Thursday, April 28, 2011

What a wonderful summer...

The weather is still trying to decide if winter will give way to spring around here. The snow does make me dream of summer, with it's planting and harvesting times. I am remembering a time about 48 summers ago...when my mother, brother and I left the city for the summer, for my Aunt & Uncle's farm, east of Salem. We stayed in our small Shasta camp trailer that my Dad pulled to the farm. That gave us the opportunity to pick strawberries, then raspberries and finally beans with my cousins Bill and Beckie, and my Aunt Joyce.
We would get up oh-so-early, in the dim light of pre-dawn coolness, and do the farm chores first, including milking a couple of cows. Bringing the milk into the kitchen, we would pour fresh cream onto our bowls of cold cereal (usually cheerios). Cream really does make everything wonderful! When that was picked up, we kids would climb into the back of the old blue pick-up and head up the road to pick up a couple of neighbor boys that went with us, just as dawn was breaking into full daylight. Arriving at the designated field for the week, depending on what was ripe, we would get our buckets, baskets or crates and head out to the next row to be picked.

As the sun shot it's first rays over the rich dirt and ripe fruit, we would get busy, visions of money for school clothes and supplies spurring us on. We would have contests with each other, as well as with other kids to see who could pick the most, the fastest. We would usually pick pretty steadily for the first few hours, while it was cooler. But as the sun climbed and we grew hot and sticky, we found ways to entertain ourselves. Of course, my aunt and Mom were there to keep us in line, but as they could pick faster, and were usually out ahead, we were left to 'quietly' have raspberry or bean fights through the rows at each other. The berries ended up on each other, or in the dirt instead of in our buckets. We older ones also had transistor radios, and would listen to music as we worked. I distinctly remember listening to Sonny & Cher's 'I Got You Babe' that summer.

Lunch was always a welcome, but-too-short break. We ate the sandwiches and fruit we had packed the night before and drank fresh milk, while sitting in the shade of big oak trees. My aunt would encourage us to work hard, for the last two hours before quitting time. By this time of day it was HOT! I remember it being so hot on the sunny side of the row, that the soil burned right through the soles of my sneakers, and I would hop as I picked alternating my feet. My aunt made a practice of quiting around 2:00 or so, as it was just too hot to continue, and we would all be miserable. So gathering up our pickings, we would 'weigh' out at the side of the field designated for weighing out the produce, and paying the workers. It was always an exiting time, to see how much money we had made for the day, and who had won the most.

After quiting, we were all sticky, sweaty and filthy, covered with dirt, bean leaves or dried, smashed berries. We climbed into the back of the old pick-up again, heading out for our secret swimming hole over at Thomas 'Crick'. I know now, this was actually a branch of the Santiam River, and the swimming hole was on some friend's property. There were a couple of gates to open along the way, and one of us kids would hop out and open & shut the gates as we drove along. The swimmin' hole was a rock lined pool, shady under big oaks and elms. What fun we had each afternoon, jumping off the rocks and playing games in the water. It felt wonderful after our hot day working. I'm sure my aunt thought it was a great way to clean us all up! There was no one else around, and we could let off some steam hollering and yelling all we wanted.

Around 4:00 we headed on home, so my aunt could fix dinner for my Uncle Roy, who worked for the Linn County Highway Dept., and came home hot and tired. Mom usually cooked our dinner in the camp trailer, and we often got together and made some homemade ice cream after that. Then it was early to bed for all of us. We fell asleep listening to the frogs making music in the creek every night. What sweet sleep we had, after so much work and play. What a wonderful summer it was for us city kids.


Laffing Dawg said...

I knew this must be a dream. My goodness when are we going to be able to go out and plant flowers. Oh, I know, it is Central Oregon so just be patient.

Love the post Jennie,

Peter Jones said...

That's so cool! I don't remember you telling me specifically about this. What a great memory. Especially since you lived in the city. It's hard to picture the part about being hot and sweaty at the moment...

Thanks for writing that out.