It was my job during peach picking season to pull our wagon out to the field. I was to leave the house at 1:00 o'clock sharp. Mom would put a big washtub filled with ice and Cokes in the wagon and I’d pull them out to dad where the peaches were being picked. Dad would take the cap off each glass bottle himself and hand it to the pickers. They would smile and thank him for the refreshing drink. In return dad would thank them for coming to work.
The rule was if there was a Coke left when everyone had been served I could have it. I looked forward to peach season for only one reason. It was the only time of year we would get to drink Cokes. Dad usually knew exactly how many pickers were in the field when he’d come in for his sandwich at noon. There were times he’d miss someone up a tree or a child sleeping in a car and we would come up short or even meaning no Coke for me. Even then my treks to the field would have two simple rewards. My rewards would be a smile and a big thank you from dad.
The thing I hated about peach season was as the trees were picked the props holding the branches under the weight of the fruit would be removed and thrown to the ground. It was my job to stack these props into piles along the roadway through the field to be picked up later by dad or David.
There always seemed to be some checks (rows of trees between levees) that had more weeds than others. It would be tall sometimes. The grass would tangle itself around the props making it almost like a tug-of-war to pick up the props. I remember being hot and tired working in the field. I remember having to wade through rotten fruit to get the props and I remember sitting on the levees picking slivers out of my fingers. I kept a safety pin with me all the time. Even though I wore gloves somehow I always had a crop of slivers to pick out by the end of the day.
One other memory I have of peach season happened early one morning. The pickers drove into our driveway with headlights on because it was still dark. They parked and gathered together with their lunches and radios and other personal things. Dad came out and walked them to the check of peaches where he wanted them to start picking.
I was walking “the row” with my dad as he greeted, encouraged, and directed the pickers to their first “sets” of the day. Dad had his checks divided into tree “sets” of four. We stopped at one family’s set of trees. The husband was coming down off the ladder for his coffee. There was a little boy and a baby in the car. I think this family was allowed to bring their car into the field because of the baby. The wife was sitting by the stack of peach boxes pouring coffee from a Thermos. When the cup was almost full she put the Thermos down and unbuttoned her blouse. She reached inside her blouse and lifted a breast out far enough to aim it at the coffee cup. Yep! Her husband had milk in his coffee that morning!
I didn’t say a word, neither did dad. He finished his greeting and we continued on to the next family. When we had finished, seeing everyone was settled and working, dad walked me back to the house. He didn’t say anything to me about what had happened but when he saw mom he grinned and told her he thought I’d gotten my eyes full that morning. He’s right, I had. I am in my sixties now but I can relive that event in my mind like it happened this morning!