Yesterday I took on the challenge of removing bindweed (morning glory) and blackberry vines from a thimbleberry shrub.
The bindweed wraps itself around each stem, weighing it down and eventually killing it.
The thimbleberry leaves are beautiful. They have three to seven lobes and are soft and hairy.
I tried to unwind the bindweed from each thimbleberry stem carefully, but the leaves and stems are so fragile that I lost many of them in the process of trying to free them. The stems are now free from blackberry and bindweed vines but I’m going to have to get under the shrub and dig out the blackberry roots to keep it that way. We will probably have to deal with the bindweed every year.
It was fun to watch the stems straighten once they were relieved of the weight of the bindweed. The shrub still looks scraggly but it will fill in and return to the beauty it is meant to be.
The density of the bindweed made it hard to tell where the shrub began and ended. The area towards the back had a much thicker layer of bindweed.
As I started to cut it away, I realized that it wasn’t thumbleberry that was under it, it was a gigantic fern. With renewed energy, I started cutting away the bindweed. Before long, the fern was free!
I love doing this work. It is full of mystery and adventure and is so rewarding.
When I was showing a friend around our Greenbelt restoration project on May 25, she saw a red flower in the distance. It was too far away, and too covered by invasive plants, to know what it was. We guessed it was a rhododendron flower. (Mystery in the Making).
At the time, I was in the midst of preparing for Amma’s programs so wasn’t able to make my way to the flower. Last Saturday, I decided to do whatever it took to get close. I gathered my tools and headed for the thicket. I took the photo above just before I began to cut my way through the dead branches, blackberry vines, laurel, ivy, and downed trees.
As I worked, I realized how much I missed the excitement of freeing the trees in the Greenbelt and discovering what was under the mass of invasive plants. Most of our recent work has been to dig out blackberry root balls from areas where blackberry vines have been cut down.
Every so often I looked up to see how close I was to the red flowers.
I progressed much faster than I expected. At one point, I realized that a branch I cut was not laurel, it was a rhododendron branch. Soon I saw more rhododendron branches.
There is a steep slope along the eastern border of the property. For liability reasons, the City of Seattle does not allow us to work on slopes that steep. I noticed that the rhododendron was on the last piece of flat land before the slope began. I continued on my way, getting ever closer to my goal.
Closer and closer.
And then I was there. I knew there was no way I was going to free the whole bush, at least not on that day, but I was able to touch one of the flowers. I wish the photo was clearer but I’m glad that I have it. I realized if I had waited much longer to solve this mystery, all of the petals would have fallen off.
I looked up and saw this sight.
I also enjoyed seeing the rest of the bush.
There were so many branches, going every direction. They reminded me of a pretzel.
When I looked through the thicket, I thought I saw more rhododendron bushes. I wonder what other discoveries await me. I look forward to the time when we focus on clearing that part of the Greenbelt. For now, though, I will go back to digging out blackberry root balls!
July 2000: On my way to a Sundance in southern Alberta, I see a red building on my right. Something about the building grabs my attention so intensely that I U-turn on the highway. I must explore what is there. The place is a wolf haven, and I spend time petting wolves through a chain link fence.
July 2000: I am giving a new friend from Alberta a ride back to Seattle. I talk about the place and the wolves. Wolf Haven was closed when we got there. I am disappointed.
April 2008: I am on spring break from college and meeting a friend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a week. One day it is snowing, and we decide to drive out to the country, to watch the snow, share our stories from the past year, and sit in silence staring at the mountains across the way. On our left, we both see a lone wolf, trotting across the snow covered field. As we continue to watch, the wolf stops and stares at us for what seems like 20 minutes. We sit in silence watching back..
April 2015: I am in Yellowstone National Park. Along with lots of snow from a fresh spring storm, I see wolves ‘being’ themselves in their environment. I watch, mouth open catching flies… Well if a fly could live in that temperature, I would have caught multiple. I am in awe of how natural the wolves seem.
June 2016:. I see a Facebook post from a friend and text her, saying her radiance was showing in the picture and asking where the photo was taken. She responded with a location and shared a bit of the impact of her experience.
November 2016: I booked an hour at Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center, the place my friend had named.
