Because I had done so much snow removal and lawn cutting there were various neighbors who thought I could be helpful to them. One of them was an older man originally from Putney Vermont. His name was Ben. He and his wife were confined for the most part to the chairs they carried around. They would move the chairs from one section to another in their yard.
Their yard was like a mini farm. Behind the house were strawberries and blackberries. On his porch the refrigerator carried eggs and produce and people just left money in the coffee can. Across the street was his chicken coop with geese, ducks and chickens. And a garden.
As his and his wife became more disabled he needed more and more help. He asked my parents if I would come work for him. They said “yes.” I loved money so this was an easy thought process. He would pay me a $.50 a day to come down in the morning and evening. Each morning I got up and raced down the road. Taking the two 5 gallon pails up to his house, I would need to get 2 pails of water to take down to the chicken coop. In the garage I would get their feed out and scatter it to the yard for them. I would grab their eggs and take the basket up to his house and wash off the eggs. Putting them in cartons, I would then head back to make the school bus. I did the same in the afternoon.I became more and more responsible (And faster.) and Ben gave me more to do.
I learned to pick strawberries and blackberries and was paid $.10 a basket.(At one point I convinced him to let me sell door to door increasing my pay to $.25!) I learned to garden. I ran rototillers and tractors. From digging of holes, filling them with chicken manure to the planting of the seeds (From the year before-we call them heritage seeds now.) I learned it all. He was patient with me and I was a fast learner. I earned more by daily weeding and picking of vegetables. (And I sold door to door! I never came back with a single thing. I would load everything into a newspaper bag, getting on my bike and riding until I was empty, then back to do it again.)
I would get done and I would go inside the garage and the barn and admire his old Dodge pickup(I ultimately bought it years later.), the 1957 Chrysler and his 1963 Impala. I would climb up in the loft and enjoy the smells and the quiet.
As his crops grew I had more responsibility. More poultry appeared and the little farm grew. Hauling water took more time. One day he said, “I am going to dig a well.” The men were sitting around drinking Colt 45’s and I all of a sudden realized they were talking about me.
After the dowser, I did the digging. A lot of it. (This was probably the basis of child labor laws!!!)
At some point his wife died and he lost interest in a lot of it.
I learned a lot from Ben. I learned about taking care of animals, raising small crops and capitalism. I am appreciative of a job like this that was foundation in whom I have become.
Too often, we do not see the value in what we have done. The purpose of experience.
I always had money for ice cream and little things. I am thankful. I do think some of this existence is necessary for our personal growth, our communities and our nation.
Next up. Another farm and delivering newspapers.