Thursday, November 21, 2013

We ain’t got it so bad, now do we? Part 9.

Part 9.

We left the boys setting around the evening meal campfire wondering if they should take the year around job offer at the Orange farm or move on in search of better opportunities up north. They’d heard hints of more employment up there from some of the other folks heading that way.
They awoke next morning groggy and tired. The sun’s rays had not quite touched the ground as they busied themselves with the fire.
“Damn!” Guy mumbled. “I feel like I didn’t sleep at all last night. I couldn’t stop thinking about everything.”
“Yup. Me too.” Lester said as he rubbed his eyes, attempting to clear them of the sticky night goo.

After getting the fire up and running and snuggling up close against the morning chill, Guy put the coffee pot on a flat rock next to the coals beginning to form to heat, while swatting the smoke away from his face.
“I went back and forth a dozen times last night about what we should do.” Lester started. “And never got anywheres close to deciding.”
”I know.” Guy said. “What the Orange farmer offered us is tempting for sure but is this where we want to settle down, or do we start off up north to see what else there is to this here California?”
The owner had given them a couple of days to think his offer over, so for the first time in weeks, they had a day to themselves with nothing pressing to do.

So after a hardy breakfast of eggs, fish, a flower pancake and what little oranges there were left, they decided to wander the encampment and see who hadn’t left to search out another job yet. In that way, they were able to chat with a bunch of like-minded folks who had found themselves in the same dire circumstances they were in. Same as Guy and Lester though, most of these folks had found work in the orange groves, so had a bit of coin for food and essentials, so were in a pretty good mood. It was at one of the camps bustling with the activity of packing everything up to move on that they heard the most enticing news. Seems these folks had heard of a town up north apiece called Bakersfield that had jobs aplenty. So they were hustling to get there fore everyone else, to get the best jobs available.

It was on the way back to their own camp, that Lester of a sudden slapped his knee and in a sudden burst of enthusiasm said. “Dag nabbit Guy. We gotta move on. I’m not ready to settle down yet. There’s a whole big old world out there and I wanna see some of it afor I gets to be an old man.”
“Whoa there little man.” Guy laughed.” You gotta bit of time afor your hair changes color.”
“I know. I know.” Lester said. “But I gotta itch on my backside needin tending and staying in the first place we found in this here California ain’t gonna scratch it.”
“Ok brother dear. So just where do you have in mind to find this scratching post you’re needin then?”
“I don’t know but lets just hitch up the old truck and head on north where folks are a saying things get better. Lets just head up there and see what we might find.”

By the time they made their way back to camp, it was decided. They would get all their stuff rounded up and loaded onto the truck, get good nights sleep, and then go tell the Orange farm owner their decision and hit the road in the morning.
As they found out, getting a good nights sleep was not in their fate. Having decided to move on added an excitement they hadn’t felt since when very young their Pop had taught them to ride Betsy, the old sway back mare, the family kept around for hauling stuff when the clunker tractor broke down.
Guy would forever remember old Betsy. He’d taught Betsy to rear up on her hind legs, which was fun until the day Guy sled off Betsy’s rear end and landed under the horses stomping feet. It took quite a piece afor guys chin resembled normal skin again and was the last time Guy had Betsy do the back leg dance again.

They figured they did finally get some sleep around the time the tree owls hooting turned to snores. In their excitement they woke with just enough dawn light to hustle the fire back to life and start the water for the blessed coffee.

To be continued:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

We ain’t got it so bad, now do we? Part 8.

Part 8.

The men had been invited to the main ranch house for a meeting with the owner of the farm last we heard of them. They had no idea what he might want of them but it was worth a look see….

When they arrived at the ranch and invited in to the kitchen area, the owner’s wife said “Have a seat boys.” after all the introductions were done.
She was a sturdy woman of medium height and weight with a brightly colored cotton dress looking to be one of the store bought kind. The other women in the kitchen wore clearly home made clothing of a much rougher material, so Guy and Lester assumed by her general appearance she was hired help for the kitchen. By the ladies gentle friendly banter as they busied themselves in the kitchen, they figured she’d been there quite a while.

