A number one rule on the farm is when it is time for a crop to be started or when it is time to harvest the crop that time is so very important to the result of the crop. Probably no crop had to adhere to this rule more than tobacco. When the tobacco plants are ready to be transplanted into the field there is a window of time before that plant can’t be transplanted. Probably just as important is when the time to cut that tobacco and put it in the barn went on a timer and not a farmer who raised the crop wasn’t aware of this.
One such time when we could hear and feel that timer was one year when my cousin Walt and I had farmed together. We had raised a large amount of crops and most of all tobacco was our largest endeavor. It had been a good growing season and all the places where we had raised tobacco that year were bumper crops. As we began to house the crops in Mid to late August we had begun with a large crew, but as we rolled into September and went past Labor Day our crew dwindled to where there were only Walt and myself to depend on each day and whoever we could get to give us a day to fill in the vacancies we had.
Finally we came to what we were feeling was our last day of cutting tobacco. This was at his grandpas’ and my great Uncle Roy’s farm. We had at least one acre left to cut and put on the stick and the crew was Walt and me. Over 1200 sticks to be dropped and cut in one afternoon. We felt up to it and determined to get closure on this. (Also Uncle Roy was strongly pressing us to get it done.)
Since we had hung tobacco that morning at Uncle Roy’s we were encouraged to eat lunch there. Since Uncle Roy was in his mid to late 80’s his daughter Grace would come over at least once a week day to clean his house for him and cook a meal. She asks us nicely if we would please eat lunch there with them as it would maybe get Uncle Roy to eat more. Now this was when Walt and I were batching it and we were pretty tired of our cooking and my Cousin Grace Evans was known as one of the best cooks around so we agreed to stay and help Uncle Roy increase his appetite. The meal was huge and delicious with some of the best pie I have ever eaten. Also Uncle Roy thought this to be a good idea as we could start cutting sooner instead of going back home and losing time. He was a clock watcher to put it mildly.
I’m not really sure how to say this but I wasn’t real close to Grace at that time. She always smiled whenever she saw me and was pleasant but she had an expression that could be taken for a smile or a straight face or a look that even though was a smile was a look of not happy with you. So since I hadn’t been around much I wasn’t good at reading where I stood. On that day it was all smiles some laughter and awesome food. So with our belly’s full and a very pretty day to as we referred to it “drop the patch”we headed out the back kitchen door and walked up to the tobacco patch that was on a ridge up from his house.
We grabbed armloads of tobacco sticks and began dropping our rows. After we sharpened our knives and spears we began to cut that patch. All signs were go. That is until about the third stick, I cut a stock and as I brought it back over the top of the stick to place on the sphere I caught my middle knuckle on the point of the sphere tearing the middle finger knuckle deeply. I began to bleed and it seemed no matter what I tried the bleeding didn’t stop. Being on the knuckle where every move meant bending the cut and keeping it from clotting. After a few minutes Walt dejectedly said you are going to have to go the house and see if Grace can bandage it. By the look on his face one could see he felt another day longer was in store for us.
I walked to the back kitchen door and softly knocked on the screen door. (I wanted to be on my best behavior as I wasn’t sure what was coming next. Grace opened the door and saw I had my handkerchief soaked in blood and quickly got me into the kitchen and over to the sink. All the time asking me what had happened and when she looked at my finger she said oh my then gave me that smile I didn’t know how to take. She said lets wash up your hand. In the days I had been around there were only a few remedy items in a first aid kit. Mercurochrome, methiolate, Iodine and maybe some Clorox. But once the hand dried Grace reached up into a cabinet in the kitchen and said I think I have something here that will fix you up. At that point she poured a solution I had never seen before and my wound began to bubble and fizz. I was so startled I thought to myself Oh my lord Grace really doesn’t like me as she has just poured acid on my finger. My eyes must have been as big as saucers as I was terrified. But as I was watching I wasn’t feeling any pain and as the fizzing began to slow the bleeding stopped.
At this moment I was very confused. Did she try to kill me or did she heal me. I finally ask her what had she used and she said hydrogen peroxide. This was new to me and boy was this ole farm boy glad to learn of it that day. As Grace installed a perfect bandage on a finger that wasn’t bleeding or hurting anymore I decided that my cousin Grace was a pretty nice lady.
Not only could she cook she was a doctor! That was when I decided she was smiling and it was a pretty smile. By the way Uncle Roy was watching all the time and he finally ask Grace if I was going to be good enough to finish cutting his tobacco.
She said yes and told me if I had any more problems with it just come back to the kitchen door.
I returned to the patch and cut a few sticks and was so happy all systems were go. I could see Walt smiling the smile of relief and by suppertime the last stock was cut and on the stick. With Uncle Roy setting at the end of the patch making sure we got it done He said Grace had kept asking him how I was doing.
You know sometimes it takes something like this to give us a little more education. I learned of hydrogen peroxide and that I really did come from a good family.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.