December 31, 2016: It was 5 degrees when I arrived in the mountains, snow and ice on the ground, a clear blue sky and the sun was just starting to make its way over the nearest of the eastern mountains. As I walked up, I did not see any wolves, but could hear them howling in the distance and then the echo of the howl on the hills around me. Somewhat surreal to my experience, my mind started thinking of safety, along with flashes of horror movies and bloody bodies laying in the woods while being torn to shreds by wild animals.
Luckily for me, the walk was a short distance and a nice person greeted me, taking me out of the next Stephen King thriller my mind was creating. Of course there was the paperwork; just in case I was attacked. There were ferrets and a rooster running around greeting people; the building was warm and full of wolf items.
I listened to the staff say to me: the wolves are not dogs, do not hug them, grab their face and kiss them, or rough-house with them; they will react as if you are their size and power and that could be dangerous.
The first pack: Once I sat down on the ground, face level with the first pack, everything disappeared that did not need to be in my world at that moment. I was fully present to every breath, movement, posture, nudge, or growl from each wolf and each gesture had its meaning. I was not cold or concerned for my safety.
I have to be honest. One thing concerned me, and that was how they greet each other, and that greeting would also include me. The process is the equivalent of a human handshake; the wolves greet each other by sticking their tongues into each others mouths, and trying to touch the tonsils.
It took me three tries before I would let a partially wild animal get that close, i.e tongue in the mouth close. First try, the Alpha male comes over, sniffs my hand and arm, then goes for the tongue action. I keep my lips together and kiss him on the cheek like I would a friend.
The wolf walked off. Being the kind wolf that he is, and with some luck, he came back about 5 minutes later and tried it again. Still, I could only part my lips a tiny bit, and did not let his tongue in. I then notice the wolf seem to make a sigh and sit just far enough away from me that I could not physically connect with him. A few minutes went by, and the same wolf gave me another chance. No other wolves had come close to me.
Internally, I agreed to go for it. I told myself, how bad could it be… maybe just some small raw animal parts, a piece of stick or bone stuck to his tongue, and the possibility of having part of my face taken off by sharp and giant teeth.
Luckily for me, none of that happened. In fact, the wolf’s tongue was not slimy, not gross, no after taste, and he was very gentle so as not to bang teeth. I thought to myself, I have kissed a few women with worse tasting tongues. Somewhere in the faraway distance, I could hear one of the two staff giving instructions, although I somewhat failed to follow them and was guided by intuition.
(Click galleries to enlarge photos.)
When meeting the second pack, I was told not to get down to the level of the alpha male, as he is known for trying to top everyone.
Remember the rules I spoke about earlier, I broke them all. The first thing I did was grab the alpha wolf by the face and kiss him. Then, when he pushed against me, I gave him a big hug and kissed him again. I played with him like I would a regular dog. Sometime after the hug, I could hear the staff telling me, ‘apparently you guys know each other’ and not to worry about being topped.
We, the alpha male and I, rubbed, nudged, and pushed a bit back and forth. Later he allowed me to rub his belly and front legs. That is when I about pissed my pants. The alpha male started growling at me and showing his teeth. I yanked my hands away from him so fast. Even if it were a rattlesnake, I would not have been bitten.
The Wolf and Wildlife Center staff chuckled and informed me, the wolf was letting me know he liked what I was doing. Still shaken a bit, I informed them, that when someone growls and shows their teeth, I typically stop the behavior and move away. I was then encouraged to start rubbing him again in the same way, and he growled and snarled the entire time. Once I understood his communication style, I felt less nervous. Still, it took me a few minutes to relax. Wolves have big teeth and deep growls…. Just saying!
For my last 25 minutes, I had the option of seeing wolf puppies or another pack of adults. Of course I chose puppies. I mean come on, who doesn’t want to see puppies. When we arrived, I found out these were 80-90 pound sister and brother puppies who were eight months old!
The moment I sat down with them, I had two playful wolf puppies kissing me in their traditional way, then stealing my Seahawks hat; by the way, stealing my hat means means the wolves are Seahawks fans…(wink). They then stole my hair tie by gently pulling it out of my hair with their teeth. They tried to try to take anything that was loose on my clothing.
