Rural Work

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As far as I know, child labor laws are recent inventions. When I came along (50s-60s), at least in our part of the South, there was no such thing as children’s rights. When it came to work, parents used their own discretion as to what their kids would and wouldn’t do.

My Father was a workaholic, and he made sure we kids became one too. As far back as I can remember, we worked, almost always outside the house in the fields. Of course we did chores like washing dishes, sweeping the floors, mowing and cleaning off the yard, washing and ironing our own clothes (with cast irons that were heated on a wooden stove), toting water, running errands, and so forth.
Now, when it came to outside work, it is interesting how my Daddy could find some kind of work for every season. I probably can’t always get the work in the right seasons, but that’s okay. We picked peaches, cotton, peas, and cucumbers. I remember going with my Daddy to pick peas. It seems like I spent more time under the shade tree (waiting for lunch) than working, but I guess I did help him out some. Cotton was harvested in late summer and early fall, but seems like even during winter, there was cotton in the fields. Peaches, I think were picked in late spring. We wore a towel around our necks so the fuzz would irritate our skin. This job, along with just about all the rest, was one of my least favorite. Peas and cucumbers were picked in the summer. It never got too hot or too cold for us to work.
Today, when I look back on the work we had to do, I can appreciate my upbringing. At the time, though, I didn’t. Field work is hard, back-breaking labor, and those who did that kind of work did it because they had to. Now, immigrants do most of the field work, and I can certainly relate to where they are, because I’ve been there…done that. Would I want to do that again? No! Not really. Would I do that again? Yes, if I had to. There’s nothing wrong with work. All work is dignifying. It’s the attitude we take toward whatever we do. If I had not learned to work, I wouldn’t be drawing social security, so on that note, I can say, “Thanks Dad” for instilling within me such a strong work ethic.