Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, June 14, 2017

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, June 14, 2017
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, June 14, 2017

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Life Continues On -- Wed., June 27

Cotulla, Texas:

Amazing what a day off can do for your psyche. We're all entitled to bad days...you just gotta pick yourself up, dust yourself off and continue on.

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For the record, I'm no stranger to hard work. When I was 14, living in Oregon, our family didn't have much money so we kids had to go out and earn money for our clothes and school supplies. 

Summer in the Willamette Valley in Oregon means picking time: We started with strawberries in June, then progressed to blackberries, marionberries, blackcaps (which were used to make dye for USDA stamps for grade of meat), and string beans. We were up at the crack of dawn to catch the school bus that picked up all the local children and which a short time later deposited us at whatever field we would be working in that day. (Not many migrant farm workers in those days. Local children made up the work force and there were no child labor laws that we were aware of. Kids of all ages and some adults worked the fields.)

To me, strawberry picking was the worst. I'm tall. By the age of 14, I was about 5'6". Strawberry plants are on the ground. Picking them meant bending over from the waist, stooping, or crawling on hands on knees...many times in the mud and slugs...it is Oregon, after all. We worked in all weather (except heavy rain). Light rain was good because it kept the bugs--flies, mosquitoes, bees, wasps, hornets, but not the slugs--at bay and provided shade and a little coolness. However, heavy rainstorms usually meant running for the nearby orchard or a bus to stay dry. By the time we reached cover, however, we were soaking wet. If the rain continued, they took us home. If the sun came out, we went back to picking in our steam-sauna-like, miserable wet clothes.

Marionberries (a cross between a blackberry and boysenberry), raspberries and thornless blackberries were the best picking. Mornings were crisp in the shade of the berry plants,  cool dew moistened our long-sleeved white cotton shirts. Drawbacks were the thorns, but there was a quick learning curve on how to avoid the sharp, painful scratches. Oh, and from time to time there would be a three-foot-tall thistle plant to work around. Yee-ouch! We picked standing up, a bucket attached to our belt or waistband, and moved down the rows between the plants. When our bucket was full, we'd empty the berries into large, low cardboard boxes called flats. We could stack about six flats on top of each other. For each full flat, we received a punch on our pay ticket (the size of a business card). At the end of the day, each punch on our card was tallied and we were paid in cash before we boarded our bus. 

Second worst crop after strawberries was string beans. While we could stand up and pick and be shaded by the six-foot-high plants, I was allergic to the beans. When the tip of the beans touched my wrists or forearms, an itchy rash developed. Wearing long-sleeved shirts helped a little, but I still had an itchy, allergic reaction. The other problem with picking beans was putting all the beans into a burlap bag and dragging the bag down the row with you. Heavy and heavier, who knew string beans could weigh so much? And you had to make sure the bags were FULL. Our bosses made us shake the bags down and even sit on the bag to compress the beans. That way we could fill the bags completely to the top. When the bags were full, we had to drag/carry them to the person who weighed the bags. If memory serves me correctly a full bag weighed somewhere between 40-60 lbs. (Some bags were larger than others.)

I can't imagine how my younger brother and sister did it. My sister was 12 and my brother was 10. We worked three or four summers in the crop fields. Made us strong and instilled a work ethic in us. Kids today could use some good, hard, honest-to-goodness work. It would help with the obesity epidemic as well. When you're outside working, you're not inside eating, plus you burn many calories being on your feet picking all day.

By the end of our workdays, we were beat and completely filthy (especially after picking strawberries). Some days Mom came to pick us up when she wasn't working. If we got off early, my sister, brother and I would walk to the creek on the way home. Sometimes we'd catch crawdads or, if it was really hot, we'd just sink down into that creek and cool off. At its deepest it wasn't more than four or five feet, and it sure felt good. Mom would pick us up and we'd sit in the bed of the pickup and let the breeze from driving cool and dry us. Somehow we survived without seatbelts. Sometimes we would ride up on the side of the pickup bed. Horrors!

It was nice getting paid in cash every day. Each of us kids set up our own savings account and the money went into them. Once or twice a week, we'd go to Nap's Grocery Store and have a malt: 19 cents for a small and 29 cents for a medium, any flavor. Mmmmm...those were so tasty. Once in a while, for a super special treat, we went to Dairy Queen. Haven't outgrown DQ to this day.

When fall came, a whole new crop started--nuts (walnuts, filberts/hazelnuts). Fall in the Pacific Northwest is rainy and cold. Harvesting nuts usually meant going under trees dripping rain and raking piles of leaves and nuts, then hand sorting the nuts and putting them into burlap bags. If memory serves me, I think we only did one season of walnuts and filberts. That was enough.

This morning Bob had the excitement of thunder, lightning AND pouring rain. The rain didn't last long enough to create big, muddy puddles or flood anything, but it dampened the caliche dust enough so we're not getting clouds of dust in our faces when the semis pull up. (Gate guarders, you know what I'm talking about.)

Bob and the Gate Guard Guys had lunch at DQ today. Six showed up and they had a nice time talking and catching up. Attendees were Bob A., Bob H., Jerry R., Jerry B., Bruce S., and Dennis. 

