Saturday, December 17, 2011

Walking Beans

As I typed the title of this post, I realized that anyone who didn't grow up on a farm is probably thinking I'm going to talk about kidney beans with legs.

Sorry, but no.

The definition of "walking beans":  When a person travels on foot between rows of soybeans growing in a field, cutting out weeds with some sort of sharp implement or tool.  When we did it, we had a tool that had a shaft like a golf club, but with a sharp hook on the end.

Talk about slicing the ball!!  HA!  (Sorry.  I couldn't resist a little golf humor there.)

Anyway...  I walked beans with my dad and was paid a whopping $10 per field.  OK granted, that was early 1970's money, but I think I was still fairly cheap labor.  Dad stayed about 10 rows away kept track of our path through the field.  We walked the rows, wrapping our hooks around the bottom stem of any unwanted foliage and tugged.  I used to try to make a nice, quick slice, so that the taller weeds fell like trees in a forest - almost in slow motion.  Doing this all day, you had to find your kicks somehow.

When I was around 12 years old, Dad and I were walking beans on a very hot, summer afternoon.  I was  strolling along, felling mini forests along the way.  I was wearing my white knock-off Chuck Taylor tennis shoes - completely inappropriate footwear for this sort of work.  I pulled my hook back on particularly stubborn weed stem and felt the hook hit my shoe.  No biggie.  But then a few yards down the row, I noticed my right tennis shoe had turned red.

I screamed "DAD!!!" at the top of my lungs, even though he was only a few rows away.  Now, my father was not a small man.  He was approximately 6' tall and was of solid, big-boned German heritage.  But on that day, my dad moved like a svelte track star, hurdling over soybean plants in a matter of seconds, to see what had happened.

The hook had sliced the side of my inappropriate tennis shoe, and obviously cut my foot.  He carried me back to the truck, we went home to get Mom, and took off for the office of doctors Mc Kinney and Stolz.  The cut was on the side of my little toe.

2 stitches.  That's it.  You would have thought I cut my leg off from (a) the amount of blood the wound produced and (b) my crying, whining, sobbing and being an overall baby about it.

I don't know if people still walk beans.  Herbicides are probably much more efficient now than back then.  But I'm thinking that with better footwear, I'd like to walk beans again.  Get my exercise and make $10 doing it.

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