Monday, June 1, 2009

Skagit Valley Strawberries

My sister-in-law works at a farm stand. She bakes shortcakes, pies, and sells produce. She has worked for Sakuma Farms for a while now. A few days ago, she was given the first flat of strawberries. Lucky! I am hoping to taste some later this month when Jenny and I go to Washington for my parents' sixtieth wedding anniversary. I started working in strawberry fields when I was in fourth grade. I wasn't a good berry picker. I worked the entire day, knees in the dirt, reaching under dew drenched bushes, filling my twelve boxes just three times. My mom was so nice. When I got home she applauded my accomplishment. I worked the entire strawberry season for a whopping thirty dollars! From then on, every strawberry season provided me and many kids in our community with a job. I never achieved berry picking speed. I longed for lunch, hated getting my hands so sticky and prayed for rainstorms so the whistle would blow and we could go home. My mother washed our filthy jeans and tennis shoes every night so we could board the berry bus fresh and clean, pick all day, eat berries all day, and return home to deposit more caked work clothes on the laundry room floor. Later, for some unknown reason, the farmers hired me to stack flats and punch cards. When your cards were punched, you saved them for pay day. We were paid by the flat so everyone made a different amount of money. I moved on to the position of row boss and went around checking little childrens' rows for clean picking. I did not deserve this job. I think I got it because my older brother was a good employee. I loved talking to some of the little kids, though. They reminded me of myself, dreamily pushing the flat cart through the dirty row, looking for someone to talk to. Soon, a law was passed aimed at this sort of child labor and new rules were set in motion. No one under the age of twelve could pick strawberries, so many children lost their opportunity to work in the fields, accumulating some summer pocket money and taking pride in the fruits of their very first job. I still dislike long, hard work, prefering dreamy, artsy creating instead, but I think working outside in the sun, sitting smack dab in the middle of farming paradise, helped my character. My simple memories of sneaking on the dirty bus to have a nice bite of my friend Bub's meatloaf sandwich and swigging grape soda, appreciating it so much, are still so vivid. I'm very excited to see my childhood landscapes soon. My wish for you: mouthfuls of sweet strawberries! Yum! Oh! Just four more days of school for Pom Pom! Yahoo!

1 comment:

Brad said...

I agree. Child labor laws are silly and out-dated. I love strawberries and don't know exactly why. I think they are just nice and tasty, no great memory to attach. I love your strawberry picking stories.