Over time I learned a lot about life, farming and labor from him. He and his wife had retired from Pratt & Whitney aircraft. They had moved down here from Putney Vermont when jobs were plentiful. Their home sat on the end of the road. On one side was the small garage and barn, while across the street was their home.
When I first moved to the small community, driving by I would see his large German Shepherd. Jet black in color it would bark and pull at the chain for every passerby. (One time it got loose and attacked a neighborhood girl. Not too long after his new dog Emmy, a monster St. Bernard appeared.) I used to travel by his home to get to the main road.
One day through the relationship of another neighbor, Mr. Harrrison, I was introduced to him. He was looking for a young person to help with the chores about his small place.
I soon became his right hand man(I was only 8 or so, helping him a couple of times a day for a quarter each time. I would go down in the morning and feed the chickens and geese, gather their eggs and check for critters! Once a week I would shovel chicken manure out into a pile for summer growing. I would have to shoosh the geese out because if they got excited in the small coop it could be dangerous.
I remember at one point someone gave him this black and white Barred Plymouth Rock rooster. It had been hard enough with the other roosters. What a mean bird. Every day he would fly up in my face and attack me. Finally I could not take it, so taking the five gallon pail of water I poured it over him 2 or 3 times. No longer did he attack me.
I would carry the eggs over to wash and put in boxes for the neighbors to buy in the outside refrigerator. Mr. Arbuckle sold vegetables, chicken manure, eggs and the occasional chicken. (Want to learn how to prepare a chicken? Nahhh….Probably not!)
As he became more dependent on me he increased the produce and the chickens. One day he decided to put a well in next to the barn. (No longer would I have to trudge across the street with two 5 gallon buckets.) So, another neighbor, Mr. Cavanna, came over and found a branch. He began to dowse the property. In moments this branch went wild. He asked me to hold onto it. I could hardly keep it in my hands. “Eleven feet, more than enough water right here. “ Wow! I had never seen anything like that. So, as my dad, Mr. Harrison and Mr. Cavanna stood by beginning my instruction, Mr. Arbuckle sat in his chair(He was disabled.)pouring water for me. (Pretty sure they were all drinking Colt 45.) I began to dig and as the hole got wider and deeper, it was not but the following day before I was down in the slimy clay walls, with water trickling about my feet. I learned how to put in the valve and pipe and we were soon filling up around it. Running the line into the chicken coop, we bolted on a head for the crank pump. (Each day I would take some water from the previous day and prime the pump.)
In the spring I would start with picking asparagus and rhubarb, with a variety of strawberries and blackberries shortly after. During that time he would have me go to the barn and begin to pull out the seeds from the previous year. I would spend days planting everything from cucumbers, watermelons, squash, pumpkins and more. Tomatoes and pepper plants would be brought over from trades he made. I learned how to garden. Summer chores now included weeding, hoeing and refining the plants. His new dog Emmy would bark at me all day long from her age. But at the end of the day I would have money in my pocket. I got paid by the baskets for berries and I got paid for all the additional chores at $5 a day.
I learned you did not skip out on chores or bypass work.
He had to grandsons who came to visit. He often had us paint or clean around his home. One summer we were asked to paint the barn. While up on the top of Emmy’s cage, a gallon of paint “spilled” down dowsing one of them in the cage and Emmy. Red did not look good on her.
When his grandsons, Bruce and David came by we would usually get in trouble. Often we would “borrow” his big Chrysler, Chevy Impala or his Dodge pickup (I ultimately bought this 1952 pickup.) for a spin in the dirt pit behind his property. (It was here I learned why you do not shoot an arrow in the general direction of someone riding a bike from a hillside cliff. As the arrow flew towards Bruce riding in on a bike, it was only a miracle that allowed the arrow to embed itself in the front of his bicycle seat and not him.)
When he would go away I was given responsibility for things. One Saturday morning my sister and I went down to feed the animals, including the St. Barnyard. But life went different that morning. She had not had anyone visit, so when I opened the door to put her feed and water in she hit the door with so much force, I could not stop her. She bounded out in to the garage and ran at my sister. She hit her underneath her chin, pushing her into a pole. As my sister fell to the ground she took off. (Never leave garage door open!) She took off and headed towards the main road. It was many hours, but because it was so hot, she stopped running. We rescued her and I learned a lesson.
At some point I outgrew the pay and I think his wife dying knocked the steam out of him. (I will never forget kneeling beside my dad at an open coffin and seeing her chest “rise.” So out of there!) I am thankful for all the things I learned at his hand. Because of his disability I was able to have an educational and profitable opportunity. I made money for treats, trips to swim at Powers Pond and more.
Frankly, I think the world might be different if kids learned about animals, produce and work!