Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Little Weekend Tobacco Tangent

I've nearly finished the book the first time through and I'll admit my throat tightened and my eyes watered profusely exactly once so far. I wonder if that happened to you and in the same place. I'll find out soon enough.

In the mean time I've been thinking about tobacco farming. If you've read any of Wendell's interviews or articles you know a lot more about this issue than I do.

But I don't really think about tobacco farming as an issue. To me it's a romantic idea of immigrants, beautiful barns, community and hard work. (And hobbits, but that's not really what we're talking about here. Although, I have a firm belief that just like in musicology where all discussions eventually lead to Beethoven, all book discussions eventually include Tolkien. And all homeschooling discussions eventually center upon math curricula. Someone really ought to study this.)

We have a history of tobacco farming here in southern Wisconsin. Sterling North grew up near Edgerton and mentioned helping with the tobacco harvest in the middle of the night in his book, Rascal. It has always intrigued me that they were so dependent on just the right kind of weather for harvesting--foggy and moist for several days so the leaves could be stored just so. And everybody was needed for the harvest. Tobacco farming must be one of the most intricate and challenging forms of agriculture you could ever try.

Driving the country roads around Edgerton and Fort Atkinson you can still see old tobacco barns and sometimes even a small field where someone is still growing tobacco. It's a beautiful plant, and its history in this country is a tangent too large for just a weekend. But I'm thinking about it anyway because the folks in Port William are growing it.

I tried growing it last summer in my garden. The flowers looked just like this and attracted hummingbirds.

That was a gratuitous mentioning of summer.

I'll leave you with a gratuitous picture of a stone fence in Kentucky, perhaps one of the most romantic images of rural life there could be, at least for me.

I've always wanted a stone fence. Hannah has one.

:) Lynn


  1. I got my book yesterday and I read 8 chapters last night. It is very good. Thanks for the info about tobacco.

  2. I snuggled in bed with the book late last night excited to get started. I read the first 2 sentences. I tried to read the whole first page but I kept boing back to the chapter title, "The Story Continues", and the first two sentences. Then I scanned the front and back of the book and realized this book was part of a... series!

    Is this a sequel? Have I missed something? I can't read books out of order! I am completely incapable of doing such a thing without deep mental aggravation. It's one of my (ahem- very few) short-comings.

    At any rate, I was unable to go on... Dear Abby, please help me past this hurdle.

  3. I once dated a fellow who worked in a tobacco warehouse in South Georgia. He taught me not to slap at mesquitos because it reduces the inflammation from the bite.

    I'm at chapter four, but now I'm feeling rushed.

    What's with the racing through, Lynn?

  4. We've driven through tobacco country in Kentucky quite a few times and it is beautiful. Stone fences, tobacco barns, horse farms all dot the countryside. In fact, while reading Wendell's books, I finally looked up where he really lives (his fiction is largely based on his own hometown) and it is just outside Georgetown, Kentucky, where my husband has business related to the Toyota plant. I wasn't surprised because Wendell describes the country exactly as it looks.

    @Tammy, I don't think you will have a problem reading this book first. Wendell writes the series out of chronological order. He jumps around the various characters and times just as someone would who was really telling stories about real people. You see how they are all interrelated if you read all the books, but starting with any one of them would be OK. I read them in the order in which Wendell wrote them, which was out of sequence. It bothered me at first until I settled into his style of story telling and then I really liked it.

  5. Dear Unable to Go On,

    You must go on. I'm sorry you are suffering from deep mental aggravation but you simply must try again.

    I realize you don't know who Nathan is and the first page is really confusing. I had to read it a couple times to get my bearings. Once you are past Hannah's little introduction it gets easier, it really does.

    Wendell's all about community and relationships and family ties and loves talking about or at least mentioning a whole lot of folks that I have no connection to. I've found that I really don't need to know a whole lot about Port William to be inside Hannah's story. I'm sure knowing more might add to my enjoyment but for the moment I'm content to be ignorant.

    Please be ignorant with me and try again.

    Pretty please?

    With sugar on top?

  6. Dana--I'm sorry you're feeling rushed. Please don't feel rushed. We're going to take the whole week to discuss Part One. We're not going to do it all on Monday.

    And if it takes us longer to discuss Part One, so be it.

    I really don't have a schedule and am open to folks chiming in on what's reasonable.

    I'd never heard that about slapping mosquitoes. Is it true?

  7. I am totally and completely impressed that you have pictures on your blog already.

    Golly. You're quick.

  8. For you Lynn... just for you... and because you started a blog and all, I will proceed. I will resist the urge to get the first book and will trust you and Sandy. I'm sure with such support, I will make it through this non-sequential experience. Thank you for the encouraging words. Now I must return for more teenage basketball. yippee.

  9. Donna--thanks to the Kentucky Department of Tourism, I have pictures.

    I find the layout wacky but given the temporary nature of this blog I have to let it go. I must be content with my place, like Hannah.

  10. Tammy--you have my deepest gratitude. We would have missed you something terrible, something fierce, something unmentionable had you left us.

  11. I got the book today and will start...tonight after I finish my other book!

  12. Oh, and we did Rascal for our homeschool group's book club last year, good book!

  13. I must say that you threw me for a loop with your new color scheme today!

    Ahhhh, I wondered about the series, too, and feel better having read your reply.

    And oh my! I've learned something new! I never knew tobacco was grown in the southern part of the state. Could I grow it in my northern garden? Perhaps then I could roll my boys some ol' cigars...hee hee!

    Blessings from someone who did absolutely no reading today,
    Tammy ~@~

  14. I'm having trouble posting...I'm so new at this. I think I posted to the's the 18th now.

    I told Tammy I'm a "House" fan.

    I made my comments that, yes, I had a moment where a man was writing about a woman.

    I want to save enough, like Hanna, to get the knife Ree gave away on her site yesterday.

    My problem is I need to get back to the basic, that's why I love this book.

    I wrote all about this in much more depth on a 16th post, that's why I'm vague and frustrated at myself!

    Lynn - now that I see this page, I love the pictures and the green. I think the green warms it up a bit!

    To the one who doesn't want to go on...
    Yes, the names are confusing, sometimes I'm wondering who who is and I'm now at Chapter 18...just keep pressing through. There are a million names, and lots aren't all that important. If it's too much to handle, there's a family tree at the back of the book! Please keep's such a lovely book!

    Hopefully I'll post my comments in the right place from now!

  15. Allison--I found your other comment--I think the blog is small enough that it really doesn't matter where you post--someone will find your comment eventually! (But it does help to be on the current page.)

    I'm glad you're enjoying the book. We're reading it because Sandy, Di, Laura and Carol listed it as their best book of 2008 and Donna thought we should copy them. You can read about how this all started in the first entry.

    I found the family tree helpful also but didn't look at it until I wanted to know what year Virgie was born. Virgie!! We can't talk about Virgie until the very end. That's going to be hard.

  16. Another author who writes (sympathetically) about tobacco farming is Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

  17. Interesting, Carol. I've not read any Kingsolver yet. She's on my list.

  18. Lynn,

    I think it is "my Place." With Wendell "Place" is a proper noun, don't you agree?