Rainy, wet, miserable days are known to me as Blackberry Days. It seems like that is the days Blackberry Brandy goes down the hatch quicker than others. I’m not sure if drinking Brandy really cures the ailment but it’s worth the try! So speaking about miserable days leads me to tobacco harvesting. Tobacco was a crop that was a necessity for many dairy farmers, in the mostly Norwegian prominent Vernon County, Wis. like my family. Price of milk was never enough to pay the taxes and the final bills of the year. We would grow about 5-11 acres of tobacco and consider a couple acres was just to pay for the labor that was helping us. We hired just about anyone that had motivation to work and paid more if they would risk they life by climbing up in the shed on little poles to hang tobacco to dry it.
For many years a lot of those workers were people that were incarcerated at one time or another. Apparently being outside of a building and the chance of falling 25 feet was better than any jail cell. You could tell which ones were just recently out, the way they kept looking around for a good place to run and hide or to just enjoy the fresh air and laying down in the grass on breaks. One guy we called Scarecrow who would stand out in the field with his arms out catching the breeze. Stoned or not stoned, not sure, he was odd. When it came time to write out the checks, my Mom almost wrote Scarecrow on the check. Most of the helpers had nicknames since Dad couldn’t remember their name. Farmers hired these people for less than a month and then would never see these people again, and we’ll drink to that. “To Norway” as we say as we drink a shot-worth out of the Black Berry Brand bottle!