A boy growing up in rural southern Ohio had to make money somehow during the summer, and most available jobs involved physical labor in hot conditions.
I made money selling blackberries to family friends in town. However, doing so meant a trek through briars and stickers to a secret blackberry patch that yielded thumb-size berries. With the patch being infested with mosquitoes, ticks and chiggers, I was forced to wear jeans and a long-sleeved shirt in the brutal summer heat.
The tools of my trade were crudely simple. Using an extra-long shoestring, I hung an empty coffee can around my neck so it hung to waist level. Wearing such a contraption allowed both of my hands to be free for picking. Of course, when I ate one out of every two berries I picked, it made for a long, hot afternoon.
I also made money baling hay, and for those of you who have never done it, let me tell you, it’s a rough summer job.
Since the area farmers already had hired hands employed in the fields to run the tractor, bailer and wagons, boys like me were hired to be the poor saps up in the barn’s haymow. Wagon after wagon of fresh hay bales were brought in from the fields. The bales were then loaded onto the elevator and shuttled up to the haymow. There, we labored in the hot, dimly lit, dust-filled world that was a haymow to stack and store the bales.
Other summer job catastrophes
Another summer, I tried something different. I worked painting barns and houses. That summer job only confirmed that I did not want a career painting barns and houses.
Risking my life every day climbing rickety ladders was an adventure in itself. In addition to that, I once got paint all over a paying customer’s nice bedroom curtains when they happened to flap outside the window in the breeze. Another time I rode a ladder down the roof of a house, only to jump off at the last second, just as the ladder crashed into the yard below. Lastly, I trashed a newly bought car by causing the interior to permanently smell like paint, gas and turpentine.
Whew! It sure is easier typing about picking blackberries, baling hay and painting houses than actually doing those jobs!
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Read more reader-submitted summer memories in Memories of Summer Fun.