I still recall the feeling of belonging, being safe, secure, #authentic and connected to a higher purpose as I sat in that spot under the tree hearing the melodic trickling of the creek. I enjoy recalling this deeply embedded memory and sometimes revisit those moments as I dawn a pair of jeans, particularly when the legs are rolled-up a bit.
Our small town in the Willamette Valley of Oregon had two primary industries: forestry and a canning company supplied by the produce of our local farms. My first “real” job aside from babysitting was at a local green pole-bean farm a few miles outside of our small town, population 2,108.
On the warm July days, we began early while the dew still covered the raspy leaves of the beans. There were long rows of 5-foot poles supported with heavy wires at the top and bottom - string laced in v-formation between the wires to support the growing vines. I was 14 and looking forward to high school in one month, holding aspirations of earning enough money to purchase my wardrobe for this new, exciting adventure. A good friend Joan joined me.
My uniform was a pair of blue jeans, sneakers, and an old white shirt of Dad’s, accented with a red bandana that served as a hair cover or neck scarf. In the early cool of the morning, we would walk the 100 feet or so down the row, carrying a 5-gallon bucket. She and I worked on opposite sides of the same row, facilitating conversations that only a teen could remember and telling the latest joke that we’d managed to find. Each time the bucket was full, I walked to the end of the somewhat muddy row to empty the contents into a gunnysack pleased as it fills.
As I revisit the memory, I loved the early morning cooler air and being outside. Our boss lady checked our work from time to time insuring that we were not breaking the vines or missing the low hanging muddy beans near the ground. I liked and admired her, thinking that I would not care to have her job. The other “best” of the job was lunchtime. Joan and I found a cool spot under an apple tree growing beside the creek. My preferred sandwich was olive loaf with pickled sandwich spread on Wonder Bread. There was a thermos with varied juice, depending on what was available that morning. Twinkies or Devil Dogs rounded out the lunch cuisine.
As I remember this girl on the cusp of independence, I enjoy her youth, curiosity, industry and pleasure in connection to nature, the earth. She is still alive and an integral part of me.
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