EDITOR’S NOTE: Former Madawaska resident and potato picker John LaChance, 69, who now lives in Carson, Calif., recalls working the harvest as a youngster in the St. John Valley. Article published in The Star Herald
Another day like yesterday. Wake up before dawn. Eat breakfast in the dark, in the silence of the dark before dawn. Put on clothes with dried mud on the knees and mud-hardened gloves with holes at the tips. Thank your mother for the paper-bag lunch she’s prepared for you. Ride on a bus in the dark, while everyone tries to get another half hour of sleep as the driver plays a rackety radio to keep awake.
Then, you’re out of the bus and into a cold morning before sunrise, with frost all over the ground. You take shelter in an old barn until the ground unfreezes and the wind stops blowing. A half hour later, you greet the farmer or his wife who brings in your tickets from the previous day, only to be disappointed that they’ve drawn you short by three barrels. Live with it, because nobody believes you and nobody cares. Choose a basket for the day’s work from the pile, all of them pretty worn and dirty.
When you hear the digger out in the field, you follow the others out of the barn, clutching the paper bag that has your sandwiches and a soda. One of the farmer’s paid workers comes over the rise with a bunch of twigs and starts sectioning off the field for as many pickers as there are. Some argue for less or for more and, during the course of the day, sections will be mysteriously realigned by people who want less or who want more. View Full Article