Irv, John and the Six-Pack

Irv, John, and the Six-pack

While I was in college and then for six more summers while I was teaching at Quinton Township, I worked for the Del Monte Corporation on their NJ research farm. I started there the summer of 1963 and because one of the employees who did a lot of the sample canning and testing quit on my first day, I had the opportunity to learn to do some of the more critical jobs. Also, because I had been brought up to do a day's work for my pay, I always tried to give my employer my best. My manager, Gordon, thought pretty highly of me so when I suggested my friend, Irv, for a job my second summer there,  Gordon  hired him right away. 

For the next five years, Irv and I worked together on the farm and we knew the routines and procedures so well that often we were left in charge. This could occur when the manager needed to do other duties, such as farm visits, office work, and such like.

After we turned 21, we sometimes went to a local tavern at lunch because they had great sandwiches and occasionally, but not often, we would have a draft with our lunch. Since drinking during working hours would be frowned upon, we rarely drank more than one beer and this was even rare. We usually ate with the rest of the gang and most were younger, so we didn't go a lot. 

One Saturday, Irv and I were asked to work to clean up some tasks that didn't get finished during the week. Since Irv had a lot of experience on a tractor, our present manager, Jim, wanted him to cultivate a field of tomatoes. 

We also had a plot of string and wax beans that needed to be thinned since they had recently sprouted and were a couple of inches high. Let me explain thinning. We used a Planet Jr. to plant our bean seed. This was a planter that emulated a large planter such as a farmer would use to plant many acres. It was a push behind  ( see photo ) device that depended on a steady speed to regulate properly the number of seeds planted per foot. Since humans tend to be erratic, only those of us who were consistent pushing it actually pushed it. But, even so, usually the number of seeds would not match the desired 10 per foot. In fact, ours was set higher than that so that we could assure there would be at least 10. However, since this was a research farm, to assure consistency between varieties we had to thin the rows to an even 10 per foot. 

By now, you should have guessed that I was assigned to do the thinning. The bean plots consisted of about 10 rows of 50 feet long. This would be for eight varieties with a control row on the outside rows. If there were eight varieties, then there would be eight plots so that the varieties would be different distances from the edges. It sounds complicated but it was designed to assure that variations in position occurred to eliminate consistent soil or position from the edge. 

Having said all that, it meant that I had to thin eighty 50 foot rows of beans. Enter the serf board. No, I didn't misspell it, we had nicknamed (using a play on words) the tool we used to thin to demonstrate that the work was mindless and repetitious such as the master of the manor would assign to a serf. The tool was nothing more than a piece of lumber 1" by 4" cut ten feet long and with lines drawn across the wide portion spaced foot apart. So, when it was laid on the ground next to the beans all you needed to do was count the number of beans between the lines and remove the extras ( choosing any that were stunted or really too close ). 

The morning was pretty uneventful and since it was just the two of us, we decided to go to the tavern for lunch. We had a sandwich and a beer and talked each other into the need to have more beer. So we bought a six-pack to take back with us. Once we got to the farm, we saw a flaw in our plan. We couldn't really take the beer into the field and there was no place to put it where it wouldn't be spotted. Jim, remember our present manager(?), was a teetotaler and a really nice man, but he would have been pretty sore at us and we weren't sure if he would be back later that afternoon. So there was only one thing to do. Before we went back to work, we had to finish off the beer and put the cans in the landfill we used for trash. So, we quickly consumed three cans apiece!

I was moving through the plots at a good rate and singing out loud to myself with songs I was making up on the spot. I was feeling no pain and I was counting to the rhythm of whatever song I was inventing at the time. 

About 2:00, I looked up the hill where Irv was cultivating on the tractor and realized that he had the tractor in top gear and at full speed. This was way too fast to be moving down rows of plants. One bad move and he would wipe out a large section of tomatoes. 

By quitting time, we cleaned up to go home and started to compare notes as we drove home. Fortunately, we had caused no harm to either experimental plot. We decided that from that point on, we would leave the drinking for after work! But, we have laughed about it for many years since that day. 

Davdan @ 2008-2018