For nearly three years, a familiar sight on my route to class has been the Gallatin Tobacco Warehouse. The Warehouse is a huge barn-like structure, covered in corrugated tin. Now that the quota and support system is gone, there is no reason for these places to exist anymore and last week, the new owners - the concrete company across the street - began stripping the tin off the sides. Somehow, it seemed fundamentally wrong to see the building like this. It wasn’t being given the dignity it deserved, being stripped in this way after so many years of service. Then today, on my way home, I was sad to see that the ceiling had fallen in where they had begun to knock down the cinderblock offices in the center of the building.
Not only that, although this building didn’t look like much, with its tin sides and utilitarian structure, we’ve lost another piece of our collective history. Not only did several generations of local farmers made the trip to Gallatin to sell their crops in this cavernous warehouse but we’ve lost one of our last remaining links to our agrarian past. How many folks realize that the quota and price support system wasn’t just extra money coming in every year, but a product of the hard work done by a bunch of midwestern farmers who worked to create a cooperative for their crops in the late 1800’s because the prices of those crops had dropped so low? Would anyone realize that this was one of the main roots of the Populist party, which is still influencing our political outlook today?
As a collective whole, it seems that we are in such a hurry to get rid of all signs of our past. “We Must Have Progress!” is the battle cry, although it appears to me more like we’re trying to hide the embarrassing and thoroughly uncool fact that our forebears actually got their hands dirty and had to live without antimicrobial soap.
The question is, if we try so hard to get rid of the foundation that is our past...what are we going to use to support the structure that will be our future?