“You’re going to pay me what?!” I was upset my Dad was going to pay me, his own daughter, the same wage as his hired hands. There were absolutely no jobs to be had in my small town that summer and I was left to my last resort – my Dad’s cotton farm. The only bright side was that I was off to camp the second half of the summer. Until then, it would be my sucker-for-a-best-friend, Casey, (how I convinced her to work too is still a mystery) and our enemies – the weeds.
The job consisted of driving down row after row of cotton and killing weeds. If we were lucky, we only had to shoot the weeds with our spray gun, but depending on what kind of weed it was, we would have to hoe it. And of course we didn’t have to hoe the small weeds, just the ones that were taller than us.
The first day my Dad issued us each a hoe and a 3-wheeler. Naturally Casey being “company” got the better of the two, but that wasn’t saying much considering they were both well over 12 years old. My Dad had a knack, or so he thought, for rigging things to make them last longer, and both had no doubt seen his barn’s operating table more than once.
My 3-wheeler had a 1970’s style logo on the side that read “The Avenger.” I had met this beast before. I was four years old and my eight year old sister took it upon herself to let me drive The Avenger…by myself. I suppose she assumed I knew what I was doing because she failed to mention the basics, for example the brakes. I took off down the long, dirt road that led up to our house and as I panicked, I went faster. My joyride ended with a crash into the parked cow trailer and The Avenger directly on top of me. I managed to survive that encounter, but would I be so lucky this time?
As it sat before me with its handlebars stretched out like ears of metal ready to bake in the afternoon sun, I knew it was going to be a long 6 weeks. And did I mention that at this point it had no brakes and a turning radius of a semi? It was not my vehicle of choice, for sure, but it was better than footing it through the field with my hoe.
Days turned into weeks and we soon got into a routine on the farm. When a good song would come on our walkmans, we took dance breaks in the rows of cotton. Each day we had beanie weenies and a sandwich under the only tree in sight. We’d fill our water jugs and have water fights with the hose from Dad’s trailer tank until we found out it previously contained pesticide. Yikes.
All in all, it was a good experience for me to learn about this part of my Dad. But brainpower for me was lacking on the farm. As Dad put it, “Andi, you’re a smart kid, but out here you’re an idiot.” And he was right. That summer I managed to lose three hoes, run into the tractor with my 3-wheeler and run out of gas in the middle of nowhere on more than a couple of occasions. But at 16, this poor track record couldn’t keep me down because I was off to be a camp rat for the rest of the summer to make mischief of one kind and another…