Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: START (02/25/16)
By Leola Ogle
LEAVE COMMENT ON ARTICLE
SEND A PRIVATE COMMENT
ADD TO MY FAVORITES
A sea of green as far as my eyes could see. Birds and insects overhead. Warm sun in blue sky. Manuel’s authoritative voice mingled with the hum of field workers. Manuel, the foreman, wrote names on a clipboard before issuing wooden-handled, short hooked-blade knives.
He gave me a knife. I had no plans to be a daily worker. Dad smiled at me. I scowled. I was still reeling from the announcement that we would be staying to work the grape harvest. The peach harvest ended, which normally signaled our return home in time for school. “You’ll be starting school in town,” Mom said.
I cried. I pouted. I threatened to run away – an empty threat since we were surrounded by miles and miles of vineyards and orchards. Where would I go?
It was 1962. I had just turned thirteen. Wasn’t it enough to leave my friends and spend the past three summers in California while my family worked the harvest, but then told I had to start school here?
My job was to stay at the cabin to watch my two younger brothers and sister, and have lunch ready when my parents came in for noon break. Lunch was usually potted meat sandwiches. It would be years before I could bring myself to eat potted meat.
Bored and angry, I asked if I and my younger siblings could go with my parents on the first day of grape harvest.
What was I thinking?
“Good morning.” Manuel nodded politely, his eyes sweeping over us younger ones. Lots of families made their children work in the harvest, but not my parents. I’m sure Manuel wondered why we were there.
“You’ll start here.” Manuel motioned to the beginning of a long row of grapevines. “Here’s a piece of chalk. Your number’s fifteen. Make sure to mark it on the crates for your credit. If you finish this row before today’s over, I’ll assign another row.”
Finish the row? Was he serious? I couldn’t see an end. It went on into infinity.
“Let’s get started,” Dad said.
I lasted until lunch. Mostly I lay under vines using my handy-issued-knife-made-for-cutting-grape-clusters and did exactly that – cut grape clusters and placed them in wooden crates. My younger brother, Clifford, wrote the number fifteen on crates. Harold and Darleen behaved like the small children they were – definitely not conducive to productivity. My parents managed to work with minimal hollering from Dad.
Before school started on Monday, my older brother, Gerald, and his friend, VJ – both in high school – took a bus home. Gerald would stay with VJ’s family for the next few weeks.
Home. Where I longed to be. “Not fair,” I whined.
I was ignored. Probably because I really was a good kid. I cried the whole way to Merced where we put Gerald and VJ on a Greyhound bus.
Monday was school. Mom drove me and my two younger brothers past rows of grapevines and orchards of barren peach trees to the end of the dirt road to catch the school bus.
Most memorable on the bus trip was stopping at a palatial house – it seemed palatial to me – and an Asian girl named Majesty got on the bus. Vivacious and beautiful, it was obvious Majesty – yes, that was her name – was popular and loved. How could she not be with a name like Majesty? She would be in my homeroom, but never speak to me.
Another stop was to pick up the cutest twins, Linda and Londa. Linda was in my room, but not Londa.
I wanted to be anywhere but at my desk in a classroom full of strangers, especially when the teacher announced we would each tell what we did for the summer.
I gulped. What should I say? My dad’s construction job wasn’t plentiful enough so we came, lived in a one room cabin– one of many cabins where workers lived – with electricity, but no running water, and worked alongside migrant farm workers?
“I babysat my younger brothers and sister while my parents worked.” It’s what I said, although almost every student had worked in some kind of harvest.
It was different. They had normal homes.
I survived that summer. I made friends – two dear classmates, Mennonite girls. I was exposed to a different culture and people at school and in the fields. It became a part of who I am. A summer of glorious adventures.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
Accept Jesus as Your Lord and Savior Right Now - CLICK HERE
JOIN US at FaithWriters for Free. Grow as a Writer and Spread the Gospel.