Thursday, 13 November 2014

Git Them Bastards Out of the Daffodils!

    When Norman Workman collapsed at home, his doctor told him his blood has been poisoned by the chemicals in the dye factory where he worked. Of course, these days this would be the beginning of a massive lawsuit, but as far as I can establish this was just after the end of World War II, and nobody thought like that in those days. Instead, he and his wife, Gladys decided to move from California to the Umpqua Valley of Oregon which, like most out-of-the-way places, was just crawling with "characters", and newcomers lived on sufferance.
     What to do for a living? Norman was over 50, his wife aged 46. On impulse he went out and spent $3,000 - which was a terrible lot of money in those days, and practically everything they owned - on three tons of daffodils. Then, because he knew absolutely nothing about farming, he put an ad in the paper for a manager. Obviously, he didn't deserve to succeed, but we don't always get what we deserve, and the business thrived. All of this is a background to the following anecdote, as told by Gladys:
     There was one annoyance we never completely eliminated. Each year, after the digging, there are a few bulbs left in the field which growers call by the expressive name of "bastards.'' [This was a more offensive expression then than it is now.] These must be carefully removed to prevent random blossoms from popping up.
     It isn't often that a panhandler comes through the valley, but a man stopped at our door one day when Ruthie was holding the fort. "I'm not a bum," he said. "But I've been walking all morning and I can't find a place to eat. I've got money and I can pay."
     "You willin' to do a little work?" Ruthie asked, and the man said he was. She handed him a shovel and pointed to where several men were clearing bastard bulbs from the field. "Take this thang an' git them bastards out of thet field."
     "Kid," Ruthie later told me, "when ah rung thet dinner bell, this stranger was the only one thet showed up. Ah asked him where the others was at an' he said, 'Well, ma'am, you tol' me to git them bastards outter thet fieild an' I chased them dang near two miles up the road. Ah don' thank you'll have no more trouble with them.'"
Reference: Gladys Workman, 1959, Only When I Laugh, Hammond, Hammond &Co.

No comments:

Post a Comment