PAINT LICK — In an annual ritual signifying the end of the summer growing season, older men followed a familiar path hewn by younger men through rows of golden tobacco leaves Thursday afternoon.
The young men were competitors in the 29th Garrard County Tobacco Cutting Contest, a battle for speed and accuracy that came down to what has become a predictable finish.
In the event at Roy Noe’s farm, Alvin Stamper of London edged out Garrard resident Daniel Edgington for the fifth year in a row, cutting 4.1 sticks (six plants each) per minute to Edgington’s 3.8.
It is grueling work under any conditions, and Thursday’s temperatures were in the 90s with blistering sunlight.
Still, the competitors furiously hacked down some 300 sticks of tobacco by hand, being careful to make sure there were six plants to a stick, no sticks were knocked over, and no stalks were split.
The pace and accuracy of Stamper and Edgington along with the small field of nine confirms what those who have cut in this competition and won in the past will be the first to tell you. They say it is a young man’s game with fewer and fewer young men doing it.