I would get up in the morning and help the wife make breakfast. She was a teacher in town, so she would leave right after breakfast and I would go out with the men to milk the cows and do the chores. At break time, the men would come in and I was supposed to get the coffee and food out and then clean it up. When I was done doing this, we would go out and do more work on the farm.
This pattern occurred at each break and mealtime. The men would plop themselves down, often complaining about how tired or overworked they were and I would be expected to get them food and clear things up and go back to work when they did. Interesting.
When I asked to have an evening or a weekend off, I was told that they couldn’t spare me. This was not consistent with what I was told by the fella from the Farm Labour Pool. I called the fella that had interviewed me and brought this to his attention and he was evasive and said that there wasn’t anything that he could do. He represented the farmers, not the people that he hired.
A few weeks into the summer a guy that I had been dating before I went to university decided to come up and visit me at the farm. I explained that I couldn’t get away so he took it as an opportunity for a road trip. The family that I was working for acted as though they had struck gold. Here was a strong, healthy, young man that had just showed up on their doorstep. When he asked if he could stay for a night or two I was worried that I would be back in the closet. The “spare room” that I had stayed in when I first arrived and they had company staying with them in my room.
They welcomed him with open arms, originally. Then came the dreaded day of the misunderstanding. In case it is not clear at this point, I did not grow up on a farm. Some of the things that would be considered common sense are actually learned and so common that most people already know them. It is only common sense, once it has occurred to you.
I was asked to plow a field. I don’t remember exactly what type of equipment I was using or what purpose there was to plowing this field. My fella came with me and it seemed like a lovely day to be out on the land, even though the roar coming from the motor of the tractor was deafening.
I was supposed to go back and forth on the field and drag this piece of equipment in rows. Not actually having any experience with this, I decided it was best to be thorough and to overlap each row a bit. This was wrong. The most efficient way is even to leave a small patch between the rows. So, instead of needing to go back and forth lets say 10 times, I needed to do it about 15 times because I was overlapping. The proper way to do this was never explained to me.
When I got back to the house the farmer was furious. I had taken a considerably longer amount of time than I should have. When I tried to explain that I was not doing anything wrong and I thought that there must be a misunderstanding he started to yell and scream.
I have been treated poorly before. I thought nothing of driving my mother to the States to go drinking and driving men home for her. I know what it is like to work hard. I worked full time while going to high school, so none of that seemed to be too crazy, but I draw the line at being accused of lying, being yelled at and most importantly being called names because he figured that we were plowing, just not the field. I packed up my stuff and left the farm shortly afterwards.
I did not leave the farm without more drama. The farmer’s wife was emotionally distraught. They had finally found someone that was willing and capable of taking care of the cows so that they could get away for a while together. I’m not sure what she felt this respite from the farm would have done for her quality of life, but she desperately wanted a break from the day to day labour of taking care of animals.
She pleaded me to not go. These situations are difficult for me and I know many people that would have made a different choice, but I had learned already with my mother that just because it might “kill her” did not mean that I was less important than she was.
Yes, I felt sorry for this woman that worked all day as a teacher, lived in a house that was desperately in need of some organization and cleaning; that lived with a man that was so oblivious to the world around him that he simply could not understand how she felt, but that was not my fault. I had been mistreated for a few weeks at this point and being accused of lying, being yelled at and being insulted were enough for me to leave. I will never know if she ever got away from the farm for any length of time, but I would never wish to trade places with her.
I drove back to my hometown and knew that my first priority was to get a job. So, I went straight to the restaurant that I had worked at before I started universityl. I was surprised to see that they had gutted the place. It was no longer a burger joint with a diverse menu. It was now a prime rib restaurant with a bar and softer lighting. It had the same owners.
As if the universe was congratulating me for standing up for myself, I walked up to the restaurant to find it closed. From the door I could tell that they were having a staff meeting inside. The owner could see me through the windows on the side of the restaurant and came to the door to let me in. I told her why I was there and she told me to take a seat. I would be paid starting now. I had arrived at the first meeting to let the staff know the ins and outs of the new restaurant and I could have my job back. When I pitch in a little to take care of myself, the universe pitches in a lot.
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