my hand there too long when I laid each plant in them. These hands rotated around the wheel very quickly, and the two people riding the setter had to keep them full. Someone else got the pleasure of walking behind the setter and filling in any missed spots with a plant and packing the dirt and mud around it. Whether my city grandmother really thought I might get my hand caught, or whether she was teasing me, I don't know. I imagine my mother has an opinion, but suffice it to say that I hesitated almost too long every time I rode the setter for a long while after that. Later on in my childhood, I was pretty fast at it. My mom and I would ride the setter, and Pop would gradually run the tractor faster and faster. . .and that, messy as it was, was a fun job sometimes. Still, I wouldn't choose to do it all over again.

What else? Oh, yeah, hours in the stark summer sunshine, walking down each row of tobacco with a hoe in your hand, chopping weeds and pulling loose dirt up around the tobacco plants. Not a fond memory. Not a horrible memory, I guess, but once again, I wouldn't choose to do it all over again.

Stifling hot, that's how it felt in between those rows of tobacco later in the summer. That was when we'd be suckering the tobacco, pulling off the darker green suckers that competed with the big leaves for food. The big leaves were also food themselves, at least for tobacco worms, those fat, juicy green worms that were not my friends. Imagine walking slowly down one of those rows, hoping to get a whiff of fresh air from above your head, wishing you wouldn't sweat and have to feel said sweat running down your forehead, lost in whatever daydreams you could muster to make the time pass more quickly, and SPLAT! Someone, probably your sister or maybe your mother, has plucked one of those worms and tossed it in your direction.

So, that's about half your summer. The rest of the tobacco growing season was just as "entertaining," what with cutting and spearing stalks onto tobacco sticks, hauling those heavily laden sticks out of the patch, and hanging them all in the barn (Mother and Bubby's job, they could handle balancing up there in the tier poles, leaning over to pick up a stick full of tobacco, and hanging them to dry). As the tobacco dried and fall progressed, the time to strip the leaves approached. Never very warm, even with kerosene heaters in the shed, stripping tobacco was another one of those cold, sticky (yep, still gummy, even after drying for months) jobs.

And, that is why my gut reaction to someone wanting to grow their own tobacco to smoke is YOU WANT TO SMOKE WHAAAAAAAAAAT?? HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND??


rosebud101 said...

What a great story, Ang! It's amazing how things happen. You tell a great story!

USpace said...

Cool story, great illustration and description, thank you.

Obama should of said "Read my lips, no new taxes!" Support the sovereign American Indian Nations!

It's all so hopenchangey.
The governments imposing these tobacco SIN taxes are actually committing racist acts since most smokers are lower income, and many of them are minorities. Obama committed a racist act with this tax increase. Completely regressive. Why don't they tax cigs $1,000 a carton?

There are way too many laws already, but we need a one that says a 'Sin' tax may not be more than 100-150% of the Retail price. Ever.

They don't want all people to quit, just enough to toot their horns to justify their tyranny. They will still be able to rely on all those taxes continually coming in from the hardcore addicts, which at the increasingly obscene rates will easily make up the taxes lost from the small percentage of quitters.

Politicians don't want people to stop smoking. If they did they would tax them $100 per pack. But this would just increase the black market even more, and the state would get no money.
absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
raise taxes on the poor

tax cigs 200 percent
hurt poor smokers the most

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
create racist outcomes

raise some taxes on the poor
hurt minorities the most
All real freedom starts with freedom of speech. Without freedom of speech there can be no real freedom.
Philosophy of Liberty Cartoon
. said...


& I think I had it rough in the strawberry fields.....

so glad I gave up the nasty habit when I was young....
ok I will admit that I smoked cig's while drinking until I was 27 though..... YUCK....


love ya girl
mona & the girls
ps having fun this weekend ..
lots of compliments on the beautiful piece I got from you in AZ a few years back...
everyone thinks its so cool.....

Right Turn ArtWerks said...

Except for the part of being with your family......eeeeeuuuuuwwwww, ick, yuck, slimy sticky things on my hands make me want to vomit. What a tale Ang. Facinating. We rendered fat in the yard and made soap. I'll bet even that wasn't as sticky as the tobacco!

Deb said...

Now that sticky just sounds nasty. Still, it is a good memory to have in so many ways, family time especially.

Personally I think I'd want to work with Beer Hops, not that I drink beer (don't like the taste -lol) but because the hops themselves are quite pretty.

angelinabeadalina said...

You guys are right! Family time equals good memories, and the sticky stuff itself is just ewwwwwwwwww! We three kids (and my Dad could be included, too, since he grew up a city boy and then married a country girl) learned a lot from doing this stuff with our mom. Those parts and the goofing around and joking to pass the time while we worked were fun.