Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Spud-picking weather

I know in Utah the cooler, crisper weather signals the coming of the deer hunt followed shortly thereafter by Thanksgiving and Christmas.
But for us Idahoans — and there are more of us than you think — it's spud-picking weather.
While the rest of the world went crazily on during October, going hunting or on vacation, we country kids were hitching up our Levis and packing our lunches for two weeks of the endless picking of potatoes.
I thought everybody did it.
School let out and every teenager who was healthy asked the local potato farmers for "jobs."
These jobs paid well in our eyes and since everyone was in the fields, it was the socially cool thing to do.
You'd get up before the sun, dress in your oldest, warmest stuff, grab a pair of gloves and pile into someone's pickup.
Once at the field, you grabbed a wire basket and started in on some of the longest rows of vegetables you ever saw.
It wasn't particularly hard work but it was dirty and every once in a while, you knelt on a soft, rotten potato or flushed out a nest of naked baby mice. Ugh.
In between filling and dumping the baskets into gunnie sacks, you broke up the routine by figuring out how much money you were making. It was exciting.
It was up to the individual pickers to total up the bags. I think we got all of 25 or 30 cents per bag for a grand sum of maybe a $100 or so by the end of the two weeks.
I don't know why we did it, really. Looking back now, it looks like slave labor to me but it was the social thing to do and there were often cute guys coming around for the filled sacks.
It was good, honest work that required little or no experience. It was what everybody did at the time.
So even though I still have nights where I'm picking potatoes in my sleep, I don't regret it. I think it's almost a shame that few Utahns know the feeling.
In fact, when the temperature drops and everything around me shouts "Fall!," I still get a bit of a hankering for the good old potato-picking days.

1 comment:

  1. I only picked potatoes once. All the other years I worked on a spud combine -- picking off clods and rocks. As the time wore on and it was more critical to get the spuds in, we would work until midnight or 1 a.m. Of course, everyone got crazy after about 10 p.m. Usually we ended up stopping for the night because a clod fight was keeping the tractor driver from paying attention to the row he was digging and the rest of us were laughing and giggling so much we were sending more rocks into the truck than spuds! City councilmen get like that after 10 p.m. as well, you know.