The List: The Most Horrible Farm Jobs January 30, 2013
By Julie Murphree and Brent Murphree, Julie’s Fresh Air
The List: Worse Farm Jobs
- Cutting cotton stocks – Usually takes place, November, December or January, when there is less than 10 percent humidity in the air so the dust is abundant. By the time the cotton pickers move through the field any disturbance sends volumes of dust into the air. A stalk cutter is like a lawn mower on steroids – a big air mover that can throw anything in its path 500 feet. Just for effect the stalk cutter will occasionally send a hard, dried cotton boll or brittle hunk of cotton stalk hurtling though the air to bounce off of your cold nearly frost bitten ear. IT HURTS!
- Disking wheat stubble – Have you ever heard someone say, “I love the smell of freshly tilled earth?” Well, I doubt that that person has ever disked up wheat stubble in April or May in Arizona. In Arizona most moisture is gone from the soil by April 15, so forget about visions of fresh moist earth gently turned by a gentle blade. The dust just hangs in the air on a calm day. You pray that the wind is blowing perpendicular to the direction you are traveling because if not, the dust will follow you every time you turn with the wind and smother you in the heavy dust. We use heavy disks that weigh tons which pull through the soil shrieking as the metal groans in the dirt – Think giant metal fingernails on an industrial chalkboard.
- Rooding cotton – A cotton rood is a piece of machinery that picks up cotton from the ground using slitted belts, augers and fans to get the lint into a basket that sits six feet off of the ground. I’ve already spoken about Arizona in the winter and fall and the dust situation. So, picture the ground scattered with thousands, no millions, of those huge powder puffs in on your mom’s dresser. Then think about all the particulate matter you can get into the air by driving by and picking those dust collectors and tossing them six to 12 feet in the air. Drive in that dust bowl all day and tell me how your lungs feel.
- Trimming Trees – Says Laura Whitaker Little, “As for my summer in the pistachios, that was a lot of fun because of your family [Murphrees]. Did we really drag that enormous water jug everywhere we went? Did I actually get up at 4 am every day? Do you remember the big snake? I went to trim that one tree and there was his head, his tongue hissing at me. I fell back over the dirt berm and your brothers wrangled him onto a long stick. I liked riding motorcycles after our afternoon nap. I loved your mom’s homemade tostadas. Your dad grilled some great burgers and steaks. I got a kick out of you [Julie] walking, Ima, the pig/hog/sow whatever she was – she was so big! Watching you float down those algae infested and no doubt chemically pure irrigation ditches at the end of the day was a hoot. Not to mention the border patrol trying to haul me off when I’d gotten so tan. It was a grand time out there and I liked it most of all because I truly enjoyed being with you and your loved ones.”
- Cleaning Ditches – Shoveling out accumulated sand in an irrigation ditch is good for building the arm muscles. But when you get down to the very bottom where decaying plant matter has been for centuries the smell and slop makes you understand why industrial supply companies briskly sell their face masks.
- Cleaning out Drainage Pits – Excerpted from an earlier article in Fresh Air, Says Dave Becker, “When I was growing up, we ran two finishing houses (500 head each) that we fed out feeder pigs after farrowing. Every 6 months, my brothers and I would have to clean several hundred gallons of hog sh– out of the drainage pits into the settling lagoon behind the hog house. It was a ritual that required a bath in toothpaste and tomato juice to get rid of the smell after you were done. Think about 6 to 8 hours of shoveling and scooping runny hog manure, and then smelling so bad that it takes a case of Crest toothpaste scrubbed into your pores to get the smell out. No one ever seemed to complain much about things after I told that story.”
- Lighting Smudge Pots – Says Jacquie Clark Martin, “The worst farm job for me growing up was having to get up in the middle of the night to go light “smudge pots” in the apple and peach orchards when the temperature dropped below 30 degrees. We would have to sit there all night watching the thermometer and the diesel in the pots all night. My dad expected us to stay awake of course. It was so cold outside that we would sneak in the truck with our blankets. We listened to a lot of late AM radio talk shows from California. Aw those were the days!”
- Cleaning Out Pig Intestines – Says Cathy Murphree [yes, a relative newly discovered who lives in Maricopa!], “I remember my mom complaining about the job she hated the most as a child. During hog slaughtering season, my grandpa, Papaw, would pick one of the kids to help clean out the pig intestines so that they could be used as casings for the sausage. I can’t remember all of the details of the “How-To”, but do remember going ‘YUK!’ every time she told the story.”
- On the Farm: Without Knowing it We Invested in a Food Secure Future (juliesfreshair.com)
- Celebrating the Centennial Continues: Food Prices Then and Now (juliesfreshair.com)
- Cotton genome discovery will help improve yield, quality and sustainability (southeastfarmpress.com)
- Meet Some Warriors in Training on the Farm (juliesfreshair.com)
- A Historical Lesson in Politics from Joe Sigg (juliesfreshair.com)
- Christmas Traditions on the Farm III: Reindeer layover on Cameron’s Ranch (juliesfreshair.com)