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Friday, February 3, 2012

Just Another Rock on the Wall




As much as I may dread a tough job, I love the challenge and the feeling of accomplishment when I look over the finished product and admire the results. It doesn’t mean I’m always happy with the results but I’m comfortable that I have done my best which is the very basis of pride for me. I guess it has to hurt me a little to truly feel that I’ve earned the right to be proud. Yea I know, pretty stupid. Most of the time, my best effort has pleased whomever I was working for but I would be lying if I said everyone was pleased. If anything, I have learned that I can’t please everyone but if I do my best, I can at least please myself.
In the old days, everything was pretty much done by hand. There were no air tools, electric saws, computers or the like to aide in making a job easier. I would bet that there was a lot more pride in workmanship in those days than there is now. That is if any of them shared my philosophy. It was hard work in harsh elements for little pay and the days were as long as it took to get the job done. Vacations were few and far between and the best compliment for a person was to admire his work and effort. What I do on occasion, they did every day and for all the folks old enough to remember and be a part of that, I want you to know how much respect I have for you for what you did to help build our country.

I got my first appreciation of hard work when I was thirteen and went to spend a couple weeks with My Uncle Neal and Aunt Bea’s on their tobacco farm in Hickman County Tennessee, the most beautiful place on Earth. I remember it was still dark when Uncle Neil hollered up the stairs for us to get up. When I came downstairs, Aunt Bea had an awesome breakfast prepared. Biscuits, gravy, bacon, eggs, homemade preserves and sugar cured ham. After breakfast, we ( my cousins and me) got in the back of the truck and went to the tobacco field where I spent the day dragging irrigation hoses, pulling up dead stuff and repeatedly trying to crank the broken water pump down by the creek. It was back breaking work for a thirteen year old, especially one that didn‘t know what hard work was up until that day. Uncle Neil was/is a kind man but expected no less than 100% from everyone, which was basically his teenage and younger daughters and me (he and Aunt Bea had all girls). Although we were young, he pushed us just as hard as he would any grown man. He had to, this was their livelihood. That, I think, is the difference between a plantation and a farm. If it was a plantation, his daughters would be debutants, Uncle Neil a Senator and Aunt Bea’s only job would be to entertain guests and tell the servants what to do. On a farm, everyone works.

When we got back to the house that evening after a very long day, I remember being so sore and tired. I also remember the feeling of immense accomplishment. It was the first time I felt like I was of mechanical value to someone else. It felt good. It was the first time I felt pride from hard manual labor, which is different to me than any other. It was just another week in the field for the Jobe family but for me, it planted a seed.
The next two weeks consisted of the same but we did get time to fish, catch crawdads in the creek and ride around the pasture on the tractor. I went back to Uncle Neil’s and Aunt Bea’s for a couple more summers of work and enjoyed each trip more than the last. Now I take my family there every year to the community fish fry on July 4th. It’s been done there every year for more than fifty years and if you want an injection of American patriotism at it’s best, there’s not a better place to find it.

There’s no tobacco on the Jobe farm now, just rolling pastures of long, well maintained grass. It’s leased it to a guide that takes well-to-do hunters and their dogs around shooting birds. People coming there for the first time find themselves awestruck when they see it. It truly is a beautiful place. But the most admirable part of the farm for me is what most people miss. It’s the partially exposed 5 foot high rock wall that lines the driveway as you come in and another along the creek bed. Hundreds and hundreds of feet of it and it wasn’t put there for the beauty it presents. It was put there by hard working men and women clearing the field to plant their crops over many years. It is this farms badge of honor and accumulatively represents the pride and respect of it’s many tenants in the best possible way. And even though I didn’t put any rocks on that wall, I still feel like in a small way, I’m a part of it.

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