The Summer of '62; Episode 12
It was an unwritten rule that a bale was not placed on the conveyor until the person in the mow took one off. It just made sense. It was too exhausting on the man working in the mow. Uncle Bob, although teaching Rich that rule, never himself abide by it. Uncle Bob sometimes had two or three bales on the conveyor at a time. Rich actually ran back to the conveyor enable to catch the bales before they hit the floor. Sometimes they collected on the floor at the end of the conveyor and Rich had to set them aside until he was able to catch up.
“Can you slow it down?” Rich hollered from the mow down to Uncle Bob on the trailer.
“You’re young,” Uncle Bob said. “If you weren’t so lazy you could keep up.”
The word “lazy” was a word Rich did not take kindly.
His first year of little league baseball he ran as hard as he could to first base after hitting a grounder to second. He did not beat the throw. The coach said he was lazy. Later while playing shortstop he was unable to catch up to a ground ball. Suddenly he was labeled as “lazy.”
For the next two years Rich spent sometimes hours a day hurling a rubber ball against cement steps so that he ball came back at a different angle each time. He did so to improve his reflexes. He watched fast runners and imitated their strides. He experimented with strides until finding the one which he ran fastest. Rich ran and ran and ran.
When Rich was in the eighth grade some of the boys in his class were boasting about his speed. A junior, who was the second fastest runner on the football team, challenged Rich. Rich beat him by ten yards in a hundred yard race.
Rich did not like being called “lazy.”
“Let’s go lazy bones,” Uncle Bob yelled with his hands cupped around his mouth as the bales piled up at the end of the conveyor.
Rich kicked and shoved all the piled bales off the mow and onto the barn floor. Uncle Bob returned to the unwritten rule.
The summer sun was about to settle below the tops of the trees beyond the fields to the west when the job was complete. Mrs. Larsen had a big meal ready for Rich and Uncle Bob. Rich filled his plate and ate on the front porch. Mr. Larsen had already eaten and was watching TV.
Uncle Bob with a mouth full of food said to Mrs. Larsen, “That boy’s starting to get smart with me.”
Mrs. Larsen didn’t reply.
Rich walked inside after he was done eating to take his plate to the kitchen.
Mrs. Larsen said to me, “Bob says you have been getting smart with him. Have you?” The question was asked in such a way that it was in doubt.
“Uncle Bob was loading the bales on the conveyor two and three at a time and when I couldn’t keep up he called me ’lazy.’ I kicked the bales over the side of the mow so I could catch up.”
“Is that true?” Mrs. Larsen asked Uncle Bob.
“He oughta be able to keep up,” Uncle Bob said shoving mashed potatoes in his mouth.
“If ya work him like a dog don’t be surprised if he barks back now and then,” Mrs. Larsen said as if she wanted nothing else said about the matter and nothing else was.
Latter Rich was in the kitchen with Mrs. Larsen. She was drying the silverware and Rich sat at the table.
“Mom, I don’t like working for Uncle Bob,” Rich said.
“There’s a lot of things you have to do in life that you’ll have to put up with,” Mrs. Larsen said.
“As long as you’re living under this roof and on this farm you’re expected to do your share.”
“Do I have to work with him when he does the Hastings' farm?” Rich said.
“I think he depends on your help,” Mrs. Larsen said.
“I don’t mind doing work on our farm, but when I work with him elsewhere he pays the other guys more,” Rich said. “He’s not fare with me. I’ll work for him this summer as long as he is fare. I’m going to get a summer job next year. I’ll work on our farm, but I won’t work anywhere else for him.”
“Well that’s fare,” Mrs. Larsen conceded placing the silverware in the drawer..
The next two days Rich worked at the Eversole farm with three other boys. They were paid a penny a bale. That was $25.50 each for two days work.
Rich finished the field with Red the next day. Skip was not with him and Red did not say a word.
Uncle Bob and Rich finally got to the Hastings' farm. Rich baled with Don, the grandson of Mr. Hastings. Don was stout and muscular. He even baled the hay in a short sleeve shirt. He was humorous, good natured, thoughtful, and intelligent.
They baled a thousand. Rich was paid $5.00 and Don was paid $10.00.
When Uncle Bob divvied the money he offered as an explanation of the disparity, “He worked harder.” Rich accepted the money shamefully like a grateful subservient slave, but it added to his fury.
Later Don said to Rich, “Let’s split the money, $7.50 each.”
“You worked for it,” Rich said. “Keep it.” He paused after some thought. “Don, we were bale for bale with each other. How could he say that?”
“One time when you weren’t looking I grabbed an extra bale. I made sure Bob was watching,” Don said jokingly. Then he announced like a carnival barker, “And that was the $5.00 bale. It was to be your bale and I said, hey, look, there goes a rabbit’ and you looked, you always fall for that one. Now it cost you $5.00. Will you ever learn?”
Don’s sense of humor was always timely.
Rich often wondered, “Why does Uncle Bob treat me less than others? Why does he set his standard higher and even when I achieve it, he seems to grind me down with his lack of appreciation and compensation? I know for a fact he never said “Thanks.” Perhaps it was because no one ever thanked him. I vowed to always thank him.”