I never went back “home” after I graduated from high school. My story with those people ended there. It’s interesting to catch up with them at this point after so much water has passed under the keel. I’d been voted ‘most likely to succeed’ in my senior year. I think that they’d hoped that I would have been a politician or would have cured the common cold. One former classmate said that she was disappointed that I didn’t make more of myself. Be that as it may…
The movie, “Napoleon Dynamite”, has meaning to young men who grew up in or around farming areas. The bit where the farmer provides a farm lunch to young men who may have been hauling hay or doing something like that makes me flash back. Particularly the bit about being paid in change. I was paid in loose change more than once – the farmer raided his change jar. The farmer complained a season later that boys were too lazy to come work for him. It wasn’t about lazy. I was also paid in used soda bottles with a redemption value once, by a different farmer. Yes, I did take them to the market to get something like $4 for a day’s backbreaking labor, but I never worked for that guy again either. They used to deduct the price of the lunch from the pay for hauling hay. And they deducted it whether or not you ate the lunch. Lunches were nasty about 50% of the time. The farmers who put out a decent lunch tended to fill up their work slots much faster. Some farmers encouraged boys to brown bag it. Most of them worked us through lunch and we just ate when the sun went down and work stopped. I remember diving into my sack lunch on the ride back to town in the back of a pick up and being dropped with the other boys on the main drag. We walked home to supper.
And I preferred Credence Clearwater to Marty Robbins. That was a death knell to anyone who wanted to rise in the ranks of future farmers.
I decided to see the world instead of being tied to the land.
Bucking bales. Paid two cents each. That was working for relatives. My father paid me zilch for bucking and stacking in the barn his 25 acres of hay.
Not me, but my sons did this for sweet corn.
I bucked hay and built barbed wire fence on a ranch back in the day, too. Memories…The first day of work I was helping the boss and two other guys run barbed wire over a 7-8 foot bank and then down a fairly steep logging road into a canyon. My partner, knowitall, tied off the wire to a post set at the top of the bank and we started to follow the boss and his partner who had reached the bottom with their spool and were walking back up the road. I dropped over the side of the bank and reached up to have 'knowitall' hand me the pipe jammed through the spool of wire, but he said, 'Just get out of the way, I'll drop it and it will stop in those rocks.' 'really? OK, fine.' He dropped it and the roll of wire bounded over the rocks and started flying down the logging road in great leaps, throwing off loops of barbed wire as it went. The boss and his buddy looked up to see what that noise was and the sight of that flying roll and the mass of loops of wire must have been pretty impressive. The agile guy grabbed a low hanging limb and scrambled up a cut bank to the left. The boss went head first over the side of the road to the right, down the embankment into a clump of blackberry vines. I learned words that day that I had never heard before…and I had military in the family.
I never got paid for family chores, but the people in town had to pay something if they wanted the work done.
I presume it was good corn.
Stories like that one are the best.
I was never treated that way as a kid, nor were my kids, nor did we ever treat hired or free help like that, and yes we had the occasional jackwagon, but they never wanted to work in the first place. We provided good meals, usually took an hour for lunch (the older guys could catch a nap that way) and tried to treat them right. Good help was an asset to the outfit.
WELL……I never had any jobs at all doing manual labor. I was always employed in Electronics, from my first part-time high-school job until I retired.
I did plenty of manual labor helping people, but it was always a "favor" type of deal, or for family, never for cash money.
No, I wouldn't think that you would have gone that way when hiring help. This was only my experience with farmers in my little corner of the world. Ranchers weren't that way at all, and I rode fence, docked bulls and rams, fixed things, brought back escaped stock, etc. and was always treated fairly.
The people that had me thinning sugar beets paid a sub-Mexican wage for kids but they were at least nice.
There was little call for that when I was a boy. Most of that was done by men and I don't think that they took on apprentices unless they were sons or relatives. I think that a lot of that work was TV tube replacement and repairing things like toasters unless you were an electrician, and that wasn't boy's work.
Moving furniture, they called me the piano man. Humping ain't fun if it involves a piano and a few flights of stairs. South Florida in August adds to the enjoyment. Moved on to the easy work, tying steel and pouring concrete. Because I'm a lightweight.
I can't think of anything fun about moving a piano. Easier to wrestle a gator and not as dangerous.
Probably had a lot to to with where I lived. I was always the neighborhood "Fix-It Kid", and was in the radio club in high-school where kids like me were actively recruited by the small local technical industries. Back then we had a bulletin board at the high-school advertising part-time and summer jobs. Later in life, I wound up working for two years for the guy that I worked for in high-school as his Engineering Manager after I got tired of working at Fermilab.
Most of the farmers I know have small crews of Mexicans. They work hard; I have to learn Spanish…
Its fun if you are the upstairs guy, the downstairs guy (me), not so much. But those days minimum wage was under $2, I was getting $3.25. Big money. and a hell of a workout. The truck interior would hit 120 degrees with the lovely humidity. Young and dumb, what can I say.
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