The staff started to get nervous that they might tear my coat, or ruin something. I wasn’t nervous, I was laughing and loving the playfulness of youth, the exploration of boundaries and their trust of me. Here are two kids wanting to play. I chose to wear what I wore, and be involved with them. How could I then get upset? I couldn’t.
Sadly it was time to leave, and my time with these wonderfully loving creatures would be over for now. Once I exited the area and returned to my truck, I started the motor, put the truck in gear and noticed something. I had no energy to leave, to drive, or to converse with others. My mind and body were silent. I had no want. There was no internal voice on either shoulder talking to me. My experience was “I am”.
Once I returned to the world of fast moving cars, Starbucks, and snowy Colorado mountain roads, I realized how similar my experience was to the many times I have received Amma’s darshan (hug).
When I walked into Seattle’s Lincoln Park for my Tai Chi class yesterday, a dark green tree caught my eye. (It looked MUCH bigger in reality than it does in the photograph.) I wondered if the tree might be a possible subject for this week’s The Daily Post challenge- Weekly Photo Challenge: Frame. After the class, I returned to that area to take a photo and see what was on the other side of the foliage.
What I discovered when I walked into the foliage was that the dark green wasn’t from a single tree, it was from many. And there was indeed a frame. The frame made a complete circle, a circle that included the dark green foliage as well as the leaves from many trees that had lighter leaves.
Walking inside the frame was like walking through a magical land.
Soon, I noticed that there was a frame within the frame. It was comprised of a group of trees surrounding a pile of raked-up needles, branches and leaves which in turn were framed by the green foliage on the perimeter.
I continued to walk the magical land. Moments later, I found another frame in a frame. This time it was a tree that was being framed by other trees.
And then I saw another tall tree that was framed by smaller trees.
After leaving that segment, I saw a sight that took my breath away. I felt like I was viewing the Mother/Father/Guardian of the whole area. It stood like a giant, towering above all of the other trees.
(As I write this post and remember the experience, I think that the name Guardian fits the best.)
My journey had come to its end. I looked around the magical land, feeling very grateful for this blessed adventure.
After walking out of the outer frame, I turned around and saw that the Guardian itself was framed by the greenery.
Last week, when I removed an overgrown chive plant from my garden, I discovered it had been covering two snails. One appeared to be missing a big part of its shell and mucous was pouring out of that area. It looked like the other snail was eating the mucous. When I separated them, the wounded one didn’t move but the other one did. I followed its movement taking photographs along the way.
Notice in the photos below that the snail is approaching a crevice in the piece of concrete.
Turning to the right.
And then pulling his shell up.
He has almost made it to the top.
As I continued to watch, I decided to follow him by video.
You are about to enter a snail’s world. [The snail you see at the very end of the first video is the wounded snail. The snail from the photographs above is the star of the first video (47 seconds) and all of the second one (2.59 minutes).]
I thought he was headed in a particular direction but I was wrong!
After about 20 minutes, the wounded snail began to show signs of life. In time it started on its own journey. So was it really wounded? If not, had they been mating?
I looked for information and videos on snail mating but nothing that was described or shown looked like what I had seen. There is so much I don’t know. I appreciate the glimpse into the wonders of nature that this experience has given me.
After Brenda and I left New York City, we drove to Pennsylvania. We spent the day looking for work and finally found a job, on trial, for $1.50 an hour. The housing they provided was for men so we stayed in a campground.
The owner was very unsure about hiring girls but we turned out to be better pickers than the teenage boys he employed. Since he paid by the hour, they did as little work as they could get away with.
We picked peaches and nectarines for four days. One day we also worked in the evening in the packing house. The other nights I was asleep by 7:30 p.m.
I was amused by something that happened on this job. The owner was moderately conservative; very conservative about some things. Little did he know that he had a gigantic field of marijuana growing on the edge of his orchard. There were also marijuana plants scattered throughout his orchard. The kids spent more time harvesting the marijuana than they did picking his fruit. They thoroughly enjoyed THAT work!
If he only knew……..
After leaving Pennsylvania we drove on to Yakima in Washington State. Once there, we found a job with no problem; a job picking fuzzy peaches yet again!
Finding housing in Yakima was much more difficult because the state had condemned all housing that didn’t have a toilet, running water, stove and refrigerator. Most farmers couldn’t afford to provide for that level of accommodation, so there was almost no housing available.
