Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Synopsis: 2012 November 4th

I have taken a bit of a hiatus from editing and futzing with the book of my Uncle Ralph's letters.  Wrote a few blog posts, searched for pictures in my computer (which reminds me, I need a massive housecleaning of my picture archives!!!!), and now my attention has returned to the book.  Picked up on the editing and completion of the Introduction to the letters, which felt good to be back in that mode.

My counterparts upstate are busily working.  L is editing and formatting up a storm, and she and my sister have come up with an index by using the family group sheets that I sent up for their review.  My eyes glazed over when I heard how they are going about the indexing.  Makes great sense, but my skill set would have to be severely tweaked to do that detailed job.  I am so thankful for my sister and L as I would not be nearly as close to book completion without them.  So for me, it's back to work and heading towards the final push.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

2012 November 3rd: A Monica Update

When Monica came to live with us, I am sure that her robotic controller, or controllers, did not make her aware of her soon-to-be new home.  I think Monica thought her orders were to dispatch her to a nice clean,  city-home inhabited only by a quiet little older couple.  Unfortunately, all she got out of that description of her new home was an "older couple, but that older couple lived on a rural hillside -- a red clay hillside.  The orders said nothing about the long haired-German shepard, nor his little companion, not long haired but brought in his share of dirt, beggar lice, thistles, and foxtails.  Nor was there any indication, that little Monica's house would sometimes swell to accommodate two to six more humans and as many more dogs.  Poor Monica.  SkyNet, or perhaps it was  Vicki,  never told her these things.  They just left her to her own devices to deal with these humans.

At the moment, she is placid.  Sometimes she can't get started on her alloted days of cleaning, and she has to ask politely, "please empty my dirt bin."  This happens often if I forget to empty her dirt bin before letting her return to docking.  Today, I emptied her dirt bin, but still she wouldn't leave her docking station.  I pushed the start button and all I got was a plaintive little sound, and these words flashed across her tiny screen, "My brushes are stuck.  Please clean my brushes."  I turned her over. Yuck!  Her brushes looked like a werewolf -- black dog hair twined around the brushes and sticking out in a most scary way.  I cleaned her brushes and extracted black dog hair from around her bushings.  Then I set her back down and again pushed the button.

Her little screen flashed a thank you, and notified me that she was now cleaning the house.  She didn't seem to be upset by these indignities caused by and in her human's house, but still there is a controller out there, whether it be the malevolent SkyNet or  just the controlling Vickie  Should I worry?

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 © Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

Thursday, November 1, 2012

123rd COG: A Magical Birthday

A Birthday Party! Yep, we're having a birthday party here at the COG and Jasia is the birthday girl! Happy Birthday from yet another Scorpio – I have come across a surprising number of us Scorpios. And I want to wish Jasia, a most happiest of birthdays and say a thanks for inviting us to join you.

A Magical Birthday

Clear crisp autumn days and the nippy Klamath County nights in the high desert where I grew up, have a Scheherazade quality that makes my heart sing. These I associate with my birthday, but having an October birth date is not an optimum time if it's a celebration you're wanting. Not in that farming community where I was raised. No big parties for me with a birthday sandwiched in between harvest and elk hunting – except for one memorable birthday.

The year I turned seven was perfect. Life at the Zuckerman Farms, in Klamath County, where my dad managed their Oregon operations was idyllic. The commercial potato farm bustled with life and activity in this post depression time when many farm families were struggling. The Zuckerman Farms had a name far beyond our rural southern Oregon area, and in fact, the owner and founder, Maurice Zuckerman, was known throughout the country as the Potato King.

At harvest time, Zuckerman's sent a bus load or so of potato pickers from their headquarters in Sacramento, California, to the Klamath County ranch where we lived. They were Mexican Nationals and when they arrived, it was like a party. For several weeks, my dad and the farm hands prepared for their arrival by getting the barn, which was converted into a bunkhouse, ready to be used by Mexicans during the four to eight weeks of harvest. On the day of their arrival, they would burst out of the bus, ready to unlimber stiff bodies from the long bus ride. Even if our southern Oregon autumn weather seemed warm to us, the Mexicans would soon be flailing their arms, rubbing their hands together to keep warm. Most of them, coming from sunny, warm Stockton got off the bus wearing light weight shirts and no coats or jackets or gloves. After they had stretched and put their gear and bedrolls into the warehouse, my father and several of the farm hands would get them back into the bus and take them into Klamath Falls to outfit them with warm clothes suitable for our much cooler weather. My father and our farm hands didn't speak Spanish, and only the Mexican crew boss and a few of the workers spoke a little broken English, so there was lots of chattering and gesturing as the brown skinned guys from California scurried around J.C.Penny's gathering jackets, flannel shirts, long johns, heavy socks and gloves, which Daddy then paid for out of the Zuckerman account. By the end of the first day, store clerks, the Mexican crew boss, Daddy and the Mexican potato pickers would be frazzled but also giddy with the excitement of the day.

