ROCK PICKIN’

My friend Old Hat is inspiring folks to write about Paying Jobs they have had.  When I ponder my own life, I see that I have done many many jobs that could–or perhaps should–have given me pay, but that were volunteer on my part.

My very first Paying Job sticks well in my mind, though.  My best friend grew up on an Indiana farm much larger than our own–several hundred acres over in the muck land.  Rich black healthy dirt.  Her dad needed a bunch of young people to help pick up rock, so for two days that’s what we did, for $1 an hour.

The earth is always pushing up new stones in the field, and the big ones can damage the farm equipment, so they need to be removed and thrown in the pile.  In some regions, they’ve been used to build stone fences, and many were used for house foundations.  The fireplace in my parents’ home (which they built themselves) is made of rock we picked up through the years, and just last year a fellow asked if he could rummage through the rock pile for a project he wanted to do at his house. 

They are beautiful:  reds and blues and yellows, with a lot of quartz; they are also heavier than they look.

I never could understand why, for all his cleverness, he didn’t create what my father (who obviously is far more clever) did and still does use:  a stone boat.  Take a bunch of boards, put a few crosspieces on it, and drag this behind the tractor.  That way, when you pick up a rock you just move it over and let it DOWN onto the boat.

My friend’s dad pulled a regular hay wagon instead.  We had to pick the rock UP and heave it UP onto the wagon, which was terrible work.

It was also dirty work.  My friend’s brother was plowing nearby with another tractor, raising up the black dust as he went by.  When the days were over, we looked like coal miners, and I had to shampoo and shampoo and shampoo my hair to get it back to blonde.

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