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Old Cleve
When Your Job Sucks and Your Coworker is Great
I was a ranch hand as a young man, changing sprinkling pipe, mending fences, hauling hay, moving cattle to new pastures. I used to work with an old gentleman. He had a drinking problem but still managed to work hard. I loved to hang around this old guy just to listen to his stories. We were watering grain which sounds simple but is a very hard job, they flood irrigate grain which is like walking in a rice paddy, just less water. Your wear rubber knee boots in 90 degree weather. The soil is clay mixed with organic material from the alluvial deposits of the last ice age. It sucks you down, like stepping in thick molasses, very good exercise for your calf and thigh muscles. Cleve would bring water and beer in an ice cold cooler. He would let me have a few beers when we were thirsty. I really enjoyed this despite the hard labor.
There was an old orchard next to one of the grain fields. We would sit under the apple trees and drink beer at noon. He would tell me stories about life in the valley in the 1920s. It was like a little piece of heaven to me. Despite his drinking problems I was amazed how hard he could work at his age. I would guess he was in his late 50s in 1970. He worked like this after I graduated high school in 1975. When I came home to visit my parents in 1982 I was working out in the West Desert of Utah at a beryllium mill.
My dad said they had found Cleve dead on a tractor, he had been brushing the meadows that spring for the new growth soon to arrive, he had a massive heart attack and died, but was still sitting in the seat slumped over the tractor having run into a shallow ditch, killing the motor. The first thing I thought about was sitting in the apple orchard with him drinking beer, and smiling knowing he died at his post still working at his old age. Hope I receive the same providence from nature as he some day.
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