From then on through the end of harvest, the ranch compound was filled with the lilt of their words, songs and music. I didn't understand a word that was said, but I loved the unusual buzz that streamed into our lives from the arrival of these fellows from Mexico. Lots of times, when mother made me stay inside our yard, I would hang over the fence listening to their laughter and chatter, words I didn't understand, but that filled me with excitement. My favorite time of day was evening, when my dad let me tag along beside him as he made his evening rounds and talked with the Mexican crew boss about the next day's work or anything that they needed. The pickers who bunked in the barn had an evening ritual. While their cook prepared their evening meal, a few guys pulled out guitars and mandolins and filled the evening air with the sounds of their strumming. Others would join in by singing. As I shadowed my dad on these evening excursions, I'd make eye contact with some of the guys and my shy smile was rewarded by a nod, smile and perhaps a wave. Sometimes while my dad was talking to the guys, I would sit on a bundle of potato sacks and listen to the music and the strange melodic words as they talked and sang.
1940s Potato Picking at Zuckerman's Hosely Ranch
Courtesy of J.G.Hill and Roots'n'Leaves
On the weekends, or after school, my dad would often take me with him when he drove out into the fields. When we got to the field, I would hang our the window of my dad's little green Chevy coupe and wave to the workers. . Several of the pickers would wave back, chattering in their language strange to my ear. Then I would run beside my dad as he strode up and down the potato rows with the crew boss.


“Si, Senor Mac, many sacks, good crop, very good crop,” said the crew boss in his heavy accent as he would count out the number of sacks picked by each of the pickers. The Mexican potato pickers were very fast-- which is why they were sent up for the harvest. Each wore a web belt around his waist with dozens of roughly woven potato sacks hanging from metal hooks around the belt, and a sack hung between their legs into which they quickly flicked potatoes. Each would leave a picked sack of potatoes every five to ten feet, and the crew boss would count their tally.

That year my birthday came at the very end of harvest and the Mexican pickers would be leaving to return to Stockton the next day. The night of my birthday, and while mother was fixing dinner, Daddy and I went out to the barn as we usually did during these harvest evenings. This night was special. When daddy lifted me up onto a stack of potato sacks, I was serenaded to the tune of Happy Birthday, but to words I didn't recognize. I am not sure how these Mexican potato pickers knew I had a birthday coming up --- perhaps, I told them in an almost seven-year-old sort of way – yes, most likely that's how it happened. Now they seemed to be all talking and laughing at once – a cacophony of wonderful sounds. Then they brought out the presents. Little candies wrapped in paper with pictures of Mexican children. Next was a paper fan with picture of a beautiful dancing lady painted on it, and finally the most beautiful doll I had ever seen. She looked like the picture of the dancing lady on the fan. She had a glittery golden comb decoration in her shiny black hair and her tiny hands held a little fan, just like the one I had just gotten. Her tight red bodice was decorated with black lace. I fingered the shiny red satin pillow that was supposed to be her skirt. She was beautiful and exotic to my seven-year old mind. The crew boss leaned against the bales of sack and said, “She look pretty on your bed.” O, yes, I would put her in the middle of my bed every morning, and in the evening she would sit on the chair next to my bed. She was so lovely. . I sat on a bale of potato sacks with my treasures while my picker friends danced and sang until my dad was ready to head back to our house,. Music and the sounds of their voices followed us as we walked across the compound, ending only after our front door closed behind us.

I showed mother my treasures. “Gaudy,” she muttered as she returned to the dinner preparations. I didn't know what gaudy meant but I knew it wasn't good in her eyes. I didn't care. I ran to my room, placed my dark-haired beauty in the middle of my bed and then I sprawled across the bed, fanning myself, unwrapping candies and reliving a most magical night.

I don't remember any other birthday parties, only that one very special birthday. That was enough.

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 © Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications