“Stop,” I cried. “I need to take a picture of that.”
My dear husband turned the car around and allowed me to jump out long enough to take the photo above. It brought back some vivid memories.
One of the earliest stories I wrote when I started my memoir concerned my early career as a tobacco planter, weeder, whacker, and stacker. Herald Press has turned it into a short excerpt in the ad they created for The Mennonite.
“Look at this big fella!” my father said. We all turned to see him take off his Eby’s Feeds cap, exposing his white forehead in contrast to the dark red of his cheeks. Dangling from his other hand was the plumpest neon-green tobacco worm I had ever seen. It was about three inches long and half an inch wide. As it writhed in Daddy’s hand, I felt the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up. We all made faces.
I could tell that Daddy was expecting more reaction, so I briefly considered letting out my best scream but instead decided to try another tack. I pretended to take a scientific interest in the little black tentacles under the accordionlike sections of the bright green body. Daddy looked at me observing the worm, so cool and calm. Then he did something rare. He spoke spontaneously, recklessly.
“I’ll give you five dollars if you bite this worm in two,” he said.
The story of the tobacco worm occurs in a chapter called “Dueling with Daddy.” The story focuses more on my relationship to my father than on the subject of tobacco. Tobacco itself, however, was one of the paradoxes of Mennonite life because it was the only reliable cash crop sufficient to help pay down a mortgage. So, despite the preaching of revivalist George R. Brunk, who convinced some farmers to rip out the plant from their fields, my father persisted in growing the weed.
He smoked cigars, also.
But never in the house.
Boundaries. Always there were boundaries.
It’s harder to find tobacco in Lancaster County than it used to be. The new cash crops are large animal operations. Have things improved? In some ways yes. In others, probably not.
Here in Phoenix, the weather is even hotter (110 degrees!) than that scorching day in the tobacco fields long ago. None of the Mennonites I see around me are smoking.
Just like the the preacher in Ecclesiastes says, “To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” and “All is vanity.”
I’m off today to embrace my brothers and sisters at the convention of the Mennonite Church-USA.
My New Beginning: to walk around the block near the convention center several times. And to drink lots of water! This may be a very good place to finish shedding a few pounds.
What’s your New Beginning? Please log it here. It’s easy. I LOVE reading what you are up to. Yesterday one of you consciously chose a new item on the menu because she wanted another New Beginning.