Smoking Barns.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” – Edward Pola and George Wyle

It’s a special time of year here on Homer Worsham Road. Tobacco cutting has begun and with each day that goes by another curing barn is filled and “fired”, raising the sweet wood smoke smell that defines August and September in northern middle Tennessee.

Robertson County is home to this very special “dark-fired” variety of tobacco which is only grown in certain soils and under particular conditions. The leaves are hand cut, speared onto long wooden sticks, hung in the rafters of tall open barns, and cured by wood smoke for weeks. The best leaves of the crop become wrappers for some of the world’s finest cigars; the rest is used in snuff, chewing tobacco and pipe tobacco.

Tobacco is by far the most profitable crop per acre grown in this area, but it’s a terribly labor intensive process from start to finish. As with all farm crops, too much rain, too little rain, pests, and disease all pose a risk, but dark-fired tobacco tests the farmers nerves in a very unique way at this time of year. The barns are fired with sawdust and slag wood and must be tended constantly lest the entire barn and its precious contents go up in flames.

I may be biased, but I think Homer Worsham Road is home to three of the most beautiful “smoking” barns around. My favorite is the one in my cover photo. Driving around the backroads at this time of year is a feast for the senses…beautiful sights, as always, but the rich smell of the wood fires in our smoking barns is unforgettable.

For most who grew up here it is the “smell of home” and for the occasional newcomer or visitor who doesn’t know that the smoke is intentional, it’s cause for a call to the fire department or sheriff to report a barn “on fire!”

My favorite barn fired today. I’ll enjoy it each evening as I walk my road.

The path here.

Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.” – Drake

I’m not native to this place. I like to tell people who have lived here all their lives that I chose this place…and that’s a compliment.

There are a lot of places my husband and I could have ended up. He’s from Colorado, I’m from Florida. We met in Nashville, spent three years in St. Pete, came back to Tennessee to start his family medical practice in the small town of Centerville. After 6 years there, various circumstances led us to the decision that we needed a fresh start.

So we started to explore. Where would we raise our two young sons, start a new solo practice and find a sense of community that would nurture our little family?

Robertson County checked all the boxes. At first we settled in town in Springfield. A lovely neighborhood of new homes and lots of families. But we soon fell in love with a couple of quarter horses and decided to look for a home with room for horses and two boys to play hoops, football and baseball.

We thought we found the perfect place but another contract got in before us. Out of the blue one day when I was visiting family in Florida the realtor called my husband and said “I’ve found the reason the other house fell through.” He went to look and called me to say I think we’re buying a farmhouse.

It was love at first sight when I turned down Homer Worsham Road and saw the two story, white frame house surrounded by magnificent old oaks and maples. Oak Field, built in 1862, had had its ups and downs but was lovingly renovated and remodeled by its most recent owner.

There’s always something going wrong with a 150 year-old house and for most of the 23 years we’ve been here internet service was non-existent, but we’ve left our mark on this grand old thing and we’ve made it a home.

And the peace that one feels at the end of the day driving up to this place is matchless. There are dark nights filled with stars and sunsets that take our breath away. There are geese and herons, turkeys and deer, raccoons and possums and thousands of fireflies rising on spring nights in the hay field.

The path here may not have been a straight one, but it was surely meant to be.

All around us.

If you don’t know where you are currently standing, you’re dead. ” – Samuel Beckett

Homer Worsham Road, my place, sits in the midst of Robertson County in the middle of Tennessee. It’s a county road and our home is in an “unincorporated” area of the county. That means we are really country folk out here. The funny thing is that Robertson County is home to eleven (yep, I said eleven) cities, so it’s kind of remarkable how we aren’t within the limits of any of them!

Our mailing address is Springfield but we’re a little schizo because we have White House water, Springfield gas, electricity from the rural co-op, and when we had a land line, a Cross Plains phone number. We “identify” as Cross Plains peeps…mostly because that is the home of the high school our sons attended. “We are…ER! Go Indians!”

Robertson County is sort of the last frontier of the middle Tennessee region. Explosive growth has been happening as Nashville has become such an attractive destination for both tourists and residents, but the bulk of that growth happened south and east of Nashville. This rural farmland dotted with small towns is starting to grab the attention of those seeking lower housing and land prices and less congestion. And that’s a good thing for me since my actual job as the economic development officer for the county is to bring investment and jobs and growth to our communities.

But there is a really rich rural and agricultural heritage here and a strong sense of place that, collectively, we don’t want to lose. Growth is a good thing as long as it is managed and we are mindful not to lose the things that we love about our home. That is, the very reasons we decided to make this our home in the first place. I’m cautiously optimistic about our ability to do that. Robertson County is not for everyone and, so far, the people who are moving here seem to value those things that make it what it is.

I’m richly blessed to be able to live AND work in this place. To have a 15 minute, beautiful, traffic-less drive down my chip and seal road and the state highway to the Court House Square in Springfield and then to be able to come back to Homer Worsham Road each evening and soak in the sights and smells and quiet and dark nights is extraordinary.

All around us is the wonder and excitement and busy-ness of Nashville…but here on Homer Worsham Road there’s a raccoon coming on my back porch looking for leftover cat food.

This is my place.

Life’s too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right, forgive the ones who don’t and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it’d be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.” — Dr. Seuss

That’s me. Or, actually, it’s my shadow. And this is my place. Homer Worsham Road.

It’s the place my journey has led me and it has been my place for 23 years this fall. It’s about 35 miles north of Nashville in the middle of farmland that has been sustaining families for generations. A place where the rhythm of life coincides with planting and harvesting. And the very moment you are really in a hurry to get somewhere you’ll find yourself behind a combine or a tobacco wagon that represents someone’s livelihood so you might as well slow down and enjoy the scenery.

It’s the backdrop to my life and a place I really, really love. And no matter where on earth I roam, this place will always be where I am rooted. It’s got some stories to tell and on these pages I hope to share them with you. Thanks for reading!