Local people rented their yards to the migrants, at a rate of $5 a night. That seemed to us to be a big racket, especially since most of the workers and their families slept in their cars. [Note: As I think how little money we earned on these jobs, I’m realizing what a big chunk of it that $5 would have taken.]
We finally found a place to live. It was somewhat like a motel. Having a room that had a stove and a bathroom felt like unbelievable luxury!
We picked peaches for four days. We were paid the same wages in Washington State as everywhere else.
My college roommate visited us while we were there and for two days the three of us studied together for our nursing licensing exams.
One day, when we were driving around, we saw this new living area for migrant farm laborers.
I also found the bridge I had slept under when I had gone to Yakima to pick fruit while I was in college.
After our time in Yakima, we returned to Seattle. I ended my summer adventure with this scrapbook entry.
I had been surprised by the amount of racism we experienced that summer. After all, it was 1970 not 1950. Brenda and I decided we should share our story with others. We contacted a local newspaper and gave them an interview. This is the article the newspaper published. (My name at that time was Carol Smith!)
In the article, I said that in the future I wanted to spend a summer with one migrant group. While I never did that, my 1970 experience has stayed very close to my heart for the last 45 years.
With that statement, this series now comes to an end. Thank you for sharing my journey with me. I hope that you enjoyed it and had a sense of what our life was like as we crossed the country in 1970 working as migrant farm laborers.
The Atlanta International Pop Festival was over at 10 a.m. Monday so we packed up, hitched a ride to our car and were off by 11:30. We decided to drive about 60 miles north, clean up and look for a job. When we got out of the car to pay our fee at a state campground, the ranger informed us that we could not camp there unless we had an adult chaperon. Since we were between 19 and 22 years of age, I was flabbergasted. He wouldn’t even let us wash up. He said this would be true in any state campground. His last remark was, “Lady, this is Georgia!”
We drove to another campground 20 miles away. They registered us without blinking an eye.
We showered and then drove to Griffin. The Farm Labor office was closed so we went to a grocery store to shop. As we pulled into the parking lot, we realized that some young back men and women were picketing the store. We asked them where they suggested we shop. They answered our question and then one man asked if we had come from the festival. When we said yes, he smiled and responded, “We like you people.” What a difference from the first park ranger!
The next day we drove around looking for work. It was not an easy task. The white farmers weren’t about to let us work with black pickers and they weren’t even nice about it.
One person suggested that we go to the farmers’ market in Atlanta, so we did. We applied for work at the office and then set up our camp stove in an empty stall. A truck driver and a younger guy came over and talked with us and then Brenda took out her guitar and we sang. Pretty soon another man, whom we found out later was a fruit inspector, came over and joined us.
When the office had not called us by 9 am, we decided to go look for a job ourselves. We were successful in that endeavor.
Brenda and I sold watermelons from 11:30-4:00. That night we slept in the back of the watermelon truck. The next morning the truck driver and his friend took us to breakfast and then we worked from 10:00-3:00.
While working at the farmers market, we ran into a new problem. Many of the white farmers assumed that white girls doing this kind of work were prostitutes and we were continually being propositioned. If we had wanted to, we could have made a fortune. By 3:00 we were sick of dealing with the men and took off.
Numerous people told us if we wanted to pick peaches, we should go to Fort Valley. The fruit inspector even gave us the names of some people to talk to when we got there.
We arrived in Ft. Valley about 6 pm and went directly to the Farm Labor office. I had a sense that if they knew we had gone to the festival, we would have been escorted out of town. We were told they would help us find a job, but it would not be picking. They also said they would help us find a place to stay. The apartment they arranged for us was fantastic. It was a garage apartment on the edge of town. There were two bedrooms plus a large living room and a kitchen. It was completely furnished. Our rent was $20 a week.
After we unpacked the car, Mimi and I headed for a laundromat. There was a 13 year-old white girl there who told us a lot about the festival even though she had not attended. If everyone believed the same things she did, it was no wonder they hated hippies. According to her, the hippies had “stripped naked in car washes, in grocery stores, in back seats of cars, and who knows where else.” While we were in the laundromat, a black man came in and put his clothes in the dryer. The girl had a fit. She made a nasty comment and then rushed to get her laundry and ran out the door. I was so angry by the time I left the laundromat, I was shaking. I had a sense that if I had spoken to the man, his life and ours could have been in danger.
