National Day of Listening at the Farm

Last week, instead of hitting the early morning sales to celebrate Black Friday, we opted to head to the farm to pick up some tobacco for my art project, a latch hook rug made out of tobacco and craft paper featuring stories about my family. Coincidentally, it was also the National Day of Listening. This seemed completely appropriate as we gathered around the bin of tobacco and discussed quite a few topics for about an hour.

My family raised tobacco in my early childhood, but had stopped farming it by the time I reached middle school. Somehow I came up with this idea that I really wanted to make a latch hook rug out of tobacco. I spent a lot of time making these rugs with my grandmother as a child. Although they weren’t out of tobacco, instead kits of kittens and Sesame Street characters from the craft store. But I would spend a lot of time on my grandmother’s carpet, which was a brown shag and I was highly allergic to it. In fact dusting brown carpet could be my arch nemesis.

So when it came down to finding tobacco, I had to call on Stanley Smith, one of my favorite people from Stokes County. Most everyone from Stokes County knows Stanley because he is the lead auctioneer for Stokes Realty and Auction. Almost everyone I know from Stokes County ends up having an auction to sell of all of their worldly possessions before or after they leave this world. And in fact, it is worth the six hour drive to return for the event. This is Southern entertainment at its best. I know that my friends will kill me, but I would take a good auction over ACC basketball any day.

Stanley also auctioned off my piece for the Stokes County Art Auction this summer. It went for 100% of it’s value, so I call that a success.

Not only is Stanley an auctioneer and serves on the County Commissioners, he is a long time tobacco farmer with his father John. There are not that many tobacco farmers left. I knew that he was my best hope for finding some tobacco. Plus, I also knew that the trip would be highly entertaining. And it was!

Friday’s trip was Henry’s first visit to a tobacco farm. We also got to see quite a few people hanging around, including John, Stanley’s Dad, Will, his son, and Bobby Boyles, another familiar face from my high school days. I don’t believe that Bobby wanted to believe that it had been quite so long since high school. Every time I threw out a year of when I last saw Beverly or Joe, he corrected me by subtracting off about five years.

So we talked about high school, mom’s farming memories, the tobacco farming process, how to twist the tobacco and even how to attempt to make my project without it completely falling apart. I am still worried about that last one. But only time will tell. It is due in two weeks from today. I have a pair of gloves to help prevent the nicotine from seeping into my skin as I weave. Henry, who fondled a few leaves for about an hour, was not so lucky. He left feeling a little sick.

Thanks, Stanley!

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