by Pettus Read
It was never hard for me to understand exactly what my parents were telling me when it came time to work. One reason was the fact that most of the time they were working either beside me or nearby on the same job. By following their lead or example, it always assured me of getting the job done correctly or at least close to what they had in mind.
My brother and myself usually worked in the fields together with my father hauling hay, topping tobacco, chopping weeds from the corn, planting the spring crops, milking the cows, as well as just about any other chore you have to accomplish on a family farm. Whenever it came time to take a breather, my father was usually planning what we would be doing as soon as our break was over. In fact, many times he would say, "While you are resting, how about doing something else." That could involve shelling corn, going after a bucket of water, or any other job that would not include heavy manual labor. He was a strong believer in the old adage that idle hands and minds were the devils workshop. Having been a boy himself once, sort of gave him an inside idea of what could go wrong when two boys were placed side-by-side. Most of the time he was right. Let me rephrase that. All of the time he was right.
I have heard him say many times, "Put one boy doing a job and you have one boy. Put two boys doing a job and you end up with a half boy, and put three boys doing a job and you end up with no boy." Yes, he knew us pretty well.
When it was too wet to work in the fields, there was usually a fence row that needed cutting out or there was corn in the crib that needed to be shelled. There were very few days that there was not something that had to be done. I can never remember complaining that I was bored. I knew better. If I had uttered those words, it is certain that either mother or father would have found me something to do.