It all started when cousin Mike Cobb came from his home in tobacco country, only to discover that there was not a single tobacco plant growing in Pike County. Being a civic minded and public spirited sort, he thought it wise to send me four tobacco plants, to revive the economy of coal country, which desperately needs another obsolete product.
With that kind gesture, I became Pike County's first tobacco farmer, and I never would have guessed the trouble that would cause me.
The first thing I had to do was to locate some people to do the work. Warned by candidate Donald Trump, I went to the Mexican restaurant, trying to find a non-rapist to plant and harvest my crop. The only Spanish word I know other than si and peso is guacamole, and the Mexicans could not fajita out what I was saying, so I had to abandon that project.
It is just as well because a President Trump would probably have sent them back anyway.
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If I were to grow tobacco myself I had to get a tractor. I wanted one of those massive John Deere's with dual wheels on the back and a fireman's ladder to get into the cab, where you have computers to drive it while you watch television or play video games in air-conditioned comfort.
After asking the cost of one of those, I settled for a blind mule. I kind of thought it was blind before I bought it because it kept running into the side of the barn, but the seller reassured me that the mule wasn't blind, it just didn't give a damn.
I now have that mule for sale and would like to sell it to the man who thinks he can whip ISIS with one hand tied behind his back.
The next step would have been to start buying chemicals. To farm nowadays you need to be good at buying chemicals — to stop weeds, pests and suckers. But storing up chemicals in the mountains is probable cause, and there may have been other reasons I didn't want my premises searched. Just saying.
Plus, I have just about forgotten how to say tobacco, pronounced by experts like my grandfather sort of like "terbarker." Saying it correctly is kind of like trying to pronounce "Louisville," and if you say it incorrectly you risk somebody thinking you are a county agent.
So the only alternative to get my four plants successfully raised and marketed was to sharecrop. Let some family plant it, hoe it, cut it and strip it for half. They get two plants and I get two. Now, to be accurate, when I was raised on a tobacco farm we did not hoe, we "chopped out." Mountain people hoe, but you have to learn to talk locally, so for the last 50 years I have been a hoer and not a chopper.
My current plan is foolproof. For a couple years, I will sharecrop my four plants and then let the government pay me a large sum of money to quit raising it. If, in the meantime, terbarker becomes unmarketable, or superseded by something out of Colorado, I can always blame the president of the United States.
I just hope it isn't the Donald. The prospect of Americans having to do all the farm work again is frightful.
Reach Larry Webster, a Pikeville attorney, at firstname.lastname@example.org.