The Tale of One Kentucky Hemp Field


All the hemp talk going on lately has gotten me into a mood to pull out an old book I picked up on eBay.  “The Reign of Law: A Tale of the Kentucky Hemp Fields” was first published in 1900.  In it, James Lane Allen gives a romantic detail of the life cycle of hemp, and upon reading the first few chapters I was inspired to go out and visit the Kentucky Hemp Babies.  These beautiful, useful creations of God, are growing like metaphorical weeds, and they aren’t weeds at all, but trees.  Life-giving trees that have the capacity to inspire words such as the following…


Some morning when the roar of the March wind is no more heard in the tossing woods, but along still brown boughs a faint, veil-like greenness runs; when every spring, welling out of the soaked earth trickles through banks of sod unbarred by ice…

….the sower, the earliest sower of the hemp, goes forth into the fields.


Warm they must be, soft and warm, those fields, its chosen birthplace.  Upturned by the plough, crossed and recrossed by the harrow, clodless, levelled, deep, fine, fertile…such is the favorite cradle of the hemp in Nature.

Back and forth with measured tread, with measured distance, broadcast the sower sows, scattering with plenteous hand those small oval-shaped fruits, gray-green, black-striped, heavily packed with living marrow.


Lightly crossed over by drag or harrow, under the rolled earth now they lie, those mighty, those inert seeds.  Down into the darkness about them the suns rays penetrate day by day, stroking them with spears of flame.

Drops of nightly dews, drops from the coursing clouds, trickle down to them, moistening the dryness, closing up the little hollows of the ground, drawing the particles of maternal earth more closely.

Suddenly — as an insect that has been feigning death cautiously unrolls itself and starts into action — in each seed the great miracle of life begins.

Each awakens as from a sleep, as from pretended death.  It starts, it moves, it bursts its ashen woody shell, it takes two opposite courses, the white fibril-tapered roots hurrying away from the sun; the tiny stem ascending graceful, brave like a palm.

Some morning, not many days later, the farmer, walking out into his barn lot and casting a look in the direction of this field, sees — or does he not see? — the surface of it less dark.

What is that uncertain flush low on the ground, that irresistible rush of multitudinous green?

A fortnight and the field is brown no longer.  Overflowing it, burying it out of sight, is the shallow tidal sea of hemp, ever rippling.

Green are the woods now with their varied greenness.  Green are the pastures.  Green here and there are the fields, with the bluish green of young oats and wheat; with the gray green of young barley and rye: with orderly dots of dull dark green in vast array — the hills of Indian maize.

But as the eye sweeps the whole landscape undulating far and near, from the hues of tree, pasture, and corn of every kind, it turns to the color of hemp.

With that in view, all other shades in nature seem dead, and count for nothing.  Far reflected, conspicuous, brilliant, strange; masses of living emerald, saturated with blazing sunlight.

-James Lane Allen, “The Reign of Law”

For more photos check out my album on Kentucky For Hemp’s Facebook Page

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