<- - Garden Work in Bangor Maine - Day 1 - ->
“My mom’s friend knows this lady who needs someone to weed her garden for $15 an hour,” Chaya propositioned me on one fine day.
I had my head stuffed far into my computer screen, but I was suddenly jolted into the earth, wind, and water world.
“No way,” I replied, “Not interested.”
I then promptly went back to the computer world.
Chaya looked surprised that I would so rashly down such well paying employment, and quietly laid an envelope, which had the potential employer’s name and number scrawled on it, down upon my desk. I grumbled about gardening.
Poor memories of my last gardening job jumped into my mind: I was 21 years old, broke, and in the countryside of County Cork, Ireland. I was looking for work and hooked up with a lady who was looking for a resident gardener. I jumped at the chance, as I would be getting paid 5 Euro an hour and given a free place to stay.
I did not then know that the lady who gave me this work was a real rainy day sort of Irish pisser. I worked hard in those Irish gardens, but if one little stub of a weed stem was left unpulled I would get an ear full of pissy Irish banter.
I got a lot of ear fulls.
Determining that I was just not cut out for the gardening life, I cut my losses and quit (got fired) four weeks into the job. But, I remembered as I looked at the telephone number on the desk before me, the money that I made from that gardening work DID float me on a hitchhiking journey through Ireland, France, and Spain.
I reconsidered the opportunity that laid in front of me.
I picked up the telephone.
Welcome to the jungle . . . I mean, garden
As I walked over to the house whose gardens I would be tending, I was resolved to do a little better as a gardener this time around. I talked to the employer on the phone and she directed that I meet her around the back of her house so that she could show me the job.
I walked up to the house and around to its rear as I was told to do — it was real big and old: a house that was built by an old time Bangor lumber baron.
In the backyard, I was met by a young shirtless guy with chiseled muscles bounding out of a fit frame — this obviously was not the person that I had spoken to on the telephone. I searched for the words to tell him my purpose for standing in his backyard, but my attention was stolen by the prickly little hairs that were sprouting out of his routinely shaved upper half. I was also quickly forced to consider why his shorts were slung halfway down his buttocks so as to intentionally reveal his undergarments.
But, rather than satiating this meager curiosity, I talked business.
I asked for the lady that I talked to on the phone and announced that I was the new gardener. He seemed pleased at my arrival and told me that his mother was the lady I talked to. He then politely invited me into his home.
I waited for a few minutes for his mother to arrive. I felt uncomfortable in the house so I went and sat in the driveway.
When my employer arrived, I was greeted with a huge smile. I had previously helped one of her friends move into a new home earlier in the week, and I had the beginnings of a reputation as a handy man around Bangor.
I was then shown the jungle . . . I mean, “garden.” It was huge and full of every weed that a residential urban environment could muster: maple seedlings sprouted up in a thick blanket, rose bushes grew out of control, and there was a general invasion of strawberries rapidly trying to take over more than their share of garden space.
I looked upon the garden as a military general would a battle field poised for the final countdown of WWIII. The weeds of every sector were fighting each other for global dominance, and the few sprouts of flora that could be called “plants” acted as meager civilians, ever on the verge of getting caught in the cross fire. A battle ground laid before me.
I took the job, as any general would.
The next day I showed up at 8 AM and worked all day in a backyard that was more war zone than garden. I got down to work, and quickly felt as though I was clear cutting the Amazon tree by tree. I looked out over the tops of the weeds, and it really did look like a micro model of some jungle canopy.
I tried to work like the Mexican migrant workers that I would watch as a little boy riding my bicycle around the fields near my family’s home. I remembered how the old grisled farmers would boast about how much faster their Mexican workers could pick beans than any white guy. I will not mention here their hypotheses to explain this phenomena. But I always try to emulate these insurmountable migrant workers whenever I find myself face to face with a large job of manual labor. It keeps my spirits up to know that no matter how hard I work at a job, there are people out there who could always do it faster and better.
These thoughts made weeding the garden a competition of sorts.
The migrant farm working neighbors of my childhood are to me what a poster of Arnold Swartznegger would be to a fledgling body builder: a model for emulation.
As a school child, I always tried to latch onto the migrant worker’s kids in school. They were the funniest kids around, mostly because they were outside of the rounds of discipline. I will always remember the day when J.J. Garcia called our 6th grade teacher Medusa and then ran out of the room before she could turn him into stone.
It was always an exciting morning to board the school bus and find it full of my Mexican friends from the previous summer. One day they would just show up, seemingly out of nowhere. Sometimes they would give me weird little sweet flavored packets that seemed to be a cross between candy and chewing tobacco. Sometimes they would just add new words to my vocabulary:
Then, all of a sudden, on one fateful morning in late autumn, my migrant worker friends would miss the school bus, and I knew that they were gone. They would leave as fast as they arrived, and I would always wonder where they went . . . and what they would do when they got there. It was a foreign concept to me then that some people lived in migration — it was incomprehensible to me, a very sedentary child, that some families had homes that moved around the country.
Sometimes I would watch the Mexican caravan of overstuffed station wagons and windowless vans roll out and away from my rural home. This always sparked my curiosity.
Perhaps the unresolved seeds of this curiosity sprouted into this weed of a tale that I am still spinning today.
Now back to weeds of a less metaphorical sort:
I worked real hard in this Bangor garden and went home after completing 9 straight hours of work with very little rest. I looked back at my handiwork as I walked out of the yard, and felt a tinge of pride in my accomplishment:
I had beaten back the weed cover of nearly half of the garden — where there was once a war zone was now only rich, blank soil and ally plants.
Fighting the good fight of a 4 star gardening general
I do not mind work when I can see the end results of my actions and I have full evidence that I DID something with my time. Give me project work and temp labor — give me a task and I will complete it — but keep any doldrum sort of assembly line employment, for I know that it would make my spirits whither and humanity croak.
I have never been very good at working for a paycheck alone.
I weeded my fingers to the point of dysfunction on that first day in the garden, and my entire body felt hamburgered. I thought I did well . . . but, then again, I also thought that I did well in Ireland, too.
How to make money to travel
Project – how to make and save travel funds
How to make Money to Travel
Gardening in Maine – part I
Gardening in Maine – part II
Gardening in Maine – part III
Garden Work in Bangor Maine – Day 1