Ok, so, I have this great idea.

You might recall that in a recent column, I addressed how that tobacco stripping used to be. It led me to thinking about growing a half-acre of tobacco this crop year. Well, I’m not thinking about me growing it. I will either have to sub-contract it or entice a former tobacco grower to buy into my plan. A half-acre would yield approximately 500 sticks of burley tobacco, which would work nicely into my plan. It would have to be a collaborative effort.

When I manage to recruit a sufficient number of volunteers, the workload could be spread out so as not to overwork anyone. Barn space would not be an issue as there are plenty of empty tobacco barns in the immediate area. Of course, the entire project would be a labor of love, for soon all will be gone who remember how it used to be.

Once the tobacco is cured, the stage will be set for the first annual tobacco stripping festival. I envision folks coming from miles around just for the privilege of standing at a tobacco stripping table and tying a few hands. I have even considered charging a fee based on time spent at the table or number of hands tied. Of course, all monies would go to charity.

If the festival falls on a Saturday, I would seek to find a recording of the late John Ward announcing a University of Tennessee football game. Many a tobacco stripping Saturday was made more pleasant, or even shorted, by John Ward, who had a magical way of transporting you from the tobacco barn to Neyland Stadium and Shield-Watkins Field.

And 500 sticks of tobacco would yield a “basket” of tobacco, which would require the sticks of handed tobacco to be “booked” down — a great learning experience for the younger crowd.

I can see it now. The nostalgia would be intoxicating.

And while I’m at it, I suppose I should plant a half-acre of corn (or sub-lease it.) No one gathers or picks corn by hand anymore. Now, that’s an experience that should not be lost to the past. Today, modern combines pick the corn, shuck it, and shell it. The day may come when the combines even spit out Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.

A young person should be afforded the experience of twisting dried ears of corn from the stalk, and then, shucking bright orange ears of corn … and the experience of knowing what chapped hands feel like. Come to think of it, I might have a wooden box constructed for the purpose of shelling corn. I will have to track hold a hand-cranked corn sheller. Youngsters might pay a small fee at the next county fair for the chance to shell a few ears of corn.

You might ask, “Why would you think of going to all the effort to do these things?” My answer is simple. It’s because important pieces of our past are slowly slipping away.

I have never been one to live in the past, but I think it’s important to remember from where we have come ... to remember that which has contributed to the fabric of our lives. I think it keeps us grounded.

I am convinced that staying in touch with the best of our past gives us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. And if the memories of stripping tobacco with family and friends, and gathering and shucking and shelling corn by hand does the trick, so be it.

Hartsville resident Jack McCall is an author and motivational speaker.

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