Tuesday, December 24, 2013

We ain’t got it so bad, now do we? Part 11.

Part 11.

After hearing about some jobs in Shafter, the boys headed over there. They found a trailer park where they could set up their tent out back of the few rundown trailers lined up in ragged rows. Then after going into town for some grub, they started a fire and settled in for the night. By the time they got back to their camp, there was no one milling around, so they figured they’d look for the repair place tomorrow and see what they could find out.
As was their custom, they showed up at the farm machinery repair facility in time to follow the workers walking through the just opened gates. What they saw was 4 very large metal buildings with farm equipment and machinery of every description, in every conceivable stage of repair. Some in pieces, some out front looking to be completed.
After looking around, they headed straight over to what looked to be the office shack.

Entering, they saw a man behind the counter with his back to them, pouring himself a cup of coffee. When he turned around he said. “Howdy boys. How can I help you?”
“We was wondering if you might have any jobs to be had?” Guy asked.
After a short glance at Guy and Lester, he asked. “Do either of you have any special skills other than a laborer or picking crops?”
”Why yes we do sir.” Lester answered. “Guy here is right handy at handling machinery and I knows plenty about repairing engines.”
His eyes seemed to light up at that, and then he asked. “How about welding?”
“On the farm, there’s always a need for some welding.” Guy answered. “I recon I could handle that fine sir.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what. You fellow’s fill out these.” He said with a small smile, as he reached under the cabinet and slid some papers toward them. “ And we’ll see what we might find for you to do around here.”

That day started a yearlong employment at the facility where Guy and Lester with their work ethic and ability to catch on fast aptitude again worked their way up the ladder in no time.
Having some rudimentary knowledge of welding served Guy well, for in just a few months, he was the lead welder. Lester gained the head mechanic position in even less time, so they both again were putting together a right nice little nest egg at the Shafter Bank. Being thrifty but needing a place to live, they ended up renting one of the trailers with two bedrooms at the park, so settled in nicely in their new jobs.

The pickup that had served them so well coming out west, was breathing its last ragged breath and drinking oil like a drunken sailor. So before it gave up the ghost, Lester found another newer one that needed a little work from one of his co-workers, so they were back in business with a dependable pickup again.
Speaking of Lester, one hot summer day, when guy was running a red-hot bead of welding rod, repairing a broken front loader blade, he thought he kept hearing something out of the ordinary through the sizzling noise of the contact arc and the welding machines loud hum. Being right in the middle of a long run, he just gave his head a slight shake and it seemed to go away, so he continued on.

The now growing noise grabbed his attention again, this time sounding a bit like men’s raised shouts, so he stopped welding, flipped his helmet up, then stood up to look around. With the welder off, it became clear. It was the sound of men shouting. Lots of men. From inside the building, he couldn’t see anything, so he followed the sound outside and there is was.
It was a circle of men all facing inward, yelling encouragements and cuss words toward what was beginning to resolve into two men fist fighting in the center.
It had been ages since Guy had seen a good old fist fight, so he dropped his equipment, gloves and helmet on the ground and hurried over to see what was going on.
Truth be told, the last fistfight he’d been involved in was between him and one brother or another, which on the old farm was a somewhat regular thing.

As soon as he pushed between two of the now screaming spectators, it hit him. It was Lester and another fella punching it out. By the blood trails, it was a pretty even fight, with neither backing down. Then the other fella apparently lost his concentration, for Lester gave him a straight-armed slam right on the jaw and down he went. Then Lester jumped on top and started plummeting him over and over until the guy screamed out “I give damnit!”
As was the custom then, the second one of the combatants said “Uncle”.  It was over. Lester stood up with blood mixed snot slinging in every direction, with hands on hips, looking like a knight of old having just slain a tiger in the arena.
Then the others came over with glad handling and slaps on his back in congratulations for a fight well done. Then they all simply started back toward wherever they were working before it all started.

As Guy and Lester headed back toward their own metal buildings, Guy asked. “What the hell was that all about?”
“He called me White Trash! No one calls me that Guy! Ever again!”

To be continued:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

We ain’t got it so bad, now do we? Part 10.

Part 10.

