Bob Harrison Pt.2 180-01I
July 2000

There was a popular song many years ago with the title, "The Best Things in Life Are Free" and I have come to realize that it is true. One of the lines of that song was, "The moon belongs to everyone, the best things in life are free" and I submit that any sailor who ever stood on deck at midnight on a quiet summer night and watched the moon shine on a glassy sea while listening to the hiss as your ship sliced through the ocean depths will agree with me that this was one of the really great moments in your life.

But I learned this lesson at a much younger age.

I have mentioned before that I worked on a farm for a local farmer when I was a boy of 15 or so. The farmer's name was Lunsford, a tight-fisted old guy who lived about ten miles out of town and I would ride my bicycle out to the farm every morning. This routine started around the first of July when wheat and rye were ripe and ready for threshing.

No combines back then. We got into the wheat field about 7:00 a.m. By 8:00 or 8:30 a.m., my clothes were sopping wet with sweat. My shoes were filled with sweat and would make a sloshing noise when I walked. The job consisted of picking up a couple of wheat stalks in one hand, then gathering up an armload of wheat stalks in the other arm and tying them all together with the strands I had in my other hand. No string, no binders, no binder twine back then. When you had accumulated four or five bundles of wheat, you stood them all up together in a shock and topped it off with one on top. Rye was gathered the same way but rye is a much taller plant than wheat and you had the added torment of the rye thistles finding their way down inside your shirt collar, pants, and socks.

Then came one of those "freebies" I've been talking about. Mr. Lunsford would call for a rest stop about 10:00 a.m. when we reached a place adjacent to a grove of trees with blessed shade. We plopped down beneath the trees and felt a cool soft breeze play over our sweaty bodies while we drank the cold water Mrs. Lunsford had carried to our sanctuary. What can be better than a cool breeze and a glass of ice water when it's 95 degrees, 75 percent humidity and you feel as if you've just stepped out of a brick kiln?

Back to work after ten minutes or so of ecstasy and no more breaks until noon when Mrs. Lunsford called us for dinner. (Back then, dinner was the noon meal and supper was the evening meal.) Dinner usually consisted of boiled potatoes with gravy, green beans, several slices of salt pork fried to a crispness that made it edible, bread and butter, and a glass of cold milk.

With Mr. Lunsford, there was no lingering at the dinner table. Soon we were back out in the wheat field and our half-dried clothes were wet with sweat again.

Another 10-minute break at 3:00, another blissful few moments shielded from the blistering sun, then no more breaks until 6:00 p.m.

Down the road a mile or two was another farm with two farm boys whom I knew well. After leaving Mr. Lunsford's place, we would meet at a spot located on the Whitewater River back of the Lunsford farm for our daily baths. They, too, had toiled all day in their father's wheat fields so this final pleasure was our grand reward, one of the best of all pleasures, to dive and swim and frolic in the cool waters of that grand old river. This was like a baptism, a cleansing away of the "filth of the flesh" as Paul the Apostle said.

Finally came the bicycle ride back to town, a ten-mile jaunt that was nothing to me then but would be a death sentence to me now. Mom had supper waiting for me, fresh corn on the cob, fresh sliced tomatoes, fried potatoes, some sort of meat, bread and butter, a plain old down home meal that tasted as if it was made for the Gods.

Life wasn't easy back then but we sure learned our lessons, one of the most important being, "The best things in life are free."