Wednesday, October 26, 2005

JOBS – 2

(Run originally 4/20/04 on our old site)

Tom Pry

Reading Ernie’s piece Sunday on jobs, I’ve done the hay thing, too, on my grandfather’s farm. One of the two longest summers of my life was the summer of ’54, when there was just the old hired hand and me to take in about 50 acres of hay (the second longest summer was Basic Training in 1957 at Ft. Polk, LA, with the 1st Armored Division, a unit that had never trained recruits before, but that’s another story).

Probably the most unusual pair of summer jobs came in the summer of ’56, when Dan Randle and I became “chicken thieves.” Strangely enough, it’s a perfectly legal occupation, not at all related to the old hillbilly recipe for chicken and dumplings, the first line of which was, “First, steal two chickens …”

Late in the afternoon, you’d go over to the chicken plant, near what is now Beebe-Capps and Main, and help finish loading empty chicken crates on the back of a large truck. Exactly what time you went was determined by how far you had to go in order to do your thing, and then get back to the chicken plant by about 7 a.m. The farther the chicken house, the earlier we had to leave.

The entire crew would cram into the cab of the truck after it’d been through the certified scales, and off we’d go. Getting there in what was the middle of the night, we’d unload the empty crates, and then the fun began. Carrying the crates into the very, very fragrant chicken houses (air conditioned? Be real!) the chickens were awakened by the dim interior lights and, quick as we could, we’d scoop them up and try to get them into the crates before they could organize their pea-sized brains for an escape.

Then the crates went back on the truck and we (smelling a great deal like our cargo) went back in the truck’s cab (windows open, thank you). Back to Searcy, back to the scales; the farmers were paid by weight for their birds, so it was a case of subtracting the total weight of the truck without the birds from the same weight with the birds. Beat hell out of trying to count the little critters, since there was no set number of chickens in a crate.

Unload at the chicken plant. By then, we were truly torn but, if one of the flimsy wood and wire crates broke – which happened frequently -- then we had to chase chickens around the street and loading dock until we could catch ‘em and re-crate them.

Then we’d usually go over to Dan’s house – it was closest – clean up, eat, sleep … and do it all over again that evening.

I don’t remember how long we did that – I suspect not too long – and seemed like stepping into another world when I got the call to come fill in for a vacationing announcer at KICK Radio up in Springfield, MO.

My wife, Karen, has great difficulty believing ANY of what I’ve just written.


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