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Sowing and Reaping
When Albert Camus said "In the midst of winter I found in me an invincible summer" he was philosophizing about the importance of a sunny attitude during dark days. In the age of Grandpa (Puzie Lett) folks living on a farm had to start preparing for harvest as soon as the holidays were over. Everything had gone to seed from last year's crop and the earth lay dull and barren. As each day grew a tiny bit longer -- just like now -- it was a reminder that spring was on its way.
On the Lett farm in Buckhorn community in the 1940s, as true on every farm at any time, each season brought its challenges and rewards. In January when it could be "as cold as a well-digger's behind," according to Grandpa, there was no rest for family members even on the weariest, dreariest, most bitter of days. There were many to-dos every minute: wood to cut for later heating tobacco barns, logs to be made into lumber and in turn used to build barns, stoves to fire for warmth and cooking, tools to sharpen, clothes to sew, and cows to milk. One activity was shucking corn, drawing upon the leftover grains from the last harvest to feed the family as well as the cows, hogs and chickens.
In late January/early February when the mood struck and the moon was just right Grandpa, Grandma (Verta), and their nine younguns would make a beeline to the plant bed where tobacco seed were placed tenderly under cold hard soil. This was a sure sign that the new growing season had begun. One neighbor in Buckhorn community discovered that if he set out his beet seeds about the same time they grew a little faster than the tobacco so they would eventually lift the protective sheet over the plant bed higher, creating growing space for budding tobacco sprouts.
As the seeds became plants, the healthy ones were transplanted to the tobacco fields. No fancy tractors, no grand planting machines, just a long cylinder held by hand -- plants were placed in the top, and as the operator opened the shoot and dived the beak into the ground, the plant was set firmly in the sandy soil. One by one, row by row, field by field the tobacco plants graced many acres -- like green lines painted across a canvas. On not-so-chilly days country folks could set a spell on the front porch of the old farmhouse and view a work of art in the making as plants burst forth big foliage.
When neighbors gathered by the old potbellied stove in the back room of Grandpa's country store they would commence the first of many conversations about this year's main money crop. Some say tobacco became a second religion because it was discussed as much or more so than God. For many farmers tobacco became their salvation because it provided the steady income to modernize the house, acquire "citified" equipment, and above all, buy foods and goods not available on the farm.
Soon tobacco farmers everywhere -- fewer each year -- will bury their seeds in the plant beds with their minds focused on the summer's harvest. This launch of a new growing season reminds me of Grandpa's philosophy of life: "Everybody reaps what they sow, sometimes in the short run, sometimes in the long haul, sometimes in heaven, sometimes in hell, but everybody gets what's coming to them."
Seems to me we'd better be sowing thoughts on an invincible summer...
© copyright 2002 AlexSandra Lett, All Rights Reserved
AlexSandra "Sandy Lynn" Lett
© 2008 AlexSandra Lett, All Rights Reserved