I had a newly minted diploma asserting that I had completed the requirements for graduation from my high school. I was not yet eighteen years of age, but I was now a man. (This is the sort of thing seventeen-year-old boys are prone to believe.) Thus it was that I packed a tin suitcase with a few items of clothing and hit the road. A one-day stint in Colby, Kansas erecting grain silos, heat in excess of one hundred degrees, was sufficient to convince me that there had to be a better way to earn a livelihood.
So we headed south and wound up in Liberal, Kansas, near the border of the Oklahoma panhandle. I secured employment as a truck driver for the wheat harvest on a small farm comprised of a section of land. Eighty acres were in peas, eighty acres lay fallow, and the balance of the land was in wheat. The farm was twenty-two miles from the elevator in Liberal. Mrs. Rohrer left her home in town for the duration of the harvest and stayed in the farmhouse to prepare meals for the hands. And a worthy cook she was, too. Wonderful eating and too tired at the end of the day to get into any mischief.
One day’s work made a real impression upon my young, impressionable mind. Shortly after lunch my truck was full and I was ready to head into town. Mr. Rohrer climbed off the combine and came over to me. He gave me the key to his house in town and told me to pick up a certain item there after I dumped the wheat at the elevator. Of course there was a line of trucks waiting to unload and I had to wait my turn. Then I headed to the house, found the desired item, locked up and drove the twenty-two miles back to the field.
What greeted me as I drove into the field was a combine-hopper full of wheat lying in a pile on the ground. I situated the truck for the combine to dump in the truck, and when Mr. R unloaded, he advised me that after the day’s cutting was done, I could bring the truck back to the field and scoop the wheat in by hand. And I did.
One day it was raining and thus there was no harvesting going on. So we hands were given instructions on cleaning up the barn-lot, cutting weeds and generally spiffing up around the place.
When harvest was over, we were set to disc the land, two of us running a tractor twenty-four hours. The only instructions I was given were 1) keep that front wheel in the rut from the previous pass, and 2) don’t hit that drip pipe on the gas-line at the south end of the home field. Of course I got yelled at for failure to obey rule 1) and naturally I hit the drip pipe with the outboard wheel on the disc.
So I packed my suitcase and headed for Wichita. And when Mr. R paid me, I was advised that, yes, truck-driving pays $10 a day, but working in the barn lot and driving tractor pays only $7.50. And that’s what I got.