Is it some lovely ceremonial dance with ladies in long gowns sweeping rhythmically to and fro? Nope, it's tobacco, waiting to be barned. Not ours (she said with a sigh, half relief, half nostalgia)-- we don't raise tobacco anymore.
A few days ago these tobacco plants were cut and slid onto sticks, five or six plants per stick, then left in the fields to wilt down, rendering the yellow-green leaves less 'brickle' and liable to break, as well as considerably reducing the weight of the laden stick.
Back when we were making our first crop of tobacco, Clifford (our mentor) didn't approve of leaving the cut plants in the field, saying that the leaves weren't as pretty when faded by sun and spattered by dirt. Also, it was easier that way -- a shortcut for a lazy man. And Clifford was not a lazy man. So we did it his way for a few years, cutting in the morning and barning in the afternoon.
Back-breaking work -- but then the system changed and instead of making the leaves into 'hands', another labor-intensive practice, farmers were encouraged to bale their leaves -- and pretty didn't matter so much.
We switched to the lazy-man's way at once.
Rain may be on the way, fueled by Hurricane Hanna, so the tobacco is ready to be hauled to the barn where it will hang to air-cure for several months before the leaves are pulled off, sorted into grades, and baled.
Barning is a rough job, even with the reduced weight of wilted plants. And the roughest is that of the one at the top, near the heat of the metal roof as well as the inevitable wasps' nests. But with a man (or woman) on each tier, one by one the sticks are handed up and the barn is packed full of the fragrant tobacco, top to bottom, front to back, each stick resting horizontally and supported by two tier poles.
There are lots of reasons I'm glad we no longer raise tobacco -- but I sure do like to see it mark the seasons in our still-rural county.