March 4, 2015
By Michael A. Calvert
“I found a job for you,” Dad said. I looked up from the Columbus Dispatch sports page as I spread peanut butter on toast at the kitchen table. “You’ve been saying that you want a summer job.”
“Yeah, I definitely want to make some money. It’s hard to get hired anywhere at 12, but I’ll do any kind of work. Anything.”
“When I was coming back to town this morning, I saw some boys about your age working in a field on Sunbury Road. I stopped and asked the straw boss if he could take on another boy. He said he can always use more hands.”
“What’s the pay?”
“You get paid by the pound for what you pick. It’s a bean farm. Now picking beans in the sun is tough work. Are you sure you want to take this on? It’s up to you.”
“I can handle it. No problem.” I didn’t like begging Mom and Dad for a little money every time I wanted to chip in for a pizza at Bona’s or buy a coke at Lynn Drugs. My allowance had disappeared when Dad was laid off the first time. Besides, a dollar or two often came with a task that became one of my regular chores.
“I thought that’s what your answer would be so I told him you would start tomorrow. Work begins at seven am. I’ll drop you off.”
In the morning, I told Dad, “Picking beans can’t be as hard as Ronnie’s job on that nasty garbage truck or Mike’s job in a hot laundry. I’ll hitchhike home.”
I strode away from the car with my lunch bag toward a battered pickup truck in the midst of several big trees in the middle of the field. As I got closer, a bed of orange tiger lilies caught my eye and I saw the foundations of an old farm house.
A huge man holding a clipboard stood to the side of a group of boys milling about. He was a tall man wearing a black Stetson that added half a foot to his height. An unkempt black beard like Fidel Castro’s obscured his face except for his dark eyes. He wore bib overalls without a shirt to cover the riot of black hair on his chest, underarms, and his broad shoulders.