While driving through Kentucky I observed many old weathered barns. These are ancient outbuildings that were once useful barns, sheds and garages. Many of these old barns and outbuildings have tobacco hanging in them. Ordinary people drive by and wonder why these decrepit old wooden structures are left standing. They appear to be abandoned. They appear to be falling over, but their usefulness is not over.
When tobacco is picked it cannot be sent directly to market. It must age first. It is hung in old weathered barns. The outbuildings that are used for tobacco drying require missing boards and many openings so the air will circulate freely. It’s an awesome sight to see rows and rows of large leaves hanging in these spooky old barns.
The leaves hang for quite some time. They must dry out completely. Once the foggy mornings begin in November you will see more and more barns and outbuildings being emptied. The leaves will soften with the moist fog and can be graded without crushing. The tobacco is sorted according to color. Once the sun burns off the fog, tobacco grading stops. The leaves become dry and crispy again in the heat. The rest of the grading must be saved for other foggy days.
While driving it’s interesting to observe how different each outbuilding is. There are an abundance of barns that appear to be sagging and leaning to one side or the other. They are usually quite large and one would think it might tumble over in the next windstorm. They are still there year after year. Each year a little more tilted and a few more boards missing. Some are not old barns, they are ancient wood sheds and garages. They are old farm outbuildings that once stored feed or tools. They all have missing weathered boards in common.
They are used until these outbuildings fall in on themselves. You see these everywhere and they simply decompose away over the years until even the old bent nails rust away.
I’m always a little sad when I see the tobacco hanging there even though it is a beautiful sight. This is a crop grown that is actually harmful to people and eventually kill some. I often wonder if the ghosts of the dead haunt the fresh new tobacco drying out each year. Especially when it’s foggy and the moon highlights the wisps in the chilly air.
These old barns and outbuildings in the state of Kentucky are as common as bread and butter, apple pie and cheese. It’s part of the history of the state. It is, arguably, the finest tobacco grown. Ghosts or not, these vintage sheds and garages, these broken down outbuildings, these once beautiful barns will be protecting the tobacco leaf for decades to come.
Source: Personal observation