Tales of Open Road

The Pennsy farm

... Trials of the trails

by Bill Jodrey

Tuesday morning, quite early, I was loping westward and feeling as fine as one of the crows that were making a rumpus about something that I could not see, up in the clump of pine trees off to the left of the highway.

Last night I slept in the remains of a discarded Ford truck that was almost hidden by growing brush. Henry Ford was a loner.

The morning was bright and the air was cool enough to make one feel glad to be able to be up and about, even though there was no immediate call for one's attention except the crows in the pine grove.

Almost too soon, a late model truck stopped and the driver said, "Hop in, young fellow, the road is long."

I got in without any argument, as long as he was going my way. The driver was obviously a college man, and his questions were clear and searching, and they required a clear answer.

As the miles wore on, I learned that he was returning from a visit to a hospital where he had taken his "hired hand" who had a gall bladder attack during the night. The doctor said he would be all right in a few days.

"Now I'm without a hired hand, unless you're a farmer's son and looking for work?"

"Well," I said, "I'm not a farmer's son. I've had some experience with plants and trees, but I know very little about cows and horses."

"If you want to see how it will work out, I'll pay two dollars a day and three meals, bed and shower in the barn."

That was a much nicer offer than one might expect, considering the straits that the Government was in.

We drove about another fifteen minutes before cutting into a well-kept lane that went up a hill and then flattened out onto a very nice farm yard, house, barn, and a very large area of garden with vegetables, and flowers, plus an orchard of apple, pear and cherry trees.

The combined area would require a great deal of attention, but I thought that for a few days and a few dollars, I'd give it a try.

The boss said, "Take a walk around the area and let me know what you decide."

First I checked out the barn, which had only three cows, although there was room for six.

There was a small office area with data books and other reading material, I supposed for bad weather days when one couldn't work outside.

The shower was next to the entrance, but the door opened to the side, which faced away from the house for privacy.

There was a small office area with a toilet, bed, clothes hangers, bookshelf and two chairs that were not designed for relaxation. The shower was 'built on' with access from the outside. It appeared to me that the shower was added as a temporary fix and was just never corrected, but that was no trouble, or so I thought, but who can see into tomorrow?

I sat on a box near the barn entrance, and waited until the boss man showed up and asked, "What did you decide?"

"I'll take a try at it, but it looks like an experienced man's operation, and I'm not sure that I'm what you're looking for."

His answer was, "I'll point out what I want done, and, working together, I think that we can keep the ship afloat. Are you ready to give it a try?"

"Yes! Let's go."

It was still two hours to lunch time, and I had skipped breakfast, but happily until noon we walked and talked. I wound up with a head full of duties but, of course, it was one job at a time. I decided that it was a nice way to pick up a few dollars for the next leg of my trail.

At lunchtime, after the boss had laid out a plan of procedure and after a quick cleanup, we walked to the house. He pointed to a closed box next to the back door and said, "That is where your three meals a day will be waiting for you."

The plan of activities worked out real well.

I was tired at the end of each day, but a cold shower each day before supper set me up for a quiet evening to visit with the three cows and, of course, there was the bookshelf and, from our height of land, the sunsets were  simply 'beautious'.

On the fourth day, when I picked up my midday food package, there was a note with my name that said the hospital patient was being discharged and that he would be ready to go to work in three days.

I was happy to have someone make decisions for me, and I was ready to resume my walkabout westward ho, so with a lighter attitude after lunch, I did more work that afternoon than usual. I was more tired and sweaty than usual but, looking forward to a cold shower, my evening meal, and watching the daylight melting into starlight, gave me a lift.

The workday did end, and the cold shower was turning on the invigorating process that makes up for an honest day's labor.

Nicely cooled down, I shut off the water, put the towel over my head, and used my two hands to make sure that I would not slip when I stepped down onto the ledge to dry off.

My step was firm, and I dried my head and face, and ten feet away stood the boss' daughter.

Four or five seconds passed, and as I was staring at her, I saw a flicker of movement over her shoulder that caught my attention, and there stood her father watching the whole tableau.

I looked at her and said, "Your father is watching."

"Damn," she said, and stamped her foot. Walking up to me, she handed me the box that held my evening meal, and with a quick glance at the naked gardener, she turned back to the house and her father.

Later that evening, as I was returning the supper dishes, the boss came out and we swapped pleasantries about the weather.

I think that I broke the ice when I said I was wondering if it wouldn't be a good idea if I was to move along, because the regular gardener would be back in a few days and we might leave a small bit of work for him to break in on.

Mr. Williams reply was, "I don't like to see you leave, you are a good worker and you understand growing things."

We both knew his meaning when he said, "You travel with the Lord. You will be tried but safe in His hands."

I left shortly after our chat without notice as the sun was setting, and shortly after reaching the highway, another experience unfolded as a sedan, driven by a middle-aged lady, stopped to pick me up, and thus begins another experience.

March 16, 2001

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