The demise of the tobacco industry, told by a child of it's farming community, with warm memories of the plant itself, not it's product.
It lingered in the air. That sweet, sweet smell. So many memories it stirs in me, my generation and those before me. I can feel that smell, it's like warm sunshine in late summer, as it flickers through the trees. The leaves are just beginning their transformation into beautiful rich colours. The mornings have frost in the air, and the grass is crispy white. The ice on the leaves burns my hands. It is incredible how one smell can reveal so much.
Will I ever smell it again? There are times that I yearn for it. To relive the days of youth. Yes, it's true "my back still aches when I hear that word!" -truly as Stompin Tom Connors' song says I can recall my body aching. But what is a little back ache when the memories are so joyous. The songs that are written do not do justice to the memory. Such a sweet, sweet smell.
When they fought in court to the eventual demise of my beloved smell, did they peruse the long term effects of its loss on a whole community and of future generations? It built relationships, taught work ethic, built muscles, paid for college, diapers, and new Fords. It was the bread and butter, but most of all it meant the end of sweet summer and the beginning of fall.
Soaken wet, with hands black and thick with tar, arms like a man with each hair sticky and black, juice and tar stinging our eyes, we laboured with smiles on our faces and songs in the air, those were the days of our youth. The trickery, the jokes, and all the plans for Friday night's pay cheque. And oh, not to forget the most anticipated Harvest Party!
How do I teach my children to love work? Where will they experience the excitement of watching nature grow, with anticipation that their days will soon be full of comradery and rewarded with a large amount of cash? Now their summer is spent at summer camps or in front of computers. It's either too hot outside or raining. Oh, how we loved the sun, with our little shorts and bikini tops, all the guys going topless. We were all so very brown, healthy and full of vitamin D embracing the warmth of the sun. Our water was carried in large insulated jugs and we all drank from the same lid or brought our own cup. (When did all the plastic water bottles magically appear? ) The bounce in our step as we returned home after filling a kiln and showering the filth from our bodies. A full days work done in a very short time and still many hours of sun. The knowledge that when we returned in morrow at the crack of dawn, we would arrive to the smell, emanating from the kiln we had so carefully, and proudly filled the day before. For each of us knew in our hearts that we were the best at this job. We worked with the best table gang, the best stick shaker, the best primer, the best boat driver. We had the best gang, better than Joe's and Paul's. For we could get it filled a full hour before the other gang, and those poor souls down the road worked until dark! Yes, it was a race, but we weren't sloppy, no we never left a mess! For there was pride in our work and our boss bragged about us, because he did have the best gang in the county!
Now the smell is nearly extinct... Occasionally you will see a field straight and green with beautiful flowers, that will be topped in a short while. In a week or two there will be an automatic primer that will pull the leaves from the tall graceful plants. If you listen close enough you will hear the laughter (and the curses) of those many generations that have loved and laboured in the fields of Southern Ontario.