Letters from Louise: Fired from the Peanut Patch

I
had no idea how to “shake” peanuts nor did I care.  At ten years old I was just happy to get away
from the house and not have to scrub dirty, bug-infested fruit jars for Mama’s
canning.

After
a half-mile walk, my brother, Jimmy and I arrived at the peanut patch.  I don’t know what I expected but whatever it
was it didn’t match what I saw.  There
were vines crawling all over the ground. 
The attached peanuts were covered with clods of dirt and creepy insects.

Jimmy,
a year and half my senior, had worked in the field with my father and older
brothers so he came prepared with a pair of work gloves.  I on the other hand, brought nothing except
my lunch—a cold, scrambled egg sandwich and a fruit jar filled with ice
water.  After the owner guided us to a
patch of the field, Jimmy dug his hands into the dirt and shook the daylights
out of those peanut vines.  I watched and
frowned then shook a vine gingerly, getting a face and mouth full of dirt in
the process.

By
noon, it was obvious to Mr. McElhannon that I was not an asset to his peanut
patch so he sent me to his cotton field, another half-mile down the road, where
I was handed a tow sack with an attached strap. 
I looped the strap over my small body and began plucking the soft, white
cotton from the hulls.  The sun was
scorching hot and the thought of washing fruit jars at home didn’t seem all
that bad anymore.  The rough bag still
held a strong aroma of seed or feed, which I wasn’t sure.

Finally,
it was quitting time and I weighed in my little bag of “fluff.”  The woman placed two coins in my hand and I
stared in disbelief.  I had worked all
day and earned only two cents.  I left
the cotton field and trudged up the dusty road to the little country store where
I was to meet Jimmy and Daddy.  I was
tired, thirsty and humiliated.

Jimmy
met me at the door while swigging down an ice-cold bottle of Royal Crown Cola,
which he paid for with his earnings.  I
didn’t even have a nickel for a bottle of pop. 
Suddenly, Daddy opened the squeaky, screen door of the store and walked
inside.  Jimmy ran to show him how much
money he had earned.  I held back.  Finally, the inevitable question came.

“How
much money did you make, Sis?” Daddy asked.

I
stared down at my dirty shoes then brought my hand from behind my back and
opened it to show him my two pennies. 
Tears pricked the backs of my eyes as I told Daddy about my day.  I was certain he would be mad, but instead he
roared with laughter and pulled me to his side. 
Then he turned to the other men in the store and told them of my grand
adventure.

“Hey,
listen to this.  Louise worked all
morning at McElhanon’s peanut patch.  He
fired her without pay then sent her to the cotton field where she worked all
afternoon and was paid only two cents.” 
Everyone agreed that was a lot of work for such a meager amount of
money.  Daddy hugged me even closer.  He was actually proud of me.  Proud of my efforts and tenacity.

Throughout
my life, Daddy remained my hero, blessing me with love, laughter and song.  He gave me a heritage of hard work along with
a strong faith in God.  And though he
never once told me his philosophy of life, I began to understand it at that
little country store when I was fired from the peanut patch.  

Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful daddies who
bless their children’s lives daily!

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