Thursday, July 09, 2009


On the forgotten ethic of working with ones hands...

The summer of my 13th year I stayed with relatives in central Ohio. When my Aunt Beth saw a classified ad for a local farm in the newspaper, she asked if I'd like to earn a little extra spending money picking blueberries. With visions of new clothes breakdancing in my head, I set an early alarm so my aunt could drop me off at the farm by 7 am. I picked and picked and picked, crouched under a canopy of branches to shelter myself from the sun, working to perfect the technique of pulling an entire cluster off the bush without crushing a single blueberry. With the morning sun just beginning to emanate a kind of heat foretelling the coming of a scorching afternoon, I proudly presented my first full bucket of blueberries to the field foreman just before 11 am.

"Good work," he said. "You've earned three dollars and sixty-seven cents."

After nearly four hours crawling through the field, sweat drenched my hair; dark brown mud painted my long pants and tennis shoes; purple stains speckled my face and covered my fingers; scratches marked jagged red scrawls across my hands and face; my back and neck ached from the hours hunched under the bushes. I'd never known such exhaustion. The only reason I had no thoughts of hunger was because I'd eaten every blueberry accidentally crushed by the clumsiness of my inexperienced fingers. All that work wouldn't even buy me a McDonald's super-value meal. "This is bullshit," I thought, abandoning my bucket by a truck and sneaking away from the farm so none of the other workers would see me giving up. I walked about a mile to the nearest payphone and called my grandmother to come pick me up. The rest of the afternoon I spent lounging on her couch in the air conditioning, watching MTV and nursing wounds aggravated in their seriousness by my own perception of the hardship I'd endured during four hours in the field.

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