The owner was dressed in coveralls, clearly store bought, with pencils and paper sticking out of each built in pocket. He had the dry leather complexion of a man who’d spent his hard working life under the suns rays. He was setting at the table smoking a pipe and had a relaxed confident manner, which put them at ease immediately.
After the helper set a cup of steaming coffee in front of Guy and Lester with their thanks, Joe the owner, after tapping his pipe into an ashtray, then setting it down, started. “Well boys. I’m glad you could stop by. I’m a man of few words, so I’ll get straight to the point. You boys have been doin a mighty fine job here this season. Several of my men pointed that fact out to me.”
Seeing he was waiting for some kind of response, Guy Answered. “Why thank you sir. We were raised to always do a good job, no matter what it was, so you’ll have to credit our dad for that.”
“The fact is you’ve done such a fine job that I’d like to offer to keep you on during the off season to help with everything needs doing around here.”

That took Guy and Lester back a bit to be sure. It had been so long since they’d had real work, much less an offer of a long-term job, they didn’t know what to say.
After looking at each other with raised eyebrows, it was Lester who found his voice first. “Well sir, that is mighty fine of ya. We really hadn’t given much thought yet what we was going to do next.”
Then after another quick sidelong glance at Guy, who gave him a tiny nod to continue, he said. “You’ll have to give us a little time to think on that sir. We got some talking to do first.”
“Well,” Joe started as he reached across the table and grabbed a piece of paper, then after writing something on it and sliding it across the table toward them, he said. “Here’s what I can pay you each a day ifen you decide to stay. Of course you’ll have Sunday’s off for church and such.”

After they both tried their best to look casual after looking at the number he wrote without gasping like schoolboys just having heard yes for a date from the school cheerleader, Guy folded it and stuck it in his shirt pocket as if it was nothing.
Just as they wondered if the meeting was over, the helper placed a plate in front of them with the most delicious smelling pastry still warm from the oven they’d ever seen with a tiny mischievous smile.
Truth was, Lester was so shocked with the numbers and the pastry, he was setting there with his mouth open, not moving, like someone who’d lost their mind, until Guy gave him a wake up kick under the table, which elicited a little unexpected yelp.
They knew Joe had noticed because he dove into his pastry past a barely hidden smile with gusto.
As starved for real food as they were, it didn’t take them long to finish off the pastry, so after the owner shook their hands on the front porch, they took off walking back to camp. Even though the offer was something they never figured they’d see, they had some serious thinking to do.

It was oddly quiet back at camp. Most folks had packed up and moved on to wherever they figured they might find work now that the orange season was rapping up. Luckily California, with it’s unbelievably long growing season, had plenty of other crops in season or coming soon, having the most productive farming areas in the country.
One of the notable things that Guy and Lester noticed was the utter cleanliness of the river encampment. Folks would think with such utter poverty and gloom, the people would leave all their garbage behind for someone else to deal with. The truth was, these were proud people, raised to always tend to their own business, so every scrap of garbage, every tiny piece of paper had been cleaned up. Hell the very ground looked like it had been swept with a broom in most places. Even the orange peels had been buried sight unseen somewhere. The campfires so long established were watered out and smoothed over with fresh earth with nary a warm spot to cause trouble.

They weren’t in much of a hurry now, so they headed down to the river to catch some dinner and do a little talking. They had some decisions to make. Do they stay with a sure thing or move on hoping for something better?
As they sat on the riverbank watching the light slowly dim, they were caught up in the almost majestic interplay of nature. As always just as dusk laid its soft blanket on earth, the dragonflies would hover just inches above the waters edge. Then the fish with a small leap find their own substance hovering there within easy reach.
Soon as nature’s blanket lay true, and full darkness arrived, Guy and Lester took their catch back to camp and hustled up a fire to cook their evening meal.

