I’d rather pick YOUR nose than pick one more damn potato! (Memories of Shrivel)

Thanks to Face Book, I recently got back in touch with my childhood best friend from Maine, Melissa. (Hi Melissa!).  She and I were as thick as thieves when we lived on the now defunct Loring AFB – WAY back in 1970’s.

Maine was, as it is now, a beautiful place  – and is also home to some of the poorest people in the nation.  But,  since Maine has always been the largest producers of potatos, the poor had a yearly opportunity to make some extra cash by signing up at one of the many potato farms, and volunteering to do the back breaking work of picking those spuds.

Now, because this was a state-wide event, even the schools closed down for a month – this so the CHILDREN of the poor could also take to the dirt and pick potatos, and help their families make even MORE dough.  When Melissa and I were in school at Limestone High,  I remember us being thrilled at the upcoming month of November because we thought WE were going to be FREE to do whatever we wanted for a whole 30 days!  And of course, why wouldn’t we assume this? Both OUR dads were in the air force, and hell, our families weren’t struggling, so BRING ON THE PARTY, right?

WRONG.  I forgot which set of parents started the process in motion, but to make a long story short, Melissa and I were informed that our plans had been changed for us.  Yes, instead of goofing off for 30 days, we would be picking potatos from 5 a.m. to dusk, EVERY DAY for the month of November – just like the common folk!  After bitching about all those cool prank calls we WOULD’NT be making while our parents were conveniently out of the house, and out of our hair, all month,  we decided potato picking just might  be FUN – IF we did it with a bunch of our friends, of course.  At this point, I recall Melissa, myself, boys named Lance and Mark, and another girl named Jaime SOMEHOW getting lucky enough to all be hired on by Thompson Farm.

And, s0 the fun and games began.  (Back then, the experience might start out, and end up, like this):

4 a.m. – Get rudely awakened by Mom to “get ready” to meet the bus. Curse your little sister for being too young for the torture, as you searched around for a clean pair of thermal underwear. Then, half asleep, being zombie-walked to the car so you could be driven to the “bus station”.

5 a.m. – Get on a bus driven by a grumpy woman who must have been the original idea behind the “Sit Down, Shut Up” bird lady of South Park fame.  And, since finding an empty seat next to someone who DID’NT already  have B.O. that early in the morning was nearly an impossibility, you had to somehow hold your nose, and learn to breathe through your mouths during the drive.

5:30 a.m. – Arrive at the farm in time to be hauled like cattle to the frozen fields to collect the potatoes where they lay – which was wherever they landed after being “dug up” by the guy on the tractor.

5:31 a.m. – Already getting sick of the “fun” of potato picking, because the barrels you had to fill were HUGE, and throwing in rotten potatos – or those with “eyes” – didn’t count towards your barrel’s quota.

6  – 7 a.m. – Wondering if the barrels were actually hollow, or if it just seemed that way because it was so damn COLD!

8 a.m. – Listening to the french-canadian people, AKA those who were actually there to WORK so they could eat, bitch about  “spoiled, lazy asshole kids” in French.

9 a.m. – The dawning realization that you now WELCOMED trouble – screw the potato picking at 40 cents a barrel. And more importantly – Screw your parents!  What were they going to do, reward you by GROUNDING YOU?

9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.  Beginning a group hunt for the nastiest, most rotten spuds you guys could find. Why? To build up an arsenal, of course. And what was that arsenal for, you ask? Why to throw at your target, of course. Your target being the sadass man driving the tractor.  A wrinkled-up,  toothless, glimpse into your doomed future as a decrepit, angry old person who only had sags, pains and the grave to look forward to.

OUR target in our situation was the poor pathetic tractor driver I thoughtlessly christianed “SHRIVEL”.

This halloween mask closely resembles SHRIVEL

Poor Shrivel – whose name was probably really Obama or something like that – he probably never stood a chance. Over the years, he must have gotten pelted by so many rotten potatoes that he eventually came to resemble a geriatric pez dispenser that had been dipped in putrid marshmallow cream.  In hindsight, it was an atrocious thing to do to an old man who was probably just praying for Jesus to take him. Imagine coming to work to a job you had had, and HATED, all your life.  There you are, all bent over with arthritis and bound up bowels, ill-fitting dentures half dangling from a mouth that hadn’t had a good thing to say about life since you were 9 or 10 years old.   Imagine, starting up that old, piece of shit tractor for yet ANOTHER thankless potato season in an endless sea of them, only to have GROUPS of spoiled brat teenagers pelt you with smelly, slimy GARBAGE – just because they were BORED!

Poor Shrivel.  It’s a wonder he never went postal.  And, I wonder how many times a day he thought about exacting revenge on us prepubescent assholes?  But now that I come to think of it, maybe he didn’t NEED to do this, simply for the fact that he already knew that one day, each and every one of us would come to know what it was like to be SHRIVEL, in some way.  For some of us, it may looking into our mirrors in our latter years, and gazing in disbelief at a mouth that’s now caved in from tooth loss.  Others may see SHRIVEL every time we look down at a saggy belly or baggy knees – body parts once firm, but not anymore.   Still more of us may think of him every time we go to take a crap – and can’t – because our bowels don’t work so well anymore.

And, Shrivel was probably also aware that at least a few of us would at one time in our lives, play the role of Shrivel in some capacity, to a future generation of bored, spoiled-brat teenagers.  Helpless elderly pawns in their games of “just because”.   So, in the end, maybe Shrivel did get his revenge without having to lift a single finger.  After all, there is nothing sweeter than the revenge of taking in the smug faces of the “know it all-ness” of youth, and laughing because you realize the spoiled brats have NO idea of  what is in store for them…