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Picking Beans In The Hot Summer Sun!

Jul 21, 2008
There were 15 of us with our backs stooped and sweat running down our foreheads into our eyes. It had rained the night before and we were slipping and sliding down the long rows, trying to fill our buckets before the sun got too hot. Even early in the morning it was already 80 degrees and climbing.

As the day gets warmer, June Bugs, Wasps and Bumble Bees make the bean vines hum as they wake from their sleep. We've had a lot of rain lately and the mosquitoes buzz around our eyes and ears as we pick. I had the foresight to put a can of mosquito repellant in the bottom of my bucket.

After I sprayed myself all over, I tossed the can to a lady who was swatting the insects, but not doing a good job of keeping them away. I was just repaying the kindness someone showed me last year when I was fighting the insects without any bug spray of my own.

For almost 10 years Alabama A & M University in Huntsville has planted a huge garden for seniors and those who are needy. The 20 plus acre field is a blanket of lush green from corn, okra, purple hull peas, Crowder peas and several varieties of green beans. In the fall they have large fields of turnip greens and collards.

Like fishing, working in the garden is a great lesson in stress management. It's hard to pick beans and be depressed at the same time; you have to concentrate on what you're doing and that doesn't leave much room for depression.

With all the difficulties we faced in harvesting a couple of buckets of beans, I and I'm sure others, have been asked why we do this, when it's a lot easier just to buy a can of beans at the grocery store. That's an easy question to answer; we do it for the fun of it and the desire not to waste an opportunity so freely given.

Most folks my age who frequent the garden remember when we had to pick the vegetable our parents grew or we wouldn't eat in the winter. I remember sitting on the back porch and shelling peas until I thought I would scream. We ate well when winter came because my mother would spend her summertime days canning what we grew.

Today we freeze everything and it tastes good in the winter, but the real reason a lot of us sweat and groan with a sore back in the middle of a huge bean patch, is because our labor brings back memories of a time when our efforts were necessary for survival.

Looking over the field and watching other pickers, I'm struck by the politeness shown by practically everyone. When I first walked into the bean patch and began stuffing them into my bucket, one of the others told me that they were more plentiful farther down the row and to my right. He pointed to a spot that it hadn't been picked over yet, which would make the harvesting faster.

After an hour my back felt like it was broken. I saw others standing up and stretching so I knew I wasn't the only one in pain. By this time my bucket was about 75 percent full and it seemed that this would be a good time to quit. As I was about to leave, two elderly ladies helping each other walk down the row to their car, crept past me with their buckets filled to the brim.

I nodded and started picking beans again. I wasn't leaving until my bucket was full. It was a matter of pride! If two old ladies who could barely walk were able to pick beans until their containers were full, who was I to leave because of a little back ache!

I finished and with a feeling of satisfaction and waved goodbye to the folks who were left in the field. Though my back was aching, my pride was in tact and I was looking forward to coming back when the tassels on the corn were black and the ears bursting with golden goodness.

I don't do a lot of physical labor anymore and feels good when I do. I still recall the days when I could spend a day in the fields and rarely feel aches and pains from those efforts; not so today. It was fun strolling down memory lane even if that path was a row of beans, but I'm glad I don't have to do that every day!
About the Author
Bob Alexander is well experienced in outdoor cooking, fishing and leisure living. Bob is also the author and owner of this article. Visit his sites at:
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