As they watched with growing hunger the fish drip their greasy essences onto the embers below with dancing sizzles of smoke, Lester was the first to start. “Well brother. Whater we gonna do?”
“Damn ifen I know.” Guy quietly answered. “We got plenty of coin to last us a while now for sure, ifen we decide to move on a bit but having a sure thing at the orange farm is temptin. That’s a fact.”
”There’s that fur sure but I’ve a hankerin to move on and see what better we might find. This here California seems to be abustin with opportunities.”

To be continued:

Monday, November 4, 2013

We ain’t got it so bad, now do we?



Part 7.



We last left Guy and Lester languishing in a thing they’d only dreamed of in the past months. A place to bath and wash their ratty clothes.

Having been so long since any kind of bath, they were some of the last people to wander back into the camp to start a fire and enjoy the fish they’d caught.

Just as they were starting back, they passed what looked like two families who might have been related in some way; by the way they looked alike.

“Boys!” one of them spoke up as they were passing by. “Come. Set for a piece. We’d like to talk to you for a bit ifen you don’t mind.”

After glancing toward each other with a questioning raised eyebrow and shrugging their shoulders, Guy and Lester stepped over to stand by the groups.

“How can we be of help?” Lester asked after a moment of silence had passed.

“To tell you the truth boys, we heard some others talking about you helping them with a problem they had with their car and said you were right good at it. Ya see, one of our trucks just barely made it here a couple days ago. We was wondering if you might be able to take a look at it when you have time?”


“Well,” Guy started after a quick glance at Lester. “Being born and raised on a farm, we did pick up a little about mechanican. Our Dad is mighty handy with machinery and taught us a bit, so we could take a look but right now, we need to get back to camp for some eats and sleep. Today was a mighty long day.”

“Hey. No hurry boys. We’ll be here at least long enough to put together some money afor we move on.”

“Ok.” Lester said. “Show us where your camped and we’ll stop by when we can.”

That’s mighty fine of you boys. We thank you.”


So that’s the way the next couple of months went. Guy and Lester being such good workers with special skills handy from a farm, quickly moved up the ladder of responsibility until they were both made foreman. Guy was in charge of all the tractor operators and Lester became the head mechanic.

Before they knew it, the little jingle in their trousers turned into a heavy but welcome weight they were forced to deal with. So the lead foreman took them both into town when there was a break in the work to open up a savings account and deposit their hard earned cash in a safe place.

Truth was, in those times, they probably could have just hidden the money in their tent or buried it but Daddy didn’t raise no fools, so they did the right thing.


They not only found time in the mornings and evenings to fix the truck for the folks they’d met beside the river but when word got out, they started making extra money working on other peoples automobiles in the camp.

Having been raised with almost nothing the only thing they spent money on was a can of coffee and a few vegetables to supplement their ongoing diet of Fish, flour pancakes and of course Oranges.

That first cup of java was manna from heaven, boosting their morning energy levels nicely. Turned out other folks had a hankering for some coffee also, so in short order there was a new welcoming smell mixed with the campfire smoke drifting lazily throughout the camp.

Guy and Lester weren’t sure if it was just the coffee or the addition of food into the camp but most mornings now came with a fair amount of the morning noises, including laughter that normal humans, especially children make when their feeling well.

Some nights they were even hearing a lone harmonica singing a little happy tune or a guitar and singer off in the distance lamenting about lost love or some such.


With the Orange season coming to an end, the camp atmosphere started slowly changing from an encampment to a place full of the activity of folks packing up and moving on.

At the farm, things were thinning out each day. More and more folks were receiving their last coins and bidding farewell.

Because Guy and Lester had worked themselves into the upper ranks of employee’s there, the owners wanted to keep them on at least long enough to finish everything up. In fact one day the owner asked them to meet him in the main ranch house for a little talk.

The night before the meeting, they both spent extra time in the river scrubbing their clothes and bodies extra well to present themselves properly to the owners. With everyone’s rush to leave the camp, they’d even found a comb someone had dropped, so they were able to use it instead just their fingers to straighten out their normally unruly hair.



To be continued: