When it comes to physical endurance, I will put the American farm kids up against just about anybody. I learned just how tough they are when I was just a kid.
There was an announcement at school that anybody helping with the corn harvest could be excused from school on Friday. All I heard was the “get out of school” part, so I raised my hand. Harvesting corn? How hard could that be?
The man who hired me was Mr. Webster. His son Henry was in my class, so I figured I had it made. I sidled up to Henry for instructions. All he said was, “The truck will pick you up at 6 o’clock.”
Six o’clock? Seriously? Wasn’t it still dark at that hour?
Actually, the truck was early when I raced into the pre-dawn darkness and crowded into the back of the truck with a dozen other kids from school.
At the Webster place, a long table had been set up with platters of bacon and sausage, bowls of scrambled eggs and fried potatoes. Stacks of toast towered skyward, and jars of homemade jam were open and inviting. I totally forgot I’d had a bowl of cereal before leaving the house.
Harvesting corn, it seemed, was going to be pleasant indeed. Or, so I thought. Halfway through my third piece of toast, Mr. Webster honked the truck horn.
“Time to get to work,” he said. At the edge of the cornfield Henry handed each of us a machete.
“We have to cut the first six rows of corn by hand to make room for the corn picker,” he said.
By lunchtime, every muscle in my body was screaming and my hands were blistered. Henry, meanwhile, wasn’t even winded.
By evening I could barely hold the machete, and my back was permanently stooped. When someone finally announced quitting time around sundown, I managed to crawl onto into the truck for the ride home.
The following week I decided to focus on my studies, and leave farming to guys like Henry.