6 days ago
Monday, August 24, 2015
Reworked from 3-09.
One summer at the lake in Ohio, my best friend and I who were barely teenagers at the time were eager to make some money. We were too far from town for a cool job like soda jerk and my reputation as a gardener had me banned from all local yards.
Then we heard a farm in the tiny town just north of us was looking for bean pickers. We thought, how hard could that be?
An older friend drove us out to the coordinators house. There we discovered the meaning of ethnic diversity. The pickers came in various shades of white, brown and black. Sis and I advertised our newbie status with our pale, untanned skins and pressed jeans with cuffs rolled "just right" and no hats.
We were driven out to the farm in an open sided stake truck where we were dumped out and faced what looked like an endless field of bean plants. Row after row after row. A huge black woman named Belle was our boss and she told us to get a basket and start picking. No instructions but then it really wasn't rocket science.
Belle was imposing and a bit scary. I mean this woman was really big. Very tall and heavy but nothing giggled so you knew it was muscle not fat. You could tell she ran a tight ship. "Yes Ma'am," was all she wanted to hear from us.
Sis and I hunkered down in the dirt. These were bush beans that we couldn't comfortably pick standing up so we put our large baskets to our side and started picking on hands and knees. Pick, toss and drag, pick, toss and drag, down the endless rows.
Sis was in the row next to me so we kind of raced as we have always been competitive. She was a bit ahead of me when I saw it. The picker behind her that was supposed to be picking on the right while Sis picked to the left, was helping herself to Sis's beans. She was grabbing them by the handful to put in her own basket. Before I could let her know, I looked back at my own basket and saw a hand that wasn't mine in my basket grabbing my beans.
I was just getting ready to smack the hand in my basket and alert Sis when a giant being straddling the row casting a huge shadow. It was Belle and she grabbed up the fellow behind me and the girl behind Sis by their shirts, one in each hand.
Belle had noticed their poaching of the newbie baskets and stopped it quickly by jerking them to their feet. They had to empty their baskets into ours and were sent to back to the truck to sit out the day. Now if only the criminal justice system worked so well. Belle was awesome.
The sun made the sweat and dirt run into our eyes as we picked and dragged. Our backs hurt, the sun burned our flesh, hands were sore and our knees were taking a beating. Up and down the rows, pick and drag then getting our baskets tallied. Migrant worker was scratched off my list of possible occupations that very day. The interesting thing was at the end of the day, there was no ethnic diversity, we were all similar brown, dusty beings.
I made a grand total of a dollar and a quarter that day. Of course that was five weeks worth of allowances but somehow, it didn't seem like much. The lesson learned, worth more than the money, was that no matter how hard a job I faced in the ensuing 50 years, I always had bean picking to make me realize, things could be a lot worse. Did you have a job that sets the bar low for you?
Those who make a living today picking produce have my respect. Don't let the Donald send you home.
at 6:33 AM Posted by Arkansas Patti