Connecticut’s Little-Known Crop.
WINDSOR, CT.–Summer has come to New England. It’s hot. Not as hot as it’s going to get, but up over 90 degrees today. Not much breeze … just bears down on you.
I’ve been away from here for so long that I had forgotten about one of the really interesting things about this area. Most people don’t know it, but here in the Connecticut River Valley, they have grown tobacco for many years. It’s a very special variety which is used exclusively as the wrapper for cigars. Cigarettes are wrapped in paper; cigars are wrapped in tobacco leaves, and much, maybe even most of it is grown here.
This variety of tobacco needs heat, but it has to be accompanied by high humidity, so the fields are covered with a cloth that resembles cheesecloth. It’s quite a sight and it was startling to see it from the air as my plane circled in to land at the Hartford-Springfield airport.
A week or so ago I wrote about an unpleasant summer job I had as a youth. Ask any teenager living in these parts what’s the most miserable possible way to spend a summer and they will respond instantly, “Working in tobacco!” Yet generations of kids have spent their summers working under those tents. I am not ashamed to admit that I would have done almost anything to avoid it.
Once harvested, the tobacco leaves are bundled and hung on racks in huge wooden barns to dry. Take a drive around this area and you’ll see hundreds of these barns. Something in the tobacco drying on these racks for 30 or 40 years permeates the wood and when the barns get too old and are finally ready to fall down, the wood is salvaged, and milled into the most sensationally beautiful flooring I’ve ever seen. Sensationally expensive, too.
One more day here, then off to Boston early Sunday morning. Train from Windsor through Hartford to New Haven, and connecting there for Boston.