Followup items
  1. The water pump on our LOMA-provided trailer was replaced today. The switch went out. It took our repairman, John, an extra day to come out, but he had to buy the replacement head for the pump. I made a 3-2-1 Cake to thank him for fixing our water pump. He really appreciated it. 
  2. Speaking of 3-2-1 Cake, I really must thank Susan again for turning me on to this easy-to-make cake. If any of the drivers are having a particularly bad day, I can make this little cake in the microwave. Total time from start to finish about two minutes. The drivers LOVE a nice warm, fresh-from-the-oven cake! One guy was so appreciative he brought us two old-fashioned GLASS bottles filled with Coca Cola! Nice.
  3. Our refrigerator: Apparently the lack of coldness is a common complaint in RV refrigerators during a very hot spell. We called a very helpful mobile RV repair man (Russell of Scruss and Smith RV) who told us over the phone we needed to put a fan in the outside compartment behind the refrigerator where the coils are. You see, all day long, the unrelenting summer sun beats down on that side of the 5er which is overheating the coils. Bob took our small fan from the bedroom and put it in by the refrigerator coils. He also took a wet paper towel and washed the dust off the coils. Pretty soon the refrigerator should be humming along providing us with nice cold food. Who do you think we're going to call if something breaks? Russell. He was so nice to give us the info.
  4. Something else we learned today from John, our LOMA repairman. During the high heat of Texas summer we need to leave both side doors of our generator open to cool the engine. He said if we don't, the generator will over-heat and shut down. No, no, no, no, no...definitely don't want THAT to happen!
  5. Today the wind shifted so the gas smell blew off into the mesquite trees. Nice to have a respite. As soon as I said that, the wind shifted and guess what? Yep, it's blowing right at us again. P.U.
Kitty picture alert...don't scroll down if you aren't interested in fur-kid pics. Bowie hogged all the photos last time, now it's Sunnie's turn...

"Yeah, so? I'm comfortable. Leave me alone."
Uh-oh. A disturbance in the bedspread. What could it be?
It's Sunnie...directly under the air conditioning duct.
I took the above picture by putting the camera on the floor and shooting directly up under the covers. You can see the overhead light at the top of the photo. What a look he's giving me.

So cute!
Can you tell I'm back to normal??

Travel Bug out.

9 comments:

  1. Love your photos! I'm also an animal person, really specifically, a cat person, and always amazed at what they come up with, especially their expressions! I guess the good news is that working in the fields at such a tender age taught the value of hard work. But it never should have happened. Exploiting children makes my hair stand on end. I really felt for you when I read about the beans. Goodness, but you've been through a lot.

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    1. You know, I've lived through the hard work in the fields and to tell you the truth I wouldn't have done it differently. There's something about holding cold, hard cash in your hand and knowing it came from your own effort. I didn't feel exploited, but I did feel tired at the end of the day. There's a difference.

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  2. The cat photos are so cute!
    We suspected a gate guard job would not be for us, and reading your blog has enforced that thought.
    We mounted a small computer muffin fan inside our fridge to help circulate the air. Jim wired it into the light. It really does help when it's hot outside.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jim and Gayle,
      Thanks for the compliment on the kitty pics.

      Gate guarding is definitely not for everyone. It is a close knit community of people who help each other out.

      We do have a refrigerator fan inside the refrigerator to move air around. Now we have a fan in back of the refrigerator too. The refrigerator still hasn't cooled down much. : (

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  3. Thanks, Travel Bug (great blog name!), for stopping by and following me. Appreciate it! The photo with kitty on top of the chair gave me a lovely pause as Chena used to do that with me when I read. When SHE thought I'd read long enough, there'd be this little grrrr grumble. If I ignored her, she'd paw my hair until I threw up my hands in defeat, LOL. Chena lived to be 21 years old. I wept buckets!!

    Anyway, we're going on holiday tomorrow. We fly to Vienna, then meet British friends in a small town in Italy. Hub travels a lot and those miles add up, so a blessing in the end. Later today, I'm posting about it, will put the blog on a hiatus but will post a bit once we get settled.

    I hope you're safe from those fires!

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  4. Great stories about picking as a kid! Sounds like that was some hard work, but with immediate rewards. Maybe the bad days of gate guarding would be a little better if every time you signed in a truck you'd get a little cash right then and there! :-)

    So glad you're feeling better.

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  5. Love love LOVE the kid pics!! They sure do the funniest things!!

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  6. Have been enjoying your blog and keeping in touch with the gate guarding community. We'll be returning to Whitsett in November to gate guard again for the winter...can't do the summer Texas heat. We are cool in the mountains of southern Colorado at 8,500 feet. I've learned how to make our RV bed with two dogs sleeping under the covers LOL.

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    1. Bobbie & Jim,
      Thank you for reading.

      How cold is it at 8,500'? You must not be affected by altitude! Wow, that's high up there. Have you had any problem with the fires in Colorado? Up that high I can't imagine enough oxygen to fan the flames.

      We are now settled in San Antonio, Texas for three weeks before we start our month-long trip to Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore and back.

      Happy trails!
      Susan & Bob

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