Most of the time, I consider this a very good thing. If we're willing to put in the hours (and we usually are), people keep calling and asking for us. I used to have a lot of spending money for a twelve-year-old, and nowadays even Cob (12) and Pete (10) are rolling in the dough.
The variety of jobs we get is fairly endless as well. Although the majority of the work usually goes to the older kids (currently that ends up being Skinny), those who aren’t a big teenage boy, or even a teenager—or even a boy for that matter!—will get hired for something. I didn’t tear down old fences or haul hay bales as much as David and Eli did, but I still got those jobs. And you’d be surprised how much lifting and hauling you can get done with two or three little boys. Besides that my sisters and I can always find someone looking for a babysitter, so as you can see there has never really been a shortage of opportunities for us to make money.
But by far the biggest job we do, the great money-making moment of the year, is rock-picking.
We start getting these calls in early May, after the fields have been planted. This is when farmers are looking for someone to drive up and down the rows and pick up the rocks that could later damage harvesting machinery. Usually anything the size of a golf ball has to go, so just imagine how many rocks you’ll be picking up across just one field.
In general figures, I would say a lot.
A more useful estimate puts things at eight tractor buckets per field, but that's not very accurate either because some fields are big and others are small, and some fields are pretty clean while in others it takes us half an hour to move ten yards. It all depends.
Either way, rock-pickers like my siblings and I can count on spending long hours in the sun bumping over clods while we crisscross a field at a crawling pace in a Gator, or alternatively, walking beside a tractor and wagon with five gallon buckets.
That's rock-picking. Sounds great, right?
Not so much.
Typically, three or four of us head out at a time. The farmers like to have us out there as early as possible for as long as we'll stick around, so seven o'clock in the field is the norm. That means we're getting up at six in the morning to eat a big breakfast and make sure lunch is packed. Food is a big deal when we're rock-picking, and newbies learn pretty quickly that more food is infinitely better than too little. Sandwich consumption goes way up this time of year and Mom makes sure to stock foods like carrots and apples as lunchbox fillers. If you should happen to drive by a field and see a bunch of kids sitting around gnawing on raw carrots, well, that would be us. Just wave and keep driving.
After food, water is the next most important thing. Keeping hydrated is a big deal out there, so we fill all the water coolers we own and bring extra water bottles for lunch.
|I'm not rock-picking this year, and you can definitely tell the difference between me and Skinny.|
Like I said, it's a great money-making opportunity.
It’s also incredibly boring.
I picked rock for three years, and I still cringe whenever someone brings it up. I used to hate it so much, not just because working in the sun and wind and dirt isn't my ideal environment.
There's nothing to do while you're out there but watch the corn go by and count rocks. You can only talk to your rock-picking partner for so long, and singing loses it's appeal pretty quickly as well. The hours drag on and on—after one o'clock, we'll have exhausted all our options and want nothing more than to pack it up and go home right then and there.
All my siblings share my distaste for rock-picking and the boredom that goes with it, so during rock-picking season we’re unusually attentive to the weather forecast and especially for rain. If it's rainy or if the fields are wet, we don't have to go to work. These breaks are wonderful after a couple days of rock-picking. You'll probably never find a bunch of kinds more excited for rain during the months of May and June than us.
Still money is money, and it’s kept us coming back for five years, even though rock-picking isn’t anyone’s favorite job. I mean, how many other ways can a twelve-year-old make two hundred dollars in two weeks? All things considered, it’s a pretty sweet deal.