Rock Salt and Manure

July 20, 2015 — Leave a comment

The past couple of weeks there have been a few posts on Face Book with pictures of Drive-In theaters that were numerous during most of our growing up years. Those were great times and going to the
Drive-In seemed like a rite of passage to be able to take a date to see a movie. For the boys there was always the hope of getting “Lucky” and maybe the girls also but I don’t know about that. It seems that we all have a story to tell about the Drive-In!

I was 17 and had a Friday night date with a girl from Franklin and went to the Meridian Drive-In on state road 135 where today sets a Kroger store. I have no idea what the movie was but it was the beginning of a very memorable 24 hours. I remember a noise. It was a strange noise and I awoke to find the source of the noise was the Drive-in crew cleaning up trash with broom rakes. I looked at the clock and it was 3:00 am. WOW! 3:00 am!! Needless to say I knew that was not good and we started for home. I’m not sure how I went to Franklin or how fast I drove but I can tell you that on my way back to Greenwood I slowed down to 80 mph when I went through Whiteland. It was 4:00 am when I got home.

I slipped in the back door as quietly as I could, removed my shoes and tip toed thru the house to the bedroom and eased into bed. Safe! I’m sure that I was asleep about the same time as my eyes closed and remember the startling feeling of discovery when I heard my dad say, “Richard get up I have a job for you today at the elevator.” When I walked into the kitchen the clock said 5:30 and dad said, “You need to get your chores done because we are leaving soon. It seemed like it took longer than usual to get to the elevator that morning and there was an eerie silence of little conversation. Very difficult to stay awake! Very hard!

I was enjoying a cup of coffee in the office and when all the help had arrived and it was time to go to work Dad made this announcement, “I brought Richard this morning to unload the box car of rock salt we got yesterday and he doesn’t need any help and I’m sure he will have it unloaded by noon when we close.” Surprise! Surprise! If you don’t know box cars hold 40 tons of rock salt in 100 lbs. bags. If you have forgotten your high school math that is 80,000 lbs. or 800 100 lbs. bags of salt.

Well, I got that message loud and clear and off to work I went. You need to realize that this isn’t as bad as it sounds. If the car was loaded right and the load didn’t shift too much in transit the salt bags were loaded in stacks of 7 with a hand cart and if you had a hand cart about the same width you can slip it under the stack and with a little effort pull the whole stack back and you were off with a 700 lbs. load to be stacked in kind in the building. If I remember right I didn’t have to hand stack too many bags and so I got along pretty good. About half way through the morning one of the mill hands came back and volunteered to help and I said” No thanks. Please don’t piss the old man off any more than he is now!” The job went well and about 11:00 o’clock I was done. Man was I tired! When we got home and had lunch, like a dumb ass I stretched and yawned real big and said, “I think I’ll take a nap” To which my dad said,” no I think the shed behind the barn needs to be cleaned out today.”

We had a small farm and had about 100 head of sheep and 500 chickens that were my responsibility to care for. If you didn’t grow up on a farm and have sheep or maybe a city dweller you have no idea how sheep can compact manure in a barn. When you stick the pitch fork into the manure and pry back you may get a piece of straw and manure maybe 6 feet in diameter, maybe 2 in thick, maybe 6 in thick. It was always a surprise but it was always heavy and awkward to handle and throw into the manure spreader. The shed I speak of was 36×24 ft. and the manure was probably 1½ to 2 ft. deep. I don’t know how many spreader loads I hauled that day but if you thought I worked hard that morning you have no idea how hard I worked that afternoon. At 5:00 o’clock the shed was clean and freshly bedded. At 5:30 the chores were done and it was time for supper.

After supper I showered and got dressed to go out again. As I was leaving I was asked where I was going. My reply, “I’ve got a date.” Just for fun I will let you for a moment think about what was said in reply. I’m sure you can think of all sorts of answers but I doubt that you will hit the nail on the head. My mom said, “I believe you need to get home a little earlier tonight.” That was it! I was never asked what time I got home, never! I was never asked why I was so late getting home! I was never asked where I had been!

Many years later I learned the story of the cause and effect of that day of extreme labor. Mom had got up to go to the bathroom about 2:00 am and when she checked our room, my brother and I shared a bedroom, she saw that I was not home. She then woke up dad for him to do something and he told her to go back to sleep and he would take care of it in the morning. The only reason I was “punished” was because she woke him up!

I have never begrudged my dad for that day. I was young and full of “piss and vinegar” and there was no job I couldn’t do! And, for the most part of my life I could work any two men in the ground! I have always been thankful for the lessons learned growing up from a great teacher. My favorite quote from my dad that I have used countless times in my life is this, “Do something even if it is wrong, but don’t just set there!”

Oh! In case you are wondering, I got home before midnight that Saturday night!

Thanks for listening.

Richard Isley

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