‘Bacca Pickers

A knockout and a tobacco picker. She and her sisters picked 'bacca during harvest seasons near Butler County. They'd been doing it since childhood.

“My mother’s wedding ring was aluminum,” she says, showing me a ring.

The gray band is not a perfect circle, the metal is too cheap to hold its shape.

“I wish I had more pictures of Mother when she was a kid,” she goes on. “They say she was a knockout.”

A knockout and a tobacco picker. She and her sisters picked ‘bacca during harvest seasons near Butler County. They’d been doing it since childhood.

They worked long hours, earned pennies, lived in bunk-cabins, and made new friends. Think: summer camp for poor folks.

By age seventeen, she was still picking each season. On weekends, she and her girlfriends hiked into the woods with the other workers. They lit bonfires, laughed. Some folks brought instruments and jelly-jars. Others wore Sunday shoes.

There she met a skinny boy. He caught her eye. There was something about him. He asked her to dance. She said yes.

It didn’t take long to know him—they both worked in the drying barn. She’d string blanket-sized leaves onto pine rods. He’d climb the rafters, hanging them.

He was her first boy. For two summers they kissed. And two summers they picked side by side. When he asked her to marry, her answer was no surprise.

Then, the worst.

Only one day before their courthouse wedding, she and her sisters went into town to buy a skirt-suit for the ceremony. She walked up a flight of steps, carrying her sister’s baby. She slipped.

She dropped the infant on the pavement. The baby was fine, but she wasn’t. She busted her neck. They sent her to Tallahassee. Doctors said she might never walk again.

They say he refused to leave her bedside. Not even for food.

After staying motionless for weeks, her temper wore thin. She hollered, told him to leave. She said he deserved a girl in good health, not someone who might need a wheelchair.

He said nothing to her. Then he left. She watched him go and did not call for him. They say she cried.

That evening, while her sister held vigil, a skinny boy came waltzing through the door wearing a ratty suit. He carried a bouquet. He had the preacher with him.

And two cheap rings.

By now, this story practically tells itself. She made a full recovery and later whipped out five kids who all found success in life—except for the youngest, who became a guitar player.

She loved him until her end. He loved her until his.

“This ring was Daddy’s,” her daughter says sliding it on her own finger. “I wish I had both rings, for my kids.”

But that will never happen.

Because her mother is still wearing hers.


  1. Jane - January 14, 2017 5:01 pm


  2. Elaine Howell - April 11, 2017 12:06 am

    Hey Sean, I enjoy your life event stories..You can turn a word wirh the best of them. Hope it’seems not much bother, but I’d like to tell you about the bravest girl i’ve ever met…She’s 3 1/2 years old, our Charley. Charley is about the happiest, most inspirational little gal you’ll ever meet. Took her first steps this weekend. Mostly, Charley rides around in a camaflouge wagon, loaded with furry blankies and maybe even her 45′ beads of courage( she gets one tiny bead for every procedure). This little baby doll just started her 3rd or 4th round of chemo (sorry, about those pesky details)!… Charley was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer at 3 months old. Chemo, radiation, and surgery are all she’s ever known… one surgery, that saved her life, left her blind. Every Wednesday, a stranger picks her up and takes her for some horrific, life-saving nonsense that makes her road-dog sick…and Charley hugs her neck and carries on… On second thought, maybe Charley, my great niece, is the second bravest girl in the world. You should meet her mother, Heather Howell. When you’ve got a minute, and you don’t mind falling in love just a little, check out Charley on FB, She’s got her own page… #Smiles for Baby Charley. I’m loving that you don’t feel the need to complain! All the best, Laine Elaine Howell Lainbrain9@aol.com


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