Sunday, August 10, 2014

Memories of a Brush Boy

by Pa Rock
Country Gentleman

For the past few days I have been working at creating a "beauty spot" in my front yard, one of those clever artistic endeavors that would make me a contender for "yard of the month" if I lived in the city.  This particular project is a John Deere green and yellow windmill, eight feet tall (which I assembled myself) surrounded by a superior wooden frame (which I made myself), and filled with smooth white marble pebbles.  That's as far as I have gotten so far, but when the project is finished it will also include a green and yellow milk can sitting next to the windmill and supporting a plant or a birdhouse - or some such.

There is, however, little point in getting artsy unless the display can be seen from the road.   Before I could get too far along on my creation, I had to put in a stint at trimming the forest of trees and bushes that spread their limbs over my yard.  As I busied myself hacking away at the meandering foliage this morning and then carrying the severed greenery to the brush pile, I found myself suddenly remembering my days as a "brush boy" back in the late sixties.

I was in college, though certainly no more than a sophomore, and home for the summer.  It was a Sunday evening and my mother and I had just finished a loud discussion about something that has long since escaped my memory.  Our talk probably involved money or the use of her car, because as our words hit a crescendo, I announced that I was going to ride my Honda scooter into town and find a job.  That suited mom just fine.

So there I was, looking for work in a small town late on a Sunday.  Noel, Missouri, was then, and is today, a one-horse town, but in those days the little town swelled with tourists in the summer months, so there was quite a bit going on.  Anything was possible - I hoped!

My first stop was at the Dari-Ette, a sandwich and ice-cream shop, where I bought a soda and parked myself on the curb to watch the locals and tourists cruise Main Street.  I guess I must have looked forlorn, or hungry, because before I had finished the soda a pair of what appeared to be derelicts came up and sat down next to me - a young fellow in his twenties, and an older one who could have been the father to the younger one.   The older fellow asked in an almost nonchalant manner if I needed a job.

"You bet I do!"

They told me that they were clearing the brush from telephone lines over around Southwest City and needed a "brush boy."  If I wanted to work them I should be on Main Street, in front of the Dari-Ette the next morning at 6:30 a.m.  Wear old clothes and pack a lunch.

I worked for those guys the rest of the summer.   They would swing through the trees on ropes, chainsaws a-roaring, while I hustled around on the ground dragging tree limbs and brush to a designated area.  When we inevitably came across large patches of poison ivy or poison oak, my duty was to spray the plants with creosote.   By being on the ground, I was also the one who got stuck listening to every old farmer who came driving down the lane.  They invariably parked their pickups in the middle of the road and wanted to chat - and I got to where I was pretty good at working around them.

Fridays were paydays.  The big boss would come by on Friday mornings to give the older worker our checks, then early Friday afternoons the older worker would make a beer run - and work would be a lot more fun for the remainder of the day.

Chainsaws and beer.  What could possibly go wrong?  Fortunately, God really does protect drunks and the United States of America, and our team remained accident-free the entire summer - even on Friday afternoons!

I wish I could remember the names of those two guys.  They were important people in my life for the space of one summer.  I made good money, stayed dirty, and learned quite a bit about people.   Looking back on it now I feel that the summer of dragging brush was an important supplement to my college education.  

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