Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Here's a photo from my archives. It was taken in the 1988 to 1990 time frame in Gallia County, Ohio.

That's the Ashland Inc. towboat Valvoline across the river. But I'm more interested in the burley tobacco in the foreground.

Burley tobacco is one of three varieties used in making cigarettes. About two-thirds or more of burley tobacco grown in the United States is grown in Kentucky, but it has been the main cash crop of small farms along the Ohio River.

Up until a few years ago, it was common to see tobacco growing along the Ohio River from Gallipolis, Ohio, to around Huntington, W.Va. For years Huntington had a tobacco market where farmers brought their crop to auction to tobacco companies. I spent one or two days each fall unloading a pickup truck at the Huntington market. A lot of people used tobacco to get through the winter, and many used their crops to pay their bills at my father's grocery store.

I have many memories of my older sisters sitting behind a tractor on a tobacco setter. The burning of the tobacco bed was a highlight of spring, as it was done at night. There was suckering, spudding vs. splitting, taking it to the barn, hanging it, taking it down, stripping it and tying it, later replaced by baling. In 1978, I did a newspaper article on a man who had invented a machine that stripped leaves from the stalks mechanically, although people still had to sort them into bright, lugs and trash manually. 

But things change. Namely, price supports and production quotas and off-shore cigarette production and smoking regulations and such. Now you don't see as much tobacco growing in small patches along the river road.

Also, you don't see as many large-scale gardens where people raise produce to sell on the Huntington market, but that's a reminiscence for another time.

Power plant tour

To read about a tour of the Bruce Mansfield generating station along the Ohio River near Pittsburgh, click here.


Two years ago, I couldn't get Adam, then 8 years old, up on a bridge sidewalk, particularly one over the Ohio River. Now I can't keep him off them. He likes going up on sidewalks with me to take pictures or to just enjoy the view. But we've found one sidewalk that puts the fear of heights into him.

That sidewalk is on the Ben Williamson Memorial Bridge at Ashland, Kentucky. The bridge was built in the 1920s and renovated sometime in the 1990s or early 2000s. To increase the width of the traffic lanes, they put the sidewalk outside the main bridge structure. Seriously. It's bolted on to the side of the bridge.

We found ourselves in Ashland yesterday, and Adam had heard me talk about going up on the sidewalk back in the winter to get photos of the R. Clayton McWhorter and the junk fleet. So, he wanted to go up there to see if any boats were in the area. We didn't make it out over the river, as he wanted to go back down when a truck went over the bridge and got the sidewalk to shaking.

We still have the Robert C. Byrd/6th Street Bridge at Huntington and, a couple of times a year, the Bridge of Honor at Pomeroy, Ohio. But other Ohio River bridges, no. The two new bridges at Portsmouth, Ohio, are without sidewalks, as is the Silver Memorial Bridge at Point Pleasant, W.Va. The sidewalk on the bridge at Ironton, Ohio, has been closed for several years.

I just don't understand why new bridges don't have sidewalks.