My dad was a farmer/rancher his whole life. He could grow anything, anywhere. He started his ranching career on little ranches near a small town in Arizona named Eloy. My first memory of my dad is his leaving or coming back from work in a white company truck, wearing his cowboy boots and straw cowboy hat. That was his work uniform.
Whenever he got together with my uncles I remember the conversation always revolved around what they were farming and how good the crops were this year, or how bad, just depending on the weather, plague, wind, freeze...all those variables that farmers had to deal with for each season.
When we were in Eloy, Arizona, my dad grew cotton. Beautiful, white, fluffy cotton. We moved around alot and my dad was always learning and growing in his knowledge of products to plant and grow. I remember him planting tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers and lettuce They called him "King of the Row Crop". Anything that grew in rows my dad became an expert at growing.
When I was a junior in high school, my dad decided that he wanted my sister and me to work in the fields so we would get a taste for hard work, hoping that we would decide it didn't taste that good and we would instead study hard, get a good education and not work as hard as he and my mother had always done. He and my mother met while both picking cotton in Eloy, Arizona.
I remember the day before our first day of work, my dad sat us down and told us that once we were out there, we were representing him, we were reflections of the type of worker he was and that he expected us to work harder, longer and more diligently than anyone else out there. Out there in the fields we were expected to make him proud.
That next morning, we arose before the sun, we put on the clothes my mom had set aside for us as work clothes. Jeans, a t-shirt, a long sleeved cotton shirt to protect us from the sun, a bandanna around our neck and a big straw hat. My mom also went to work with us and she got up earlier than all of us and made burritos that we would eat in the field for breakfast, breaks and lunch. My dad fit us all into his truck and off we went into the fields to pick tomatoes.
In the field, the sun was just barely starting to rise and we went to the crew pusher and got two buckets each and a card that looked like a standard time card but instead had little numbered circles. We wrote our names at the top then headed out into the fields. Our job was to fill each of our two buckets with green tomatoes, we picked them before they ripened on the vine. Once our two buckets were filled we lifted them up, one bucket in each hand and walked out of the row we were in towards a waiting tractor where a man would grab our buckets, empty them into bins on a trailer being pulled by a tractor and then he would pull a little hole punch out of his pocket and punch out two of the holes...and back into the fields we went. This wasn't as easy as it sounds, the rows with the tomatoes were uneven and filled with dirt clods and the vines would trip you, plus it was hot and humid and dirt and flies were everywhere!
We found out right away that I was not good at picking tomatoes. I was too slow. My mom and sister on the other hand were super fast. Luckily what I was good at was lifting those buckets and hauling them out of the fields to the guy on the tractor and coming back and hauling more buckets to the guy on the tractor, and c'mon...I was in high school, I was cute, I had a beautiful smile so the guys on the tractors would more often than not jump off the tractors and meet me halfway down the rows and carry the buckets for me...it didn't hurt that I was the bosses daughter either.
But in my mind I kept hearing my dads words, I was a reflection on him and I worked my buns off! My mom and my sister worked their buns off! We did this for most of the summer. It was hot, dirty, sweaty work. Sometimes I liked it, sometimes I didn't, but I made my dad proud!
When tomato picking season was over my dad asked me if I wanted to try working on the tomato harvesting machines. These machines ran at night and they harvested the ripened tomatoes. I would have to go to work without my mom and my sister, but my dad would be there all night supervising the whole operation. Of course I said yes, I wanted my dad to be proud of me and I found out early on that I really liked getting a paycheck!
Here's an excellent video showing the process, it even shows a lady on the machine which would have been me.
Now that doesn't look so bad in the daytime, but remember, I was working at night with big flood lights so I could see what I was doing. It was hot and humid, at times cold and wet. The machines felt like you were on a huge boat, they rocked back and forth in the uneven rows, some of the tomatoes were over ripe and squishy and rotten and smelly!
I can remember working until my stomach couldn't take anymore and then I would turn around and vomit into the field. Then I would go back to working and continue until I had to turn around and vomit again. I did this for two nights. On the third night someone told my dad that I shouldn't be there, that I was sick too much and I wasn't eating and that even though I was doing a good job he felt sorry for me. My dad came and rode on the machine with me for a while. I tried to suck it up and not get sick but finally I couldn't take it and I had to turn around and puke over the side of the rail. That was it, my dad said I had to quit, he couldn't allow me to continue. I begged and begged him, telling him I was ok, I could do it. He finally took me in his arms and said, "You proved that you're my daughter and that you work as hard as anyone, I don't want you to do this anymore, you can try again next year, go to my truck and go to sleep." So I did, but I made my dad proud and even better I was a good reflection of the hard-working man he was.
So to make a long story even longer, my purpose for this post is because throughout the years I have worked with people that have hired their kids to work for them. A few I have admired, they had the same work ethic as my dad and their kids were outside washing cars and cleaning gum off the sidewalks, just like everyone else.
But I've worked with the opposite as well. Those bosses that hire their kids and let them get away with murder but turn a blind eye to it. At times it seems to me that they can't even see that their kids are slacking and making their parent look bad. I wonder at times if that isn't part of what's wrong with kids today, their parents want to make everything easy for them, they don't want their kids to struggle or suffer. I wonder at times if those parents don't worry about what will happen if tomorrow they are hit by a bus and their child has to go out into the real world and work for a real boss who will expect real productivity and isn't just going to pat them on the back for doing nothing.
I'm glad that I had the parents that I had. I know that I was truly blessed in life to have them. They have made me who I am today. Anything that is bad in me cannot be blamed on them because they were excellent leaders. I always say "lead by example" and my favorite quote is "integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking". Am I always perfect? Oh gosh no...far, far, far from it! But all that is good in me is due to my parents who didn't worry about being my friends.
I HAVE TO ADD A "P.S". TO THIS POST. MY POSTS AUTOMATICALLY POST TO MY FACEBOOK PAGE. ONE OF MY FRIENDS ON FACEBOOK ACTUALLY WORKED WITH ME THOSE SUMMERS THAT I DESCRIBE IN THIS POST, BOBBY IS HIS NAME. HE WAS A COUPLE YEARS AHEAD OF ME IN HIGH SCHOOL AND HIS DAD "MAS" WAS MY DAD'S BOSS.
BOBBY MESSAGED ME THIS ON FACEBOOK "Perfect description of those early mornings....I still can smell the fragrance of tomatoes lol.....I drove one of those tractors....liked the article.."
I ASKED BOBBY HOW THE MACHINES REMOVED THE TOMATOES FROM THE VINES SINCE SEXTANT ASKED THAT QUESTION AND BOBBY WAS WONDERFUL ENOUGH TO PROVIDE THE VIDEO BELOW THAT IS PERFECT! THANK YOU BOBBY!