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.