the tobacco auction

Martin stood on the steps of the King Star Hotel and watched Tryon Street move by at a bustling pace against the autumn afternoon chill. He’d worked really hard for the last eight months to get a solid two acres of tobacco to flourish, and then traded his labor to the Holts for time in their curing barn, and now he was in Charlotte about to make some money at the Laurel Creek Auction House.

Martin, and his cousin Frank, had driven the 140 miles from Roan Mountain over four days, following one creek or another out of the mountains, spending the nights camping on the banks between the creek and the road, then eating just caught trout before getting back on the road. Where there were roads, they were bad. The worn truck eased over each hole and navigated the ruts as it swayed under the weight of its overloaded flatbed piled high with tobacco, wrapped tight with burlap.

The Postmaster on Roan Mountain had given Martin the name of a tobacco warehouse owner and broker that was well known for handling small allotments, so that was their first stop. The man had an efficient operation. In less than two hours Martin had a receipt for his tobacco, and a twenty dollar cash advance on what it would bring on the next auction set for the day after tomorrow.

Martin felt a sense of accomplishment standing here on the busiest street in Charlotte. He had made it to the biggest city he’d ever heard of, had money in his pocket and were about to get more, and did not want another night of cold fish and sleeping on the ground. Tonight there would be hotel rooms, a shave and a bath, and then dinner in a place with table cloths.

All those months of work had been worth it. Martin was ready to reap his harvest.

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