After a fitful night’s sleep because of their excitement of moving on, Guy and Lester cranked up the old faithful pickup with it’s usual bellyaching, smoke puffing reluctance and crawled out of the river bottom they’d called home most of the summer, toward what they knew not but with a smile on their faces and a happy little tune of anticipation in their souls.
It turned out to be a little hard to leave a very disappointed Orange Farm owner with their decision to pass on his offer of a permanent job. He upped the pay he was offering enough to give them serious pause but it was too late. They’d already caught the “What’s over that next rise.” Bug and there was no looking back now.

Within just a couple of hours, they reached the beginnings of Bakersfield and what a place it seemed to the boys. When they’d first reached California, it was on the Southern outskirts of Las Angeles, so they never saw the whole immense layout of the big city life there. To them Bakersfield seemed a madhouse of activity.
During their trip across America on Highway 99, all they’d seen were little one-horse towns. Nothing near what they were now seeing. The closer to downtown they drove, the more the buildings grew, until they couldn’t see the tops from the side windows of the truck without sticking their heads out. And oh so many people in one place. All walking with such purpose, such determination. Having been born and raised as country bumpkins in small town America, they couldn’t for the life of themselves understand how so many folks could live so close together.

Soon after driving like the wide-eyed oakies they were clear through downtown Bakersfield, things started thankfully thinning out, with far less buildings and people along the way.
That’s when they noticed something going on in a field along side the road up ahead. As they got closer, they could see it was a fairly large group of folks with the same ragtag look as themselves playing a game of baseball in an open field there.
“Pull over.” Lester said as he gazed intently at now raucous crowd looking to be having a hell of a good time. “Lets stop and see what we can learn about the job situation here in Bakersfield.”
“You got it.” Guy said as he pulled over and parked next to the line of clunkers there.

 Just as they were getting out of the truck, they could tell someone apparently had just made a home run with bases loaded from the loud screams and yelling going on. With all the hats flying in the air, hugs and screaming, it must have been not only one hell of a welcome home run but also the end of the game because most folks were starting back toward their cars. There was a dozen or so people still holding back, so Guy and Lester headed over toward them. As they got close a couple of guys from the group looked over. “Howdy boys. Did you see that home run?”
“No sir, we just arrived as it happened but we sure heard it.” Guy laughed
“Well, John boy here.” The man said, slapping the young man next to him on the back, almost bowling him over. “Knocked it clear into the next county and won the damn game.”
That set off another round of yelling, back slapping, whistles, along with a few little dirt kicking dances, which started everyone laughing.

After that outburst slowed down, one of the group asked. “So boys. Where you all from?”
“We just arrived from the Orange fields down south. We heard there was work to be had here in Bakersfield.”
That got a few odd looks from some of the boys there so Lester asked. “Is there a problem finding work here?”
“Truth be told boys.” The man standing close said. “We’re all here for the same reason but so is a whole lot of others. We’re told we’re a might late, that most of the jobs have already been taken.”
“Really?” Guy asked with concern on his face.
“Lesin you have some kind of special skills other than pickin veggies or fruit.” Another man added.
“Well, we’re both a might handy at mechanicin and driving equipment.” Lester said.
“Well good luck to ya boys.” Another man stepped up to shake their hands. “You’re gonna need it.”

After most everyone slowly walked away, a young man who’d been standing back a little stepped up. “I heard you say you had some experience with equipment and stuff.”
“Yup. Lester here is a right fine mechanic.” Guy said. “And I’ve done my share of driving tractors and trucks.”
After another moment of kicking a dirt clod in silence the young man said. “I heard from some others there’s some sort of farm machinery repair facility over in Shafter that’s always looking for expericance people. I ain’t got none of that but you might look over there.”
“Shafter?” Lester said with a question in his voice. “Where’s that?”
“It’s about 20 miles Northwest of here.” The young man answered. “Just take 99 North, then West on Lerdo Highway for a few miles.”
”Thank ye young man. We do appreciate the help.”

After they got back in the car, Guy said. “Well, Shafter it is Lester. That sounds as good a place as any for us right about now. Maybe we can find ourselves a trailer park we can set up camp in somewhere’s around there and look around this here farm machinery repair place he told us about.”

To be continued: