I was 8 years old staying with my grandparents in North Carolina during the summer, like most summers. It wasn’t all fun and games. My cousins and I would be put to work in the fields. My grandparents had a farm where they grew crops to support themselves. It was hard work. It was hot. Bugs and shit everywhere, but having my cousins around made it bearable.
This summer the crop was tobacco. There were several steps in harvesting it and getting it to market. There was the picking stage, that I hated because there were all kinds of bugs on the leaves. You haven’t seen a worm until you’ve seen a tobacco worm. They are about as thick as my thumb with a horn. I will include a pic below. Anyway, we had this game where we’d toss them up in the air to make them burst when they hit the ground. The messed up part of that game is when the shit would land on your head.
The next phase of the harvest was bundling the leaves with string, and hanging them on this long stick. These sticks would then be hung in the rafters of the tobacco barn to cure.
This particular time we were bundling the tobacco. It was like an assembly line and you had to keep a rhythm. There’d be someone singing old gospel songs with others joining in singing various parts and harmonies. My part was to gather handfuls of the leaves and hand them to the person wrapping them with twine and hanging it on the stick. The leaves had to be in order, the same amount and no bad leaves. This wasn’t easy to do on beat. You’d get yelled at if you couldn’t keep up. I got yelled at a few times before I got the hang of it. What did I know? I was from Brooklyn!
One day we were in full rhythm and a storm suddenly came upon us. It was an ugly storm with huge dark clouds. So we had to put away as much as we could and get in the house, which was about 2/3 of a mile from the barn. As fate would have it, I was the last to leave. It was pouring rain and the ground got muddy real quick. My family had all run and me being so little stumbled to keep up. I also had this problem with my feet where I’d kick my ankle if I ran fast. Everyone was bigger than me and faster. So the left me behind, running down the dirt path. The rain got so intense that it was hard to see, so I ran under this pecan tree for shelter. The ground was a bit muddy so I hopped up on this wooden cart that was used to carry tobacco. It was that act that saved my life. No sooner than I’d done that and wiped the rain from my face there was this horrifically loud crackle and everything went white.
The next thing I remember was waking up in the house in my grandfathers arms. He was giving me mouth to mouth resuscitation. I screamed and flailed wildly until I realized where I was. Everyone was staring at me. Some of my cousins were crying. The only thing I could hear was this horribly loud high pitch. There was the smell of something burnt, which I suddenly realized was my clothes. They were tattered. I’d taken a direct hit of lightning. My grandmother broke down and started praising God for sparing my life. I’d never seen her like that and it got me upset. Gradually my hearing got better but to this day, I still have constant ringing in my ears.
I often wonder why I was spared. How I managed to survive without any other damage. I guess I have a purpose after all.


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