Work smarter, not harder
Posted: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 8:00 pm
By: Jim Mansfield Correspondent
During my working life I’ve worked in stores, offices, factories, saloons and on the railroads. I’ve never seen a group of people try to avoid work more than farmers. That’s because they have so much of it!
When I was growing up in West Tennessee during the ’50s and ’60s, I’d often spend time on my aunt and uncle’s farm. Mostly just hanging around with my cousin. My aunt and uncle were up by 5 a.m.
They both went to the barn and outbuildings to feed and milk. They fed hogs, cows, chickens and ducks. Halfway through this morning ritual my aunt would come back into the house to start breakfast. By 6 a.m. or so they sat down to a huge meal. Bacon, ham, biscuits, gravy, eggs, jam and butter.
By 6:30 a.m. my uncle was gone to hitch a mule and start working a field. My aunt would clean up breakfast and head for her garden to hoe, rake, pick or plant.
By 11 a.m. she was back in the house to get the noon meal on the table, and – wow – did they ever pack it away. Beef or pork, fresh veggies and fruit. Nobody gained any weight after the noon meal. It was more plowin’, diskin’ and garden workin’.
My aunt never worked in the field except in tobacco crop or cotton. They were very important money crops and labor intensive. Most of the other crops, corn, hay and the like, went to feed the animals. They sold the milk.
Just because you got through the harvest season didn’t mean you could sit down. Oh, no. There were hogs to kill, ham, shoulders and bacon to smoke and maybe kill a beef or sell one. They didn’t get to sit down when cold weather set in either. There was fire wood to cut for the winter and, yeah, an endless pile of tobacco to strip and haul to market. Don’t forget fence mending, house and building repairs, quilting and sewing. It was enough to scare a kid like me right back into the city and an 8-hour a day job – any job but farming. It was just too hard.
My aunt and uncle were so afraid of debt that when they installed storm windows on their house they bought them one at a time and saved up for the next one.
In the mid-’50s they got rid of the mules and bought a tractor. Now they could put more land under cultivation and make more money. But even with better equipment the work always seemed to stay the same. If you thought you were going to get Sundays off, forget it. You still had to get up and feed and milk morning and night. Of course, everyone wanted a fried-chicken dinner on Sunday, so somebody had to kill the thing, pluck it, cut it up and cook it.
Finally, after the dishes were done on Sunday afternoons they could rest on the front porch until supper. My aunt would usually shell beans or peas in her lap.
This wasn’t a job.
It was war.
They fought against drought, flood, insects and disease. You didn’t dare come to the table without washing your hands first because they were terrified of disease, especially polio.
My uncle would often talk about the new things he had seen at the co-op or in Progressive Farmer. He’d speculate about whether or not it would work on their farm. Some did, most didn’t.
But of all of this hustle, bustle and work, I never heard either one of them complain. That’s because, in spite of the hardship, they were happy. They were independent, hard-working farmers who knew how to get their work done and show a profit. Other than a loan to buy seed at planting time, they were beholding to no one, save food and their neighbors, whom they swapped work with.
So take my uncle’s advice. Try as hard as you can to avoid dumb work. Concentrate on learning to work smartly. Stretch out your day, increase productivity and profit. Don’t waste anything and always be careful.
And if hard work does befall you, don’t dismay. I’m sure you’ll get a reward:
Fried chicken for Sunday dinner.
Press correspondent Jim Mansfield lives in Gleason.
Published in The WCP 11.6.12