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“Berry Vines and Frostbite”©2018 colored pencil on paper 8 1/2" x 12"

I grew up in a logging town in a rural setting. Most of my circle of friends had dropped-out of school by their Junior year. I stuck it out and graduated, even though I had to take some night classes to get the few credits I was short of to reach that goal. Later on in mid-life I would return to school and get a college degree. But, that is another story.

Some of my friends became loggers. My first job out of high school was working on a farm pruning and tying berry cane to the wire trellis in the rows between the wooden posts. I got this job through a hgh school acquaintance, (thanks Tim). It’s not what you know, but, who you know.

I lived in a migrant workers camp. They were long rows of ‘cabins’ with plywood walls and no insulation built on concrete slabs. I had one of the nicer ones, because half the floor had linoleum tile laid down by someone. I had an old cast iron wood cook stove, but, there was electricity. The latrine and shower were in separate buildings. I had to pack water in from the outside well. This instilled a sense of empathy in me for those with families who moved from place to place following the harvests of various crops.

Farmers never wait for the weather to change. It does what it does. The rain and mud were one thing. Wearing rain gear and a thick insulated jacket that would be ripped to shreds by the thorns of the berry vines with rubber boots and two pairs of socks that wasn’t quite enough insulation against the elements was another. You had to grab the long train of berry vines and throw them around the wire, twisting them in place like a long serpent. It was inevitable that you would be slapped in the face by the wet berry vines. Then came the snow. I would get a minor case of frostbite on my toes from working in it and on the frozen ground.

There would be various characters that passed through the camp. The couple from Minnesota, with the woman’s sister bearing a pierced cross on her nose that would tempt me in her bathrobe to no avail. The flute player that would be carted off by the coke dealer in a Black Cadillac to California with promises of California Gold. And then there was the family with their daughter. She would come knocking on my door one night, and nature pursued its course. A few days later they packed-up and moved on. I don’t think it was anything I said.

I spent a large sum of my money on books. Looking back, it could have been spent on more frivolous things. I never cared for school, but, I always liked learning. Various gardening books, “Ideas and Opinions” by Albert Einstein, “The Secret Life of Plants” by Peter Tompson and Christopher Bird, “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran, among others. I only made a few dollars an hour (we’re talking under $5.00 back then), but, the cost of living was so much lower than it is today. Everything is relative.

I was shown that living on your own can be a struggle and the world doesn’t promise you anything. I was tired of my situation and quit my job, but, then some friends were going to Mexico and needed someone to watch over their place. Twelve acres with a Geodesic Dome that had been built by my friend with hand-split Cedar shakes and an ingenious hub system using short lengths of metal pipe banded to 2x4’s with metal banding straps. Things were looking brighter and I was in a much better space. You may never know what tomorrow may bring.

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