As a child, I often rode the bus to school with my Grandpa Everette. He drove an old pick-up truck that always had a sweet smell of sweat and tobacco. Not cigarettes, but the earthy green leaf type. We raised and harvested tobacco for most of my youth on our family farm. It was a magical concoction aroma of hard work and dirt. It was a very distinct smell that always made me feel warm and safe. I would have to call for a “rescue ride” often in high school before I had my license after missing the bus. My own particular individual time zone has been with me since day one, ask anyone that knows me. I am either five weeks up the road or at least an hour and a half later than I need to be.
I would call over and explain to my Grandmother what I needed, and she would say she would send him on over. I loved hearing my grandparents talk; I use many of their sayings to this day. Within a few minutes “sure as the day is long” he would be there to “fetch” me. I loved these rides with him. The entire drive to school he would talk in his certain drawn out way. The words accentuated with his special way of making sounds highlighting his delight or disdain for the subject matter. I can still hear him in my mind reflecting on the increase of homes and buildings and the value of a man holding on to his land. Because as he often told me, “Land…they aren’t making any more of it.” This rings true to my family that has managed to hold on to our farm that is just at 100 acres for five generations now.
Times change, though, and the probability that my son will become a farmer, or that any of my cousins or nephews have any desire to follow in Papaw’s long stridden footprints is slim to none. That along with the fact that farming is not what it was back when I hitched a ride to school in his pick-up truck back some 30 years ago. I would love to see the look on my son, James Everette’s face if I woke him up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning with the intent of going outside in the chilly, and damp still darkness to prime tobacco.
Even the word “prime” as I am using it is a lost definition as well. I struggled to locate it online, and it fell to a #28 in the verb form of the word, but it is a definition. To prime, the bottom leaves of a tobacco plant. Which if you have done it…the bottom leaves on the first Saturday are painful to pick because of the constant stooping position. A hardship my children will never know.
Unfortunately, they did not get to meet the six-foot-plus giant of a man who was my Grandfather. They will miss out on the way I remember childhood. It took at least three of my steps as a child to keep up with his gate. He was never without a pocketknife in his one piece workers jumpsuit, a faded green color, and his dirt softened and still sturdy lace-up work boots. I can see him…smell him…hear him still to this day if I sit quietly and concentrate. His hands rough but his heart so tender.
It would be nothing to pull out a turnip freshly yanked from the ground, or apple and peel me off slices as we walked all the paths of the farm. Him rambling about stories of his past, and laughing in a drawn out “Haw” type of laugh that faded at the end like he was losing the image he saw clearly in his mind, and realizing that he too was missing the details of his youth, the things of his past.
These are the memories I have of this sacred place, the Macemore Farm. Anyone in our town knows it, knows him, knows us…all of us. That is another lost realization and blessing I have from growing up in a small town. Your family is your bond, your tribe, your safe place to land. They are the ones who read your face because it is a distinct face that looks like your Fathers. They remember your joys of learning to ride a bike so you could fly like the wind down the road to the farm. Comforted you in your pain when we all showed up to work the fields one last time on a chilly day in October just after having to bury our beloved Alfred. The uncle that was always smiling. So many of those times are interwoven with the dirt of this place.
Even though we may not farm the way we used to, none of us… especially me, want ever to lose that sacred place. Looking into ways to protect and preserve it has been something I have been adamant about researching and sharing with my uncles. How to continue the legacy without breaking the bank. How we can hold on without losing it all. This is a typical situation in families, and with proper planning, the story does not have to end.
My children know the farm well…they’ve ridden the tractors, ran in the fields and heard the stories. Although they will never truly get to experience the memories I have, I hope they can benefit from those stories through me and the way it taught me to see the world. My Grandfather’s other favorite saying, which he said just as often was “Education, they cannot take it away from you.” He firmly believed in that. I will do what I can to honor that belief and be as informed as I can on making sure there are future generations that can grow from this dirt and all its many memories. ~ Kimberly