The rain of late take me, my memories and the column this week back more than 50 years. My aging memory, however, gives way to me searching for an approximate year that it rained seemingly daily during one or two tobacco seasons.
I believe the most vivid of my memories occurred around the summer of 1959. My father, a tenant farmer, had a decent tobacco crop until the rains came.
Reminiscent of the rains of 40 days and 40 nights as told in the King James Bible, I recalled back then thinking that we, too, might need an ark. Dad’s tobacco crop was inundated with too much water. His tobacco drowned. It was so wet in the fields that the stalks would fall over and primers would have to hold the stalk up with one hand and prime the leaves with the other.
It was a pitiful sight to see a beautiful tobacco crop suddenly yellowing from too much water and leaves wilting toward the ground. Even more of a pitiful sight was mules pulling bogged-down tobacco trucks in the fields and the marring up to their stomachs. What a horrible experience seeing the fear in the eyes of a sunken mule trying to fight her way out of the mud.
In fact, many times those of us in the fields had to calm the mules by unhooking their harness from the tobacco trucks, then get in front of them, hold the bridle and calmly lead them out of their predicament. It happened on more than one occasion.
My father actually had to use sleds (flats where tobacco was stacked without wheels) in order to save as much of his crop as he could. Tobacco trucks with wheels simply got stuck and many times would turn over, emptying the tobacco leaves onto the rain-soaked earth. I remember him saying at the end of that particular year that he just barely paid his debts, leaving only a few dollars for himself and his family.
I think that experience alone gave me impetus to seek another profession because all those who farm are at the mercy of the weather, which as we all know, can change on a dime. When my dad asked me in my senior year of high school if I wanted “a crop,” I politely told him I’d prefer to go to college. That didn’t stop my love for the farm life where I’d been reared, but I simply wasn’t prepared for the gamble that it took every year to try to earn a living.
The rains of the last few months have brought those memories back to me — memories of a harder time. I’ve jokingly said that it seems as if it is raining 40 days and 40 nights again. One of my friends recently joked that he thought he might have to build a boat.
Even as I write this it is raining. It has rained most of the day, as it has for many days since at least the month of December. I’m not complaining about it. I’m simply stating it as fact. As I look around though I see how fearful people are of COVID-19 and how aggravated they are with a governor who issues inconsistent executive orders intended to lock some parts of society down while allowing other parts to keep moving forward. Add all of that with the rain and depression can be the immediate result for those who are so susceptible to it.
I don’t believe my father was depressed during the steady rains that drowned his tobacco crops, but I know he was awfully disappointed in losing a fine crop of the golden leaf that left him without money to take care of his family, short of borrowing it. My father was a happy-go-lucky person and had a positive outlook on life most of the time. He was able to deal with the obstacles in life and move forward. Some are not so fortunate.
I, too, pray that those who may be feeling depressed because of all the negative issues going on in this country will also see the positive that surrounds us without allowing the gray and foggy days to get the best of you. No matter what, we remain a fortunate people in America. There will be better and brighter days ahead if we keep our eye on the good that envelopes us all.