Friday, June 8, 2018

Strawberry Fields...Forever

A couple of Saturdays ago while running some errands in town I thought I would treat myself to an espresso before returning to work. Chirpy Cathy at the coffee trailer asked me where I was headed to and I replied, “Back to work.” She groaned for me at my misfortune, assuming that I wasn't going to have a happy day. I countered that it wasn't so bad because I owned the work, and generally I enjoy what I do. She asked what kind of company and I told her “a wholesale tree nursery.” “Awesome,” she responded, “have a great day!” Buoyed by her cute enthusiasm, I indeed went on to have a good day, though I wouldn't rate any of it as awesome.

Interestingly, the origin of the word for “work” is closely related to that of the word “torture.” I copy from Jeremy Seabrook's Opinion in The Guardian 2013:

The etymology of all the words for “work” in European languages suggests work as coercion, certainly not for the prosperity of the worker, but as a fulfillment of human destiny. Ecclesiastes 3:22 declares: “There is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion...” Words indicating labour in most European languages originate in an imagery of compulsion, torment, affliction and persecution. The French word travail (and Spanish trabajo), like its English equivalent, are derived from the Latin “trepaliare” – to torture – to inflict suffering or agony. The word “peine,” meaning penalty or punishment, also is used to signify arduous labour, something accomplished with great effort, hardship and suffering...

Book of Genesis: In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.

2 Thessalonians 3:10: This we command you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

Book of Proverbs: Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks.
Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty.
Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him. Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep and an idle person will suffer hunger.

For my entire life I have been destined to “eat the bread of anxious toil,” while my drug-addicted, welfare-assisted neighbors do the opposite. Naturally then, I have a problem with entitlement people, whether they be spoiled children, employees or neighbors, and especially for politicians who assume they know what is best for me and what sacrifices I must make. And in Oregon at least, they are soooo well-practiced at squandering taxpayer dollars while always crying out for more.

I know you didn't tune in for a government or welfare-neighbor rant, but I pay an ever-increasing amount to support failed systems, all of which are funded by the sweat of my brow. You can inscribe on my tombstone:
He was born
He was duped
And then he died.
And my tombstone will be shaped like a fist with a raised middle finger.

Young Buchholz

My travails began when I was a runt at age 7, when I entered the work force picking strawberries. The first season I wasn't very fast and I didn't make much money, but at least I could understand the correlation between effort and reward. By the second year I was twice as fast for I had awoken to the concept of a love for money. We weren't poor as a family, but I was one of five kids, and the unsaid assumption was that whatever you wanted, you had to go out and get yourself. No “allowance” in the Buchholz family. I bought my school clothes, a bicycle, movie money etc. with the dough I earned from working the fields.

Strawberries only grow to one-foot high, but the fruits usually dangle at ground level. You straddled the row and bent low to pick, then alternated that with crawling on the ground next to the row. It was back-breaking torture that began when it was cold in the morning and continued until it was hot in the afternoon. Daddy-long-leg spiders danced across your neck a couple times a day, sent from the devil just to add to your torment. More affluent parents sent their spoiled kids to the fields mainly to get rid of them for the day, but the brats usually goofed off when cold or hot or tired because they had the safety net of an allowance and other indulgences. By the time I was 13 I had become the fastest picker of the lot, and my energy was driven by my love of money, plus I was obsessed with proving that no matter how hard you tried, you could never out-work me. I endured dirty clothes, painfully lumpy dirt clods and the stench of warm strawberries – to this day which I do not eat – for about ten years. You could scrub your hands for an hour with soap and hot water, but your red-stained hands would identify you as a berry picker for at least a month after the season ended.

Bitter berries for Buchholz; did the experience turn me into a miserable old man? I think not – really the opposite. My torture of crawling down the berry rows – though it ruined my back – served to humble me. At the time I was even teased for my zealous behavior, but by then I had learned to use the phrase, “fuck you.” Anyway, today I can really appreciate and relate to my good employees. Every arduous task I assign them I have done myself, so I know every day how much effort they give. They are rewarded with a paycheck and an occasional pat on the back, but never do they hear from customers and visitors, “What a wonderful place you have.”

The Flora Wonder Arboretum

In my teens I went on to pick beans, cucumbers, pears, cherries and other crops. Kids don't do that anymore, in fact we can't even find high-school kids who want to make $12 an hour doing nursery work. The world has changed and it is more soft now, and old-man Buchholz is a relic of a bygone era. Too bad. Buchholz Nursery has been good for the world – I have employed people, developed trees for the environment and paid millions in taxes. My indulgence – the Flora Wonder Arboretum – exists because of my youthful experience in the berry fields.

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