The next day, we went job hunting. There were no jobs at the packing house, cannery or brewery so we decided to go to the fields and ask the black pickers where they thought we could get a job. They were thoroughly shocked at our inquiry, but were very nice. They told us where we could catch the pickers’ bus the next day.
The next morning we were on the bus, headed for the fields. The workers that filled the bus were, for the most part, younger than us. I heard a girl tell an older man that no, she did not respect him. She said that was what was wrong with the world; too much respect and too much waiting.
We arrived at the fields about 9:00 am. The whole bus load of us were told that we were too late and sent home. After we returned to the parking lot, we sat around and talked with the people. A few white policemen passed by which made me nervous but I decided to ignore them.
After a while, we decided to talk to the farm labor office staff again. We were told the cannery was hiring a third shift. We returned to the cannery but didn’t make it past the gate. We did go back to the bus parking lot to tell the pickers they were hiring at the cannery. As we started to drive away, a policeman stopped us and got out of his car. His words, “They want you at the cannery.” It had only been five minutes since we had left the cannery, but when we returned, they hired us.
Our shift would be 8 pm to 3 am starting that night. The woman who talked to us said her husband had bet her $5 that we wouldn’t last more than two days.
The first day, we worked 8:00 to 1:30 am and then picked fruit from 7 am to 1 pm. We were working with kids who were 13-16 years old. I really enjoyed myself.
I made $2.40 at the picking job. We were picking from trees where the fruit had been harvested before, so we earned less than we might have otherwise.
The cannery work was interesting. We were assigned to work on the machines that put the peaches into the cans and sealed them. Mimi and I were on one machine; Brenda and Laura on another. Our job was to make sure the cans were filled appropriately, both in quality and quantity. The fruit came to us at a rate of 120 peaches a minute. The cans also had to be the right weight, so we added or took away a peach as needed.
Brenda and I studied for our licensing exams as we worked. We hung our notes on the canning machine. That really surprised our foreman. He couldn’t believe we could study and work at the same time but we did and he allowed it.
We soon discovered it was a horrible, smelly job. We stood still for seven hours in water filled with peach juice. It was impossible to get the juice off of our shoes. Our shoe laces stood straight up and had a putrid smell.
The working conditions were unbelievable:
Everyone worked eight to ten hours a day, seven days a week. If anyone missed one day, they were fired. There was no overtime pay.
Everyone worked eight to ten hours a day with only one ten minute break; no dinner.
No one was paid when the machines weren’t working, which could be as much as four hours a shift. If anyone left, they were fired.
A few days later we decided go picking after work. We didn’t get home until 6 pm. At work that night we were told the shifts were now going to be eight hours long and our shift would be the one to start the new schedule. That meant we had to work until 6 a.m. We were hurting so bad by the end of the shift as we had been on our feet about 36 hours.
It was interesting to note that night shift workers were almost all black and the day shift was 100% white except for the black men who did the dirty work.
We quickly tired of working in the cannery. We were ready to move on, but had committed to five more days of work.
Our bosses had been really nice to us but they didn’t know what to think about us. In fact, the whole town couldn’t figure us out. I think everyone knew where we were from, what kind of car we drove and where we were living. I believe we left good impressions everywhere we’d been, except for the first Georgia state ranger.
Saturday night of our last week, the generator in the place we were living blew out and the electricity went off. Within two minutes we were off to Macon to see a movie. We hadn’t planned to go that far. We had gone to Byron and asked where the theater was. The response we heard was, “Lady, you got to be kidding.” So we went on to Macon and saw “Two Mules for Sister Sara.” It was a good movie. We made it back to work as the first whistle blew.
Sunday night we sat and talked with Larry, our boss, after our shift was over. We really liked him. He gave us each an empty peach can as a souvenir! The cannery canned under many different labels. The one he picked for us was “Pride of Georgia!”
I knew it would be a long time before I ate another canned peach. (Among other things they soaked the peaches in lye to remove the skins. The machines we ran bubbled over with lye that had not been completely washed off.)
