I think I always have been.
I don't care much for the hustle and bustle of the city, though sometimes the thought of living in an unfinished loft has its appeal. The idea of being able to walk from said loft to an eatrery or a park or to work has its benefits. The city affords me the ability to earn a living that allows me and mine to eat, drink, and make merry all the while with a roof over our heads. The closer you live to the city, the better your opportunities.
After that, I'm stuck. I truly enjoy the beach. I could imagine falling asleep to the lapping waves. Yet, there is something to be said for the mountains and their beauty. A fresh snowfall is incredible at elevation. The fact that there aren't really any snowy mountain vistas near the lapping waves of the ocean means someday I will be forced to choose.
Though I can appreciate the honesty and good nature of the country or rural setting, I can't imagine living there. I'm sure there are many merits and I don't disrespect those that live and work there, but... a farmer's life is not for me. Let me tell you why.
I was eighteen years old and I was a student of life. Having only graduated high school based on two summer classes at the local community college, I was not a hard working student. I had a job as a cook and cashier at the local Roy Rogers restaurant in my hometown of Bowie, MD. Back then, minimum wage was $3.35 per hour, but for exceptional employees (read: those who were willing to open or close) the wage was closer to $5 per hour. I was certainly hot stuff making more than the minimum.
Opportunity was about to call.
My best friend through high school had landed a job running a vegetable stand a couple 10 miles down the road and made a fairly good wage doing it. One day he says to me, "we could use some help on the farm." Now, I'm thinking to myself, "farming may be nice, but they let me run the slicer here." I had some hefty responsibilities (read: Hefty trash bags to tote to the dumpster) and wasn't sure I was ready to give it up.
"Pay is $10 per hour for the next couple of weeks."
Ummm, yeah... "Where do I sign?"
With that, the proper arrangements were made such as turning in my apron and name tag and telling the boss to have a nice life. I was eighteen, fairly rude, and largely disrespectful. I was now a farmer. (the latter having nothing to do with the former)
I was picked up at around 5:30 AM if my recollection serves me. We were on the farm at 6:15 and in the field picking corn shortly thereafter. Bushels of corn, I want to say we picked 80 bushels of corn that morning. I ate uncooked Silver Queen corn for breakfast. It was fairly glorious. I had a good sweat going before most other people had poured coffee.
What I was not about to miss was the harvest. Visions of Steinbeck raced through my head. I romanticized the harvest for the next 10 minutes or so and will never do so again.
Because Tobacco leaves were only valuable whole and dried, the time did not call for a mechanized harvest, but rather one performed by men and perhaps some really steely eyed women. Three basic tasks had to be performed on each plant, in each row, in each field and none of them were spectacularly easy.
I may have forgotten to mention that the sun was out...in late July....in Maryland! With the humidity, it was most days close to 100 degrees and felt hotter. I probably should mention that I am almost Larry Bird white and I don't tan.
At one point during the day, my friend was driving a load of fruit down to the stand and a giant watermelon fell from the truck. Such a frenzy you've never seen of grown men, running for the broken fruit, waiting to taste its goodness and feel the quenching liquid of the meat in our mouths. Sorry, I had a moment there...
Let me do a little math for you for no other reason than to show off my math skills. Hangman is roughly 6 feet tall and with reach probably eight. Stakes are 6 feet long, with full extension of said reach and stake, something akin to 14 feet is the total. Subtract the 10 feet of space between each section of the barn and you get a rough total of 4 feet to spare. What does all this mean? It means a procedure that goes something like this:
1. Reach down to about shin level and grab the stake of the person below you.
2. Pull with one arm until you can grasp the stake at about the halfway mark.
3. Pivot the stake as you straighten your body.
4. Thrust the stake up with both arms high over your head to the hangman above you.
Bending, Pulling, Pivoting, Straightening, Thrusting.... it sounds fun.
Lather in sweat, Rinse in same sweat, Repeat over and over and over, oh and over. This is roughly 200 stakes on a truck. Trucks constantly pull in.
Though the barn is out of the direct sunlight, the perils of this task are that the barn is still sweltering hot, the barn smells awful, and the barn introduces man to its mortal enemy, the wasp...in a confined space and on a very rickety platform.
The first thing the farmer tells us as we climb to our particular perches (mine was 20 feet) is the following:
"If you fall....don't flail. You'll just take everyone else down with you..."
Wait... WHAT? It sounds like you've done this a few times. Clearly, you've survived, but your sanity is in question right about now.
Guess who fell? AND flailed...
Yeah, the farmer.
He was right.
Fortunately, my fall was broken by an almost full load of tobacco on the truck.
I never missed that job.
I'm hooking up with the Dudes over at DudeWrite this week, some of whom may even get the laboriousness of my task. If you haven't clicked over there, you should do so soon. How about now? Click on the link or the picture and check out some really fantastic writers. On Sunday, you can even come back and vote for your favorite. I suspect it will be mine, but give the other writers a chance and a vote. You'll have four more after voting for mine.