Have you listened to the Summer Job Series on NPR's All Things Considered? Listeners are invited to share their stories of memorable summer jobs. Have you ever heard of corn tasseling or wondered about the people who play your favorite characters at Disneyland? There are some great story tellers out there! Click here to read the transcripts. Here's the story I submitted this morning. I would love to read it on air!
Golden Tan of a Lifetime
When I was growing up in Hico, Texas, where the population was only about a thousand at the time, high school kids could either haul hay or work at the Koffee Kup Kafe, which is what I did. Once I mastered the mile high meringue and discovered the perfect ratio of vanilla syrup to Coke and perfected the precise art of cutting a multi-tiered club sandwich, I decided I needed a change of scenery. I found it one summer, along with the golden tan of a lifetime, at a tree nursery just outside of town. Five mornings a week, our rag tag crew piled into the back of a beat up Chevy pickup at crack thirty, a.k.a. 6 am, and our supervisor, Leon, drove us out to the fields. It was a scene straight out of Cool Hand Luke. He dropped us off at the end of a mile long row of pecan trees and picked us up at the other end in the afternoon. Each of us had a spool of twine we fashioned as belts and all day we trudged down the row, tying each tiny pecan tree to a wooden stake, in three places, to help it grow straight and strong for selling.
Did I mention that summer was a record breaking scorcher?!? 100, 101, 102 degree days. Consistently. Once I forgot my thermos of ice water, but thankfully, Leon always left a big orange water cooler in a central place for anyone who needed it. Anyone ended up being one person, my crew mate Cecil, who treated the jug like his personal hydrating station. With filthy hands, he dipped in his tin cup and chugged it right over the open top of the cooler. I watched in horror as the water dripped down his face, through his grizzled beard and back into the jug, brown as lake water. I never forgot my thermos again.
There was romance in the field too. The highlight of my day was catching a glimpse of Scott, a football playing college boy home for the summer. That fall, I went on to accompany his parents to watch him play in West Texas, stopping at every Wendy's from central to West Texas. But that's another story for another day.
Even though the work was monotonous, the camaraderie was enjoyable. A friend and I always worked one row apart, facing each other, and tied at the same pace so that we could chat the day away.
As it turned out, that camaraderie was the most productive thing about the job. Right at the end of summer, as we finished our work day, a fierce Texas thunderstorm blew in. Sheets of rain and buckets of hail battered our little saplings, and our summer of work was torn to bits.