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Thursday, 21 January 2010

My Favorite Job

By Johna Ferguson

The other day in my exercise class, we were talking about jobs and one man said he’d had 65 different jobs and he’s in his 70s. I’ve never counted those I had but the one that was most fun was working on a ranch in eastern Washington state when I was in junior high, 14 years old.

I got the job because a neighbor’s father had been the lawyer for that family once. The ranch was run by a widow and her three sons aged from 21 to 26. There also was an older man and his wife who lived in a small house by the family home and he managed the horse-raising part.

The ranch covered about 3,800 acres of land and they raised hay, wheat, a few cattle and horses. They had a big fruit orchard, a hen house and three cows. There were to be two of us chore girls so I invited one of my classmates along. Besides us, there were two senior high girls to work in the kitchen and two young ranch hands to help with the outside work.

Our job included feeding the chickens, collecting the eggs every morning and keeping the big, three-story family home clean. That house had hardwood floors which we dust mopped daily, but on a rotation basis we had to clean and rewax each room’s floors. That meant a couple hours of each day were spent on our hands and knees usually swearing with the new words we’d learned from the ranch hands.

Luckily we didn’t have to clean the bathrooms or go into the kitchen except to deliver the fresh eggs and milk every morning. We did try our hand at milking but neither of us was successful except for a few squeezes to the stray kittens.

But the flip side was they had a big swimming hole we swam in every day, plus we could ride the horses anywhere on the ranch if they were in the corral. We knew how to saddle them but we also often rode them bareback. During cutting season, we could help in the fields, pitch forking the wheat into stacks, but it was easier and more fun to just ride atop the filled wagon.

Per usual, romance developed between the two kitchen girls and the woman’s two younger sons, but like all summer romances they ended as the girls boarded the train to home. Most girls just worked one summer, but I decided to go back for a second time with another classmate, only this time it was different.

The ranch had been turned into a “dude ranch” to make money. They enrolled 10 girls that summer to teach them how to ride and care for the horses. Actually, they had to muck out the horse stall where their assigned horse was. Those dudes thought they were a station above us working girls, but they were really shocked when we just jumped on horses without a bit or saddle and cantered away, hopefully leaving dust in their faces.

But better yet was when I was in college. I was in a sorority and I ran into one of the dudes from many summers before. I think she was shocked that I was smart enough and perhaps had enough money to be in a sorority like her.

One friend asked about the pay. I truthfully can’t remember if we got paid, but just being on a ranch and learning so much about a life so different from what I was used to was enough for me. And I am still, minus swear words, pretty good at waxing my own hardwood floors.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Enjoyed reading your lively story. It was fun to get a glimpse of a life most of us have not experienced. I did, however, detassel corn (NOT fun!)in the hot, Illinois hybrid cornfields one summer.

Lyn Burnstine: I really appreciate any comments I get on my stories, but I am not able to meet any of your standards. I just write for fun, but I do enjoy reading all the different writers views of so many interesting subjects. I also try to figure out ages from what they write and perhaps what section of the country they are from. Thanks, Johna

Hi Johna,

I enjoy reading your stories,too. They are very well written and carry the reader right along on a tide of words.

This story is one that is perfect for a city girl like me. I love to read about horses because the only ones I ever came in contact with were pulling the Milk Wagon. Does that give you a clue about how old I am?

If you keep writing your great stories I will be reading them...

Nancy: We had a milk wagon drawn by horses when I was a child. Twice a week we got a bucket full of milk and my mother made the cream into butter. Oh how times have changed. Enjoy your comments.

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