Let me start this post by giving you, the reader, a little background about where my family comes from. I grew up, for the most part, in Pocatello, Idaho. Naturally, one would assume that since I grew up in Idaho, I must listen to country music, my family was into agriculture, and I probably know a thing or two about bucking hay. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, bucking hay is what you call the process by which bales of hay are stacked on top of one another. The real story is that my dad was actually a TV news reporter who grew up in North Hollywood, California. His dad was an agnostic Jew, a print and radio newsman, and his mom was sort of a jack Mormon. My mom grew up in Salt Lake City. Her mom was also somewhat of a jack Mormon, and her dad was the son of a Jewish man and an Irish Catholic lady. Interestingly enough, my grandpa was also from North Hollywood, nowhere near a farm. He found himself in Utah after WWII and worked in the grocery business for thirty years. What I'm getting at is that to my knowledge, nobody in my family ever bucked hay. Maybe a few generations back, but none of my relatives, whom I ever met had any inclination to hoe a field, milk a cow, churn butter or do anything in the vicinity of horse manure. Well, perhaps my grandma Frank, but if she did, it would probably go a long way towards explaining why she married a Jewish news reporter and ran away to North Hollywood.
It is in this context that we arrive at me, fresh off of my mission and needing a job to pay for housing at Ricks College about six months later. A buddy of mine from high school was working at a certain store, which won't be named, but will nonetheless be familiar to anyone from Pocatello who happens to be reading this. This was a really special kind of store. Big cities have big box stores where you can find just about anything you want. Smaller towns have their own version of this. They have these little stores that will try to cram in every type of product or service they can under one roof, because that means they have what you want in stock instead having to special order it like everyone else. So, for example, a store that sells window treatments will also rent out U-Haul trucks, offer guitar lessons, and sell freshly-baked pies. This particular place sold pets, animal feed and garden supplies. As if this wasn't enough, they had a petting zoo out back with a camel, a zebra, emus, pot-bellied pigs, deer, llamas, donkeys, mules, chickens, and most of all, goats. Clearly this was the place for me, what with my extensive background in all things agricultural.
I went in and talked to the guy managing the store, the brother of the owner. We mostly just talked about my mission, and then I got right to work, for a little over five bucks an hour, watering plants, unloading semi-trucks full of chicken and horse feed, cleaning kennels, administering dog shots, feeding goats, pretending like I knew enough about plants to tell people all about them, extracting eels from aquariums, shoveling manure, bagging crickets, chasing mice out of giant piles of seed potatoes, capturing goats and putting them back in the pen over and over, and of course, bucking hay. Actually that just barely scratches the surface, but you get it. It was full of surprises.
There are so many stories to tell from those few months at the farm. There's the little girl who followed me around to see what I did with the dead baby chicks, getting yelled at for not carrying out a five-pound bag of dog food for a woman who clearly told me she would handle it, getting yelled at by an uppity assistant manager for daring to talk to a coworker near the goldfish tank for two minutes after just having finished unloading an entire semi-truck of merchandise by myself, getting charged by a mother pig, getting charged by a mother duck, delivering a baby goat, being berated by an old woman for not knowing exactly where the bone meal was, getting chased by a PMSing monkey, and on and on and on, but the one that still sticks in my craw is the hay bucking incident.
Now let me just tell you that despite my scrawny 145 lb frame, toothpick arms, severe allergies, and don't forget the flat feet and crooked hips (see Episode I), I held my own when it came to moving giant bales of hay out to the yard to feed the goats or into the back of a customer's pickup truck. But one particular day there was an older gentleman and his wife who pulled up in their old pickup and asked for a bale of hay. It just so happened that day that the guy who had the key to the lock for the gate to the fence, behind which we kept the hay was out. And so I found myself in the predicament of having to lift this bale of hay up and over a four-foot fence, while Farmer Brown and his wife, who had probably bucked as much hay as he had in her lifetime (I mean a lot) stood by watching. I grabbed a pair of work gloves, squatted down into position and pulled that bale up to about waist level. As I'm attempting to nudge this gigantic block of hay up to the level of the fence, throat swelling, eyes watering, violent sneeze building, the old man turns to his wife and says in the most condescending tone you can imagine, "I don't think that boy can lift that!" He's standing about three feet away, mind you. The two of them laugh amongst themselves while I continue to push the monolith of cow food over the fence and lift it once more into the truck.
I want to go back to that scene. I want to look the guy straight in the eye and say "I'M STANDING RIGHT HERE! I CAN HEAR YOU, YOU CRETINOUS HOMINID! The anger is welling up again. Can you tell? Oh well. Hick-Mart employee was just not my thing, I guess. Can't say I'm disappointed.
I finished my six months or so at the pet-feed-garden-zoo place, simultaneous with three weeks as a fry cook, and headed off to the frozen ice world, Hoth... er, I mean Rexburg for college, which resulted in another delightful little anecdote involving some chemicals, a handful of innocent victims, and a swimming pool (see previous episode). I was glad to put it behind me, but I'm afraid some steaming piles of animal poo never really leave you.
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