The guys took advantage of every sunny moment of these days to get the rest of the broadleaf tobacco in. Just when you think the day will be great up pops a shower. You cannot take the tobacco in if it is not ready but you need to make sure that you are there when it is and getting the whole routine down takes some knowledge. The tobacco is cut down by the stalk with tobacco hatchets and left to lay on the ground to wilt. The stalk is sometimes 1 ½ to 2 inches in diameter. The leaves need to wilt so they will fold closer to the stalk when it is put onto the lathe. The lathe resembles the old lathe used in houses that horsehair plaster would be covered with for walls. A spear head is on one end of the lathe and it is placed into a “spear horse” which holds the lathe out so the end of the stalk can be pierced through. Six stalks are hung on each lathe. Leaves that fall off as this is done are not discarded. They are saved and put onto nails placed in other lathe. All tobacco is precious unless too destroyed to be any good. The lath with the stalks are loaded onto a tobacco rigging (think of the rigging as if it were a file cabinet and the lathe is the hanging folder). When the rigging is full it is pulled by Farmall tractor (of course) to the shed where it will be polled up into layers. Think of the poll as a bbq fork! The poll is centered in the middle of the lathe and when balanced it is handed up to the next tier to be handed on. The top most tier is loaded in each shed first and then each tier is filled to the bottom. The tobacco is spaced out so that air can flow through and wilt/dry the tobacco (this is called curing). The guys work from 9:30 am to around 8pm or later breaking only for lunch. This job is not for the faint hearted! This is not the end of the work. This is only one stage. There are more pictures in earlier posts.
One of the Spear-horses
Waiting to be unloaded into the shed
Ed Sr. putting loose leaves on a nail lathe