When we went to work on Monday night we were told that the entire night shift had been laid off. Hallelujah! That night we composed two songs.
To the tune of “The ants go marching one by one.”
The cans go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah (x 3)
Eight more hours before we’re done
The cans go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah
All the peaches fell in my shoe
The cans go marching …
I close my eyes and that’s all I see
The cans go marching …
I can hardly wait till I’m out the door
The cans go marching …
It’s hard to believe I’m still alive
The cans go marching …
And I sure hope the next one sticks
The cans go marching …
What will I do, it’s only eleven?
The cans go marching …
While I stand here and curse my fate
The cans go marching …
I sure wish they were filled with wine
The cans go marching …
Tomorrow night we will do it again
And to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”
Rotten rotten little peach
Will you tell me I beseech
How past all these eyes you came?
With the rest though not the same.
In my can you’ll not be found
So I’ll throw you on the ground
But alas, you’re out of reach
Someone gets a rotten peach
The next day we left Fort Valley. We had had a good experience, but swore we would never work in a cannery again. Next stop: South Carolina!
[Note: Many years later, I saw a small article in the Seattle newspaper talking about a cannery in Georgia that had been shut down because of violations. Yes, it was the cannery where we worked!]
The next post in this series will be published on Friday December 18.
After a good night’s sleep, we said goodbye to my parents and then headed for Byron, Georgia. We were excited to attend the upcoming Atlanta International Pop Festival prior to looking for more work.
To get to the event, we had to park about three miles away and walk in. We decided to camp outside the festival grounds on our first night. We had left the hot canvas tent in Florida, so ended up sharing a tarp with some people we met.
We spent the next day at the festival roasting in the sun. The temperature was about 104 degrees. There was no shade and no breeze. There wasn’t enough water and ice was considered a luxury. Five pounds of ice cost $1 and we paid 25 cents for a popsicle. The event staff passed out salt tablets, hats and suntan lotion.
I enjoyed the music despite the physical discomfort. We were about 30 feet from the stage!
I had mixed feelings/thoughts about being there. I was super, super uptight during a lot of it. The heat as well as the lack of water and food was unbearable and I didn’t like being around so many people who were stoned.
Our skin was blistered and swollen from sunburn when we left. However listening to musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens, the Chambers Brothers and the Memphis cast for Hair as well as getting to know some of the people who were there made it worth it. My favorite memory of the event was waking up the last morning to Richie Havens singing “Here Comes the Sun!”
My final conclusion was that I was glad we had gone, but didn’t think I would ever want to do it again.
The festival was over at 10 a.m. Monday so we packed up, hitched a ride to our car and were on our way by 11:30. Off to find a job!
[Note: My scrapbook says there were 200,000 people at the festival. Wikipedia said that the estimates varied from 250,000 to 600,000! Their article contains a lot of interesting information.]
(The next post in this series will be published on Friday December 11.)
There were times during my college years that I picked fruit as a way of making some money. I remember picking blueberries in Seattle and apples in Yakima. I also remember sleeping under a bridge when I picked in Yakima. I enjoyed doing the outside, physical work.
I graduated with a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) degree in June of 1970. I would not be able to take my licensing exams until September so I wanted to do something very different than nursing until I took the exams. Three friends and I decided to travel around the U.S. doing migrant farm labor. Brenda, who would also be taking the licensing exams, and I planned to also do a lot of studying during that time.
Over the next six weeks, I will be publishing posts about our experiences that summer. The content comes from a scrapbook I wrote soon after the trip was over.
June 9, 1970
Mimi, Laura, Brenda and I left Seattle planning to spend the summer doing migrant farm labor. Our first destination was West Palm Beach, Florida where my parents lived. We planned to surprise them on their 25th wedding anniversary.
The rest stop where we ate our first meal had a river and beautiful scenery in back of us but in front there was an automobile junk yard! We were very cold but having fun.
The second night out it was pouring. This was the first time all four of us slept in the Datsun.
Early the next morning, we had car trouble. The radiator hose broke, resulting in a burned out head gasket. We found ourselves stranded in Plankinton, South Dakota, 250 miles from nowhere. The population of the town was 500. [As I was typing this, I was curious and decided to check out how much Plankinton has grown since 1970. I learned that in 2013 there were 715 people living in the town!]
Through the help of a minister, we were able to find someone to fix our car and a place stay, the minister’s church basement. Our car was supposed to be fixed by the next day, but due to Greyhound losing three different head gaskets, we were to be in Plankinton for seven days, long past my parents’ anniversary.
The church basement was great; it had a kitchen and everything else we needed. The only problem was that the minister went on vacation without telling anyone he said we could stay there. On the second night, we received a visit from the sheriff. Luckily, once he found out why we were in the church, he was fine with us staying.
Plankinton was very boring though. The theater was available only on Saturday night, and it was filled with a million kids. The teenagers amused themselves by driving up and down main street or by watching everyone else driving up and down main street. We could swim for 50 cents per person.
There was plenty of chance for us to read and study though.
We started worrying about our mental status when, during meals, we found ourselves stripping membranes from the inside of eggs and looking at the fountains that spurted up when we squeezed lemon peels.
Our mechanic, Al, took the car apart on the day we arrived. Once the part he needed arrived, he worked from 10 am to 3 pm and the following day he worked on it from 6 am to 2pm. He only billed us $14 for his labor. Sure was great to meet friendly people.
Finally, we left Plankinton and headed on. We drove straight to Florida, making only one stop….to visit a friend. We arrived at my Aunt Muriel’s house early on Sunday morning.
We sure surprised mom when we showed up at church. Dad was happy to see us too. They didn’t seem to be upset when they found out our plans for the summer. I was surprised.
We soon had car problems again. This time we were broke, so we spent a week washing windows, cleaning houses and porches, and selling flowers. We earned $100!
We had planned to do our migrant work across the south of the U.S., but my Uncle Ted advised us to work up the east coast instead. I thought he had a better idea of what we would be facing than anyone else, so we decided to heed his advice.
One day, mom drove us to Belle Glade. We soon discovered that we would be able to work there picking oranges. We went back to West Palm Beach to get ready for our first job. A couple of days later, we headed back to Belle Glade!
We had borrowed my parents’ old heavy canvas tent. A man in a nearby campsite gave us some extra rope and a stake. He said he thought that we were living in substandard housing and wanted to help.
That first night was miserable. We were inside a canvas tent in hot weather. To make it worse we needed to sleep in hot sleeping bags in order to keep away from the mosquitoes. The tent was useless. I finally got two hours of sleep by sleeping on the hood of the car.
The next morning, we were up at 5 a.m., in the dark. We drove to the place where we would board the bus that would take us to the fields. The bus was there when we arrived and it was already packed with pickers. We were the only white people on the bus. Everyone kept asking us, “Have you got a man yet?” We were startled by the question and didn’t know what to say. We soon discovered that everyone picked the oranges in pairs, because the ladders were 20 feet long. Each pair consisted of one woman and one man.
We arrived at the orange field at 7:30 a.m. By the time it was 4:30 pm, I was so tired; my body ached through and through. My partner Joe and I had filled seven bins. We were paid for our work at 6:00 pm and were back at our campsite in Belle Glade at 8:00 pm. On the second day, we again picked 7 bins of oranges. On the third day, Brenda picked with Joe and me. We tired much faster this day. We only filled 6 bins even though three of us were working.
My partner Joe
Truck picking up bins and marking our work cards
The people we worked with were so nice. They knew the third day was our last, and they all wished us luck. Joe gave us a whole chest of fish to take home. That day, two tiny birds had fallen from the tree. We put them in a hat and took them home so my brother Bill could take care of them.
We arrived at my parents’ house at 7 pm. We were so filthy that they wouldn’t let us sit on anything.
The income we each made from our three days of work varied. The person who made the least earned $17; the one who made the most earned $31. We estimated that we had earned one cent for every 30 oranges we picked.
We were ready to leave Florida. Next stop- the Atlanta International Pop Festival!
(The next post in this series will be published on Friday December 4.)
One of the most important times of my life was the summer I spent doing migrant farm labor across the United States. It is a treasured experience, one that contributed significantly to making me the person I am today.
During fall of 2015, I was looking through the scrapbook I put together after that summer. It occurred to me that I could share the whole story of that journey, primarily using the words I wrote in 1970.
Below you will find the links to each post in the series.