When I was in middle school, my parents started a new endeavor on the farm. We’d always raised corn and soybeans (and hogs, cattle and chickens), but now Dad started growing seed beans. In other words, he grew the seeds that farmers would plant next year.
This meant the grain that was harvested had to be very, very clean (weed free). So every summer, we had to walk the bean fields and pull shattercane and cocklebur and cottonweed.
We were not given a choice. My parents paid us, but the work was not optional. We would eat supper and then go straight out to the fields. We worked until it was too dark to see anymore, whatever the outside summer temperature.
We’d take 5 rows apiece–3 when it was really bad–and work our way from the road to the tree line, where we’d wait for everyone else to finish their row. Then we’d reform for the pass back. Except when there was a bad patch and you stuck a surveyor’s flag in the row so you knew where to come back to, and we’d all converge on the patch and work together.
Sometimes it was just us. Sometimes we had neighbor boys working with us. (It was more fun then.) We had weed hooks and gloves and water bottles. We sang, we talked movies.
And of course, we groused and complained. Which is why I remembered this job this week.
Because this year, I am reclaiming my lawn from crabgrass. Or, more accurately, I am in Year One of reclaiming my lawn from crabgrass. Until about the 4th of July, I thought I was doing really well, but, um, nope.
So July 2020 has been all about pulling crabgrass. Thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of crabgrass plants. Mixing it up: pull, then spray some killer, wait a few days, then start pulling again. (Being a green person, I don’t like spraying, but occasionally one must bow to reality.)
Two weeks in, I realized I couldn’t possibly win this battle without some extra labor, and I made my boys start pulling crabgrass, too.
They are not happy about it.
It didn’t take too much complaining before I began to wonder how much of the same I dished out to my parents. Then I started thinking how my kids have never had to develop the emotional stamina to do a job they didn’t like for longer than twenty or thirty minutes. Well, except for the approximately triennial Cleaning Of The Toy Room. Which is hell for everyone.
In any case, I realized that what I learned from walking beans was a lesson I have often needed in adulthood. So I no longer feel guilty about putting my foot down and hauling them outside to help fight the unwinnable war. In the long run, it’ll be good for them.
And what